KISS Rocks The Border

Jul 23, 2007 | Posted in News & Updates

Tommy Thayer

By Jeffrey Ougler and Michael Purvis,
The Sault St

Sault Ste. Marie, Rock City.

KISS, the legendary demons of rock, invaded this Michigan city with the eardrum-bursting brand of rock its troops have demanded for more than three decades.

From the opening bars of Detroit Rock City, the nearly 10,000-strong local militia of the KISS Army never retreated, responding to each guitar lick, accompanying explosion and thundering drum beat with shrieks and screams.

Original members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley courted the crowd, and the front-row flock of photographers, with plenty of poses. Simmons offered ample glimpses of his trademark tongue and Stanley spit out a few saliva-drenched guitar picks.

Newcomers Tommy Thayer on guitar and drummer Eric Singer played their roles with confidence. Thayer’s guitar solo on Deuce was electrifying and satisfyingly close to that of the original, laid down in the mid-1970s by original axeman Ace Frehley.

Stanley was especially animated and generous, introducing All American Man, which appeared on the studio-recorded Side 4 of KISS Alive II.

“Here’s a song we never, ever played before (live) and we may never, ever play it again.”

Simmons belted out a few of his trademark, “Yeahs” as Calling Dr. Love came to call. KISS excavated its extensive song catalogue, emerging from its 1970 glory days with later offerings such as Lick it Up.

The crowd itself was typical KISS — these days.

The KISS Army seems to come in all ages, shapes and sizes. There were lots of weekend warriors, just as comfortable in business casual as in khaki and denim.

Then there were the 50-somethings sporting often too-tight T-shirts adorned with the faces of their painted idols. On the other end of the spectrum were teenyboppers, young enough to he Simmon’s grandchildren, showing no shortage of flesh.

Joe Ridgewine and Tom Barron saw their 27th and 24th KISS concerts respectively Friday. The pair travelled from Indiana, with Ridgewine’s son, who is also Barron’s stepson, to see the show.

“You never know, this could be their last show (we see); they’ve only got three shows this year,” said Barron, 34, who came with Simmons-inspired makeup and costume. “With Gene and all the irons he’s got in the fire, you never know what’s going to happen.”

Friday’s concert brought out a number of fans who had their first concert experiences with KISS in the 1970s. Several fathers described Friday’s show as a chance to pass the torch to a younger generation.

David Chick, of Rudyard, Mich., took in his first KISS show Friday in three decades.

“Our babysitter took us; hell, I was only in the sixth or seventh grade,” said Chick.

His wife, Betty, a bigger fan of the band, saw them for the first time.

“That’s all we listened to in high school,” she said.

John McKelvie, a heavy equipment operator with the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, spent several weeks preparing the grounds for the show, and gave a flat “No” when asked to work the night of the concert.

“I love my heavy metal, man,” said McKelvie, 44, who first saw KISS in their heydays in the 1970s. “I weaned my kids on metal and rock and roll.”

Tom Auch, a college teacher from Traverse City, came dressed in what he described as a mix between KISS and Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka.

“The first concert I every saw in 1976 was KISS,” said Auch.

Auch’s son, Julian, 12, saw his first major concert on Friday. He can play Rock and Roll All Nite on the guitar and has plenty of KISS on his iPod.

“I think it’s really cool,” said Julian.

Marc Capancioni, and his cousin Paul Berlingieri, of Sault, Ont., met Simmons and Stanley backstage.

“That was the best half a minute of my life,” said Capancioni, 22.