When I first thought of doing a review on this concert video I realized that the last time I watched this show was over 25+ years ago. Immediately it hit me… What would I think of this video now that I’m an old man? Spoiler alert: I love it just as much as I did when I was a kid. Actually, I understand and appreciate the Paul commentary a lot more. This show happens 15 months before I see KISS live for the 1st time so this recording has always had a special place in my heart.
KISS: Animalize Live Uncensored by KISS (Released on VHS 4/19/1985)
Distributed by: RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video
So, let’s review where we are in KISStory at this moment in time.
*Show was recorded at the friendly confines of Cobo Hall on December 8, 1984, during the Animalize World Tour.
*The show was taped to be aired on MTV. MTV massively edited the airing.
*This was the 5th different lineup in 5 years.
*Bruce Kulick had just inked a contract that made him an official member. He had been on tour with KISS for a little over 2 months and had already done 40+ shows.
*Age wise: Paul (32), Gene (35), Eric (34), and Bruce (30). Why does that matter? In 1984, KISS is really in the middle of reinventing themselves. The band already had 10+ years in and the landscape of music was changing so KISS had to change too.
Our 4 heroes rise up through the floor behind the drum set as they are announced “Alright Detroit. You wanted the best, You got the best…. The hottest band in the world, KISS!”
Right from the start, the band has crazy energy. Every song is a bit faster and it sounds great. They seem like they are having fun. The big KISS sign is flashing. Paul has a lot of color in his outfit, Gene is in basic black, while Bruce’s outfit is fairly tame and Eric’s leopard outfit matches the print on Paul’s guitar.
“WOO!” First up, “Detroit Rock City”. I love the vocal melody change from the recording. Bruce seems to fit right in. Best live version of this song EVER. “Let me hear all the animals!” Stanley says. He announces that the concert is being taped so everyone is hamming it up a bit…but I LOVE IT!
Next up, “I can’t hear ya! I can’t hear ya! “Cold Gin”!” Paul literally can’t stand still…and he is in his 30s. To this day, I still don’t understand how he plays his rhythm parts so well while running around, etc. Gene’s vocal is dead on…the hair is a different story.
“The daytime is fine time but the night time is the right time…”. “Creatures of the Night” is next. Paul hits a great falsetto note in the first chorus (one of many throughout the show), back-up sounds great and the awesome Bruce solo should satisfy any hater.
“Well, there’s the man with the tongue…” The jump that Paul does after announcing the song, WOW!!! “Fits Like a Glove” has been one of my favorite Gene songs and it comes off great live during this show. Eric doing the main backing vocals sounds great. Straight into “Heaven’s on Fire” that includes some audience participation to keep the crowd engaged in the festivities.
Time for a song off the new album. Paul quickly explains the story of “Thrills in the Night”. Feels like a power ballad vs. all the songs that have been played so far but it’s performed well.
Paul guitar solo time. Finger-tapping mostly. Motions to the crowd that the finger-tapping was so-so and start a more traditional type guitar solo. Then he gets the audience screaming, Paul style…real die-hards know what I’m talking about. No microphones, everything with hand gestures. Paul OWNS the crowd!
Then, right into the assault that is called “Under the Gun”. My favorite song off Animalize. Bruce does a great rippin’ solo that does the song justice. Paul might as well be doing the show on a treadmill…he never stops moving.
Eric starts pounding the drums right into “War Machine”. A powerful version with Gene’s classic fire breathing at the end of the song.
Drum Solo time. The drum riser moves to the front and the greatness that is Eric Carr is revealed in a frenzied 4 minutes. It has been over 25 years since his passing and I still miss him. “He might look like a little boy, but he’s built like a man…” then we get “Young and Wasted” with Eric on vocals. His powerful and raspier voice is perfect for the song live.
Bass solo time. Start on one of side of the stage with the Axe bass and jog to the other side. Eric joins about a minute in to make the playing more melodic as the crowd gives Gene well deserved love. “Oh Yeah, Oh Yeah, Well… all right….” As “I Love It Loud” starts in classic fashion.
Time to slow things up a bit with “I Still Love You”. No stage rap. Just set the mood with the guitar lick and start into the emotional track. Paul changes the melody a bit but his vocal is powerful and perfect.
The story told by Paul before starting “Love Gun” is infamous with diehard fans. If you haven’t heard it in a while, it’s worth revisiting. Personally, I think he was looking for a reason to take his shirt off LOL. “I said honey that ain’t no pistol, that’s my…” Almost seems like Paul is trying to be more risqué with the conversation and message vs. being the KISS cartoon kid friendly band. Also, a significant amount of lingerie is on microphone stands, guitars, in Gene’s mouth, etc. It sounds over the top but it works in the context of the show.
One of the best live versions of “Lick It Up” comes next. Add some synchronized moves before and after the solo and you get a well-delivered gem.
“Hit It!” starts Eric back on lead vocals doing “Black Diamond”. This song has stood the test of time. No matter the era or who is singing it, it always comes off great live.
The band leaves the stage. Encore time. Lights go down, fans in a frenzy…begging our heroes to come back and do more.
To close it out, we get the best party anthem in rock history “Rock and Roll All Nite”. No frills with the vocals (i.e. switching off lead vocals and they would do in later years), Gene instead delivers it in classic fashion. A customary smashing of Paul’s guitar and the show ends.
So, no makeup. No spitting blood. No Paul flying through the crowd. No smoking guitar solo. No rockets shooting out of guitars. No confetti. Limited pyro. Significant set list differences and oddities. But, easily one of the best non-makeup shows EVER.
This stable lineup would last 7 years and really helped sustain KISS as a legitimate band in the 80s. Paul is in his vocal prime, Gene is reinvigorated, Bruce shows that he is deserving of the lead guitarist position and Eric is killing it on drums and vocals.
The filming is well done. If you haven’t watched this video in a while….do yourself a favor and revisit the 80s KISS classic. Some fans believe that KISS live albums/recordings aren’t as “LIVE” as they are marketed to be. Whatever, let the haters hate. I think the show sounded great when I was a kid and it sounds great today. So, dust off your VHS players and transport yourself back to a simpler time and enjoy the show! Pooni out!