by Jaime Lees
When you open for Kiss you have to put on a hell of a show, and Mötley Crüe delivered. From the displays camaraderie to the set list full of hair metal hits, Crüe brings brotherhood onstage and encourages it amongst the audience. With four-way fist bumps and sly "we got this" smiles, Crüe really does seem to be in it together and working as a unit to get you pumped.
If you've been hurting for some '80s glam rock, "Shout at the Devil," "Dr. Feelgood," "Kickstart My Heart" and "Same Ol' Situation (S.O.S.)" bring you the party that you've been missing for the last twenty years. "Girls, Girls, Girls" was a particularly misogynistic good time, with the huge screen behind the band flashing photographs of scantily-clad ladies that looked like they were ganked straight from the Nude Photo Hunt bar video game. (Spliced in that sequence was a photo of Justin Bieber--nice one!) "Home Sweet Home" brought a little feeling back in the game, with low lights, a lovely full-audience sing-along and dudes holding their ladies tight.
The band members are exactly as you might remember them. Tommy Lee is still skinny and surfer-dumb goofy. His solo strapped-in upside down rollercoaster drum performance is impressive, but the medley of terrible strip club music in the background is distracting. (And I hate Rush, but Neil Peart totally did it better.) Nikki Sixx still has Joan Jett hair and wears the makeup under his eyes. Vince Neil is still smarmy in his shiny cargo camouflage bell-bottoms. (For some reason he reminded me of the "young girls in white cotton panties" scene in Wayne's World.) And, yes, Mick Mars still looks like a goth catfish.
Is it weird that I hope for a Guns 'n' Roses-style riot every time that I'm at Riverport? (And I'm from St. Louis so I'll be calling it Riverport forever, thankyouverymuch.) I had high hopes that Kiss would incite the crowd to such a degree that the barely bolted down rows of chairs would go flying in a colossal mess of a fight that would leave me terrified and with a great story to tell my grandchildren.
I was not blessed (or cursed, really) with this scenario, but I did see something else of note: my very first Kiss show. The band members have been cultural icons for nearly 40 years, so I really have no excuse. And their face-painting styles are so iconic that it doesn't even really matter who is behind the makeup anymore, if you wear the star or the kitty whiskers, you're a proper member. More than a few people in the crowd rocked the Kiss gear, including some possibly coerced children.
The stage show is as big and loud and complicated as you could ever wish for, with pyrotechnics, moving pieces of stage floor, drooling/spitting blood, aerial lifts, a perch for Gene Simmons up in light rig scaffolding and a spinning platform for Paul Stanley out in the audience. (He used some sort of automated zip line to zoom there straight from the stage and it was my favorite part of the night.) Before tonight I already knew that Stanley was my favorite, but he reinforced that bias all night with his obvious love for the fans. He threw out guitar picks at every possible moment, waved at kids and made kissy faces at all of the ladies in the front rows. Dreamy.
The songs the band played were pretty predictable, and that's just as it should be. "Detroit Rock City," "Shout It Out Loud," "War Machine," "Lick It Up" and "Rock and Roll All Nite" all got huge responses and even the new single, "Hell or Hallelujah," was well received. My favorite song of the night was "Black Diamond" (more familiar to me as "that Kiss song that the Replacements covered") because in the beginning Stanley tried to encourage the crowd to clap along, but unfortunately most of the audience suffered from the very common disease known as Caucasian Rhythm Disorder and eventually Stanley gave up the fight.
All in all it was a great first Kiss experience, but I think next time I'll go out on the lawn with the really real folks. That's where all of the fun was happening. I could see them from my seat near the front. It was a party back there. There were rivers of spilled beer and ladies on shoulders flashing their ta-tas. I gotta get in on that action.