|All Photos by Wally Norton|
KISS and Def Leppard, two bands that occupy a sizeable portion of my record collection just rolled through Toronto last night on what is far and away “THE TOUR TO SEE” this summer.
Honestly, if you had told the 16 year old me that I would get to witness these two bands on the same stage and on the same night, I probably would have peed myself. That said, the 44 year old me was a tad skeptical when the tour was announced months ago. In fact I had actually considered skipping the show altogether. Thankfully the crazy, rock n roll addicted adolescent part of brain kicked my ass into gear and my buddy Rich (The Meister) Dillon and I hightailed it down to the Molson Canadian Amphitheater for the second time this week. Motley Crue and Alice Cooper had just assaulted our ear drums in the same building a mere 48 hours before.
Dark, ominous clouds blew in from the lake and a less than hospitable weather forecast threatened to make this a soggy affair, especially annoying as we looked at our general admission lawn tickets. In a desperate attempt to make the most of our evening and to possibly escape some torrential rain, we saddled up to the box office window to inquire if a seat upgrade was even possible. Within moments our wallets were lighter but instead of lawns we now found ourselves clutching 200 level seats. It was time to ROCK!
Getting under way at exactly 6:55pm, Kobra and the Lotus ripped through a lean 30 minute metal feast that elicited a positive response from the arena rock crowd. Possibly a little too heavy for some, they played a very tight set and lead vocalist Kobra Paige engaged the audience very well. Closing out their set with a metal version of Heart’s “Barracuda” followed by a killer anthem “I Am I Am”, Kobra and the Lotus impressed and I will be sure to add their new album “High Priestess” to my music collection.
I had not seen Def Leppard live since 1988 when they were kings of the world riding the “Hysteria” world tour so I was very excited to once again see the band that introduced me to ROCK music. Although, KISS was part of my world since 1976, it was actually Def Leppard and Pyromania in 1983 that transformed this writer into a drooling stark raving, obsessed heavy metal geek.
As the PA system played the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, Leppard’s intro song, I knew we were about to get rocked. True to form, Def Leppard jumped right in and took over the Who’s classic. “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss!” screamed Joe Elliot and it was on like donkey kong! Now Def Leppard has a catalogue of hits that defined 80’s hard rock and we were about to get a pile of them so opening the set with High and Dry’s “Let it Go”, my absolute favorite Leppard tune was a great surprise that could not have been scripted any better. I was riffing my air guitar, and rocking like a teenager with a smile so wide it actually hurt.
The hits came one after the other like a barrage. “Hysteria”, “Rocket”, “Bringin on the Heartache”, “Armageddon It”, “Two Steps Behind” and “Love Bites”. It was a giant beer drinking, sing-along with 15 000 plus dancing in the aisles and partying like it was once again 1988. The band sounded incredible, Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell play the solo’s note for note, crystal clear just like the recordings and Joe Elliot was totally on top of his game this evening. Arena rock doesn’t get any better than “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and in the blink of an eye the set was over but not before a double song encore of “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph” from the aforementioned Pyromania album. There was absolutely no filler, no fluff, no solos, not even time for a pee break anywhere. This was hit after hit after hit of high energy power rock and it was glorious! Def Leppard asked “Do You Wanna Get Rocked?”, I say mission accomplished in spades.
Not many bands could follow what Def Leppard just unleashed, but then again KISS is not just any band. With military precision the set change was underway as the giant KISS curtain covered the stage. We were only halfway through the night, bring on KISS!
The houselights went out, the crowd jumped into action as the all too familiar intro rang out. “TORONTO, You Wanted The Best, You Got The Best, This Hottest Band In The World…..KISS!!!” With a blast of pyro, the curtain fell to reveal Paul, Gene and Tommy high atop the Spider rig being lowered to the smoke filled stage below. “Psycho Circus” is a great intro song, hell it’s a great song period but it really captures what KISS is all about. These guys created the “ROCK SHOW SPECTACLE” and 15 seconds in, everyone was at the circus going crazy.
“Deuce”, “Shout It Out Loud”, “War Machine” and “Hotter Than Hell” got the party rolling. Still on a high from Def Leppard’s set the crowd was going nuts, they were warmed up and ready to rock. Paul mentioned that “you turn on the TV and see bad news, open the paper and read bad news, but tonight let’s forget about all that and just have a great time”. He nailed it, as I scanned the crowd it was all smiles, high 5’s and fists in the air. Rock n Roll is supposed to feel good and KISS delivered us from all of our troubles for the better part of an hour and a half.
Gene blew fire!, spit blood and flew up into the lights. Tommy shot flames from his guitar, Tommy and Paul rode the spider during “Lick It Up” and also paid homage to the Who as they played a little of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” from atop the raised platform. “Hide Your Heart” from the Hot In The Shade album was a fresh addition to the set and sounded great. It was everything you expect at a Kiss concert. Much like the annual Thanksgiving dinner, you know there will be turkey, you know there will be the gravy and potatoes and all the fixings, and you would look forward to it all the same. This concert was an absolute feast.
Paul mentioned all of the kids in the audience and the cameras caught many of them on the big screen. Kiss truly is a multi-generational experience with sometimes three generations now sharing the shows together. Paul commented to the kids “We were there for your parents! and we will be there for you too!” hinting that maybe KISS 2.0 could really be a distinct possibility and to be honest, that’s not such a bad thing. To be 7 years old and discovering KISS now, why shouldn’t they get a chance to enjoy the spectacle that we hold so dear to our hearts. Haters keep hating, I think it’s great and would love to one day take my grandchildren to witness a show like this.
“Calling Dr. Love” sounded killer and then it was time for Paul to fly out and join the crowd. This was especially awesome tonight as we were only 15 feet or so from the satellite stage that Paul was headed to. Mr. Stanley’s favorite song “Love Gun”, led into the show’s closer “Black Diamond” as drummer Eric Singer got to stretch his vocal chords on the KISS classic.
Foregoing the usual leaving the stage waiting for the encore antics, Paul just asked the audience if we minded them playing a couple more songs and the crowd went nuts again. “Detroit Rock City” followed by the KISS national anthem “Rock n Roll All Nite” cue the confetti machines, cue the drum riser, it was time to sing and dance one more time. Sometimes I think I am getting tired of that song but when it’s played live and the confetti is falling on you, your Kiss Army brothers and sisters around you, it truly becomes a magical experience guaranteed to lift your spirits. Ending the song with more pyro firepower than most bands use on a whole tour, it truly is a site to behold.
With our ear drums ringing and the pyro burned into our eyelids we headed out to the subway totally, perfectly and pleasantly exhausted from two classic bands delivering the goods in 2014.