Friday, December 6, 2013

Retro Review: KISS at Tiger Stadium, Detroit 1996

KISS | Alice in Chains | Sponge

Tiger Stadium - Detroit, MI
June 28, 1996


I was born in ‘76.  As such, I missed the KISS heyday of the 70s. One day while watching 3-2-1 Contact, they did a special on light and sound.  The segment consisted of the inner workings of a KISS concert. They showed the roadies setting the stage and lighting rig up, flying the speakers, etc. During the show, the focus was on the soundboard and the gigantic panel of knobs and switches. One guy working the sound while the other cued the lights. Then they went backstage and we saw the pyro guys. In addition to this, were cuts of the actual concert itself.

All of this combined to overwhelm my senses and when you’re a five year old boy, these things combine to BLOW YOUR FUCKING MIND.

As chance would have it, sometime very soon after that experience, I was in my cousin’s house looking through his record collection.  There, somewhere in the middle, was KISS ALIVE II.  Have you seen the gatefold?


MIND BLOWN X2

I stole that record from him, and in a short amount of time stole his entire KISS collection. He also had old Circus, Hit Parader and 16 magazines with KISS on the cover. Circus and Hit Parader focused on the music and live shows. 16 told me what kind of ice cream Paul liked the most. They also had order forms for back issues, and I requested an assload of these for my birthday. I still remember as each package of 20-30 magazines arriving. Pouring over the info, cutting out the photos and creating a custom KISS wallpaper in my room.

I have to thank my parents for being cool about it. It must have been strange to have their five year old son obsessing over a rock band who, in ‘80-‘81, were about as cool as Milli Vanilli is today.
The KISS obsession was short lived. The introduction into rock music led to other bands, and ultimately my word was turned upside down when my cousin took me to a Metallica concert in ‘85. But that’s another story for another day.

Fast forward (go back?) to 1996. KISS announced their Reunion Tour and I kind of laughed it off. During the 80s, there was always talk of the original band reuniting and putting the makeup back on, but it never materialized. When tickets went on sale, I blew it off. And then I heard on the radio that the first show at Tiger Stadium had sold 45k tickets in under an hour. The first Chicago show was sold out, a second was put on sale and also sold out.

Call me a follower. Call it the hive mind mentality. Call it whatever you want, I had to go see this fucking show. And I had to see it in Detroit Rock City.

So began my love/hate relationship with ticket brokers. I loved that I could have access to great seats, but hated that they had gamed the system to aquire said great seats. The ridiculous prices proved no match for my credit cards and I secured tickets for the tour opener and subsequent shows in the area.


Detroit ROT City. Upon arriving in Detroit, we found that whenever KISS wrote that song about this city, it must have been a much different time. Many jokes are made about Detroit, but unlike Cleveland - a place I fucking hate and consider the most boring place on earth - I actually felt bad for Detroit. But enough about that.

The day of the show was awesome. There atmosphere was electric. There are very few times when you go to an event, and it lives up to it’s hype and just feels like something really amazing is about to take place. This was one of those events. There were TV trucks galore surrounding the stadium; every major news and entertainment channel had reporters interviewing fans outside. It reminded me of being outside of a stadium the day of a World Series game.

Inside, KISS WORLD was in full swing. Previously, I thought the merch stand at Rolling Stones and Iron Maiden shows was crazy, they didn’t hold a candle to the KISS merch phenomenon. I wanted a t shirt, and waited about 40 minutes to finally make my way up to the front, during which time the guy in front of me spent $600 on various pieces of Kiss Krap.  We drank some a lot of beer and made our way down to the seats on the field.

I was indifferent about one opener, and ecstatic about the other.

Indifference: SPONGE   Ecstatic: ALICE IN CHAINS

I had seen AIC at Lolla and then later that same year on the Dirt tour. Besides that, AIC rarely toured due to Layne’s never ending substance abuse problems. Stone Temple Pilots were originally supposed to have the support slot on this tour, but Scott Weiland had been ordered into a court-ordered rehab.  Thus, ironically, AIC filled in.  Layne looked pretty frail and didn't move around very much, but their set was great, and although they were huge KISS fans, they mockingly did a few bars of "Beth" and the rabid crowd quickly turned on them. Anything and everything was thrown at the band.

And then we waited.

It got dark and helicopters circled overhead. Finally, the stadium lights were turned out. Darkness.
The anticipation level jumped a notch, or twelve.

The dark rumble boomed from the speakers, blue spotlights were everywhere in the crowd. And then, of course, “You wanted the best, you got the best. The hottest band in the world….”  The crowd was louder than the PA at the moment “KISS” was screamed. The curtain dropped, explosions erupted and THERE. THEY. WERE.

After many many years of reading about the legendary KISS show, and having only seen a crappy 80s glam era hair band crap version in ‘86, and a couple sad iterations in the early 90s, here was the real deal. The field wasn’t general admission, but flimsy folding chairs. Unlike most places that go with these types of chairs, they weren’t zip-tied together. It should also be noted that after AIC, many many people were flooding the field. Security was lax, and didn’t know how to deal with this many people. If you had a ticket in the stands or upper deck and really wanted to get on the field, it wasn’t hard to accomplish.

So, while it technically wasn’t general admission. Our already pretty awesome center section seats were dramatically upgraded when a crush of fans came up behind us. You either moved forward, or you were pushed to the side. And then the chairs started being thrown — not at the band, but straight up in the air.  All around us, pinwheeling chairs in the air. Security began imploring everyone to pass the chairs to them, at the rail.  Also of note: The people in line with us getting beer who bragged about spending $4000 on front row tickets were now about three people behind us.

The front section was about 40 rows, followed by a space, and the rest of the rows. We looked back and in that space, there was a line of security guards with their arms interlocked to prevent more people from rushing forward. Now, compared to a metal concert, this wasn’t any worse. It was definitely manageable, but some people were furious in light of the money they spent for their little piece of real estate that was now gone.

The setlist was perfect. I thought I noticed a few screw ups, but nothing that made me shake my head or think it was anything less than a success. And the crowd… The crowd reminded me of concerts in the 80s, when EVERYONE was engaged and involved. It had lived up to, and surpassed everything I imagined a KISS concert could be. Pyro that didn’t stop. Gene spit blood, and flew to the top of the lighting rig. Ace’s guitar shot rockets. Risers for the band at the finale, and Peter’s drum solo that propelled him 30 feet in the air.



I caught Gene Simmons’ pick after it bounced off someone’s hands. It was a great show. We left with our clothes drenched in sweat and completely satisfied.  It would be a few months before bootleg videos of the show would hit the various bulletin boards online. I finally received the video in the mail - remember VHS? The video, a line feed from MTV's footage, revealed a ton of mistakes by the band and kind of shit all over my once perfect memories of the concert.

Coincidentally, KISS’ decision to carry on, largely as a nostalgia act has also dampened my view of the band. Yeah, I was happy they came back and made untold millions to pad the retirement account, and yeah I was happy to see them make concerts special again and show the contrast with bands who charge top dollar to watch them stand on stage and stare back at you.  But the drive was gone, the new music they did put out sucked, and they became a caricature of themselves. But for that brief moment in ‘96-‘97, those shows were damn near magical.

KISS SETLIST
1. Deuce
2. King Of The Night Time World
3. Do You Love Me
4. Calling Dr. Love
5. Cold Gin
6. I Stole Your Love
7. Shout It Out Loud
8. Watchin´ You
9. Firehouse
10. Shock Me (with Ace guitar solo)
11. Strutter
12.
Rock Bottom
13. God Of Thunder (With Gene bass and Peter drum solos)
14. New York Groove
15. Love Gun
16. 100.000 Years
17. Black Diamond

Encores:
18. Detroit Rock City
19. Beth
20. Rock And Roll All Nite

1 comment:

  1. I was there, I was a KISS fan all thru my youth, by the time i was old enough to really go to a concert they were out of make-up, first concert was KISS in 1985 - Lakeview Arena, Marquette,MI , Animalize Tour, W.A.S.P. opened. I tried to get tickets for the Opening Day reunion tour at Tiger Stadium, but couldn't get thru and by the time I did ; approximately 40min after going on sale, it was sold out. But the gods had shined upon me, I was at work at a local casino and a friend came up to me and said , " Hey, I heard your a KISS fan, I have an extra ticket to Opening Day Reunion Tour at Tiger Stadium". I said something like, Wholly Crap, I'll take it. I have to be honest I tried looking for me in the video. We were only like 62nd row left center stage in front of Gene. They had these pedastals that they got in and swung out over the crowd. When Gene was out as far as his went and played he was like 5ft away from me. It was a dream come true, Finally all 4 originals in makeup, Finally being able to see Peter Criss toss out the roses while singing Beth. I remember seeing all the helicopters in the sky wondering if KISS was coming out of them, before it started. Stone Temple Pilots was suppose to open but lead singer was in rehab so Alice in Chains played. OH Yeah, and finally getting to see Ace do the awesome trademark guitar solo.

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