Saturday, October 10, 2009

Kiss - December 31, 1996

In the summer of 1996, I saw my favorite band perform live for the first time ever. In December of that same year, I would see them for the second time, by ringing in the New Year with the hottest band in the land.

Kiss was performing a New Year’s Eve concert during their reunion tour at the Continental Airlines Arena, and my wife (at the time) and I had tickets to see the show. I just knew this was going to be a special event. What would the band do to ring in the New Year? It had to be something great.

For the start of the concert, Kiss showed a 30 minute video over a large screen chronicling the history of the band. It was an excellent video that told the story of KISS and it was a great way to hype up the crowd before the show officially started. At the end of the video, the announcer shouted out “All right New Jersey! You wanted the best! You got the best! The hottest band in the land! KISS!”

Bombs exploded, the stage curtain dropped, and the opening of Deuce filled the arena. Our New Year’s Eve celebration had begun. The band was in top form for the opening number. Ace’s guitar sounded amazing. Gene’s voice was clear and powerful. Peter’s drums pounded loud through the air. This was KISS in all their glory.

My wife and I were seated way up high in the 200s, almost at the top of the arena. While the seats were not the greatest, it didn’t take away from our view or our enjoyment of the show. What did slow our fun, however, were the rather large couple seated behind us. During a KISS concert, I like to stand up and really rock out. I want to dance, bang my head, and really enjoy my time at the arena.

Unfortunately, the heavy people behind us did not share my enthusiasm. By the third song they asked us if we would sit down so that they could see the show. What the hell? Why don’t you stand up? Maybe you’d lose a few pounds.

Their request infuriated my wife. She commented that we were at a rock concert, standing up was practically required. The behemoths behind us didn’t see it that way and threatened to get security involved if we didn’t sit down. Talk about a major party killer. Rather than get involved in a heated argument (I was seething with anger), we sat and my wife put me on the aisle seat, so I could occasionally stand and rock out over there. We ignored the blobs behind us for the rest of the night.

Kiss was on fire for that show. The classics from the summer concert were all repeated again for our live entertainment pleasure. Watchin’ You, Shock Me, Shout It Out Loud, Love Gun, God of Thunder, New York Groove, and many others were played to perfection.

Ace did his patented rocket guitar solo dropping to his knees and firing rockets out of his guitar. Then he lit the guitar on fire, played a solo, and had the guitar fly through the air to the rafters. Gene also flew through the air, breathed fire, and spit blood. Peter played an amazing drum solo, and Paul Stanley played a little guitar solo of his own. This was rock and roll!

The special event of the evening came in the form of Dick Clark. KISS was going to be on live with Dick Clark on national television. At the end of New York Groove, Paul announced to the crowd that Dick was about to come on live via satellite and that he wanted us to show the world what a KISS concert was all about. He had us practice screaming and yelling and shouting, Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!

Dick Clark appeared on the large screen after that and the arena exploded with applause and cheers. Dick asked how the concert was going and Paul told Dick to take a look for himself. The camera panned the crowd which was louder now and we were all chanting, Kiss! Kiss! Kiss! It was an incredible moment and one that I am proud to have been a part of. Dick told KISS good luck with the rest of the show and signed off for now. They would show footage of KISS performing Rock and Roll All Nite later on in the evening.

A rollicking version of 100,000 Years came next, complete with Paul’s microphone wrap and twirl and his signature howls of “Do you feel right?” It was the best performance of this song that I’ve seen before or since. Magnificent.

The band did the countdown to the New Year next and we rang in the year with Kiss, screaming, and hugging, and kissing one another. Happy New Year!

The main set ended with Black Diamond and the encore came in the form of Detroit Rock City, Beth, and of course, Rock and Roll All Nite. With an astonishing live performance, Kiss kicked our asses into the New Year. An exceptional evening shared with an incredible live band. Welcome 1997 and thank you KISS!

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