KISS / RavenEye / Heavy Tiger – Tele2 Arena, Stockholm 2017-05-06

I’ve been a Kiss fan for almost all of my life. When I was a kid, most guys were Kiss fans even if you haven’t heard a note from them. You loved Kiss and that was that. We had all seen the pics and everybody knew of them and Kiss were the shit. One day, my very cool – and three years my senior – neighbor asked me if I wanted to buy his cassette of Kiss Alive (1975) and of course, that was a no-brainer. I had never heard a note from Kiss, but Hell, it was Kiss, man – I just had to have it. So I got the money from my mom and the cassette was mine. I will never ever forget the feeling when I put the tape into my small player and the intro “You Wanted the best…” followed by the opening riff of “Deuce” broke loose. I was stunned, floored, knocked for six. I had never heard anything like it before and that was all it took for the seven-year old me to become a fan. A real fan that had actually heard their music, that is. After that, I saved up all my money to buy Kiss (and Sweet, to be honest) records and cassettes.

In 1976, Kiss played Gröna Lund, Stockholm, Sweden – an amusement park and they didn’t bring their huge stage show. However, I was only eight years old and my parents wouldn’t let me go. I was too little, they thought. Bummer. The next time Kiss came back to Sweden was four years later, on their Unmasked tour in 1980 and Eric Carr had replaced Peter Criss behind the drums – and my parents said I could go see them but I didn’t know how to purchase tickets and my parents forgot all about it so that was that. I also missed Kiss in 1983 on their Lick It Up tour, now with Vinnie Vincent on guitar instead of Ace Frehley – I didn’t have the dough to buy tickets and I missed them the next year on their Animalize tour, now with Bruce Kulick on guitar who filled in for Mark St John who had replaced Vincent – I had moved far away from Stockholm then and I couldn’t make it to the show. The first time I got to see Kiss was on their 1988 Crazy Nights tour and by then I was still a Kiss fan but most of the magic had disappeared a long time ago and even though it was an ok gig, I was underwhelmed by it.

Fast forward to 1996 and the reunion – I managed to get tickets for the show – it was sold out in 10 minutes or so (13 800 at the Globe Arena) and that December, I was in heaven – I finally got to see Gene, Paul, Ace and Peter live. In all honesty, I can’t tell if they were good or not because I was in a Kiss haze, they could have farted their way through the gig and I would still have loved it. Since then I have seen the original line-up three more times, but when Ace and Peter quit, I lost interest in seeing them live anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I think that Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer are doing a terrific job in the band, but to me I had enough of watching the band play the same set list over and over again. It would take me up until 2013 to see the band again, then at Sweden Rock Festival and they left me majorly disappointed. Boring set list and a Paul Stanley who sounded like wounded crow. The rest of the band sounded ok, though but it wasn’t enough for me. No more, I said.

That’s why I had decided on not going to see them this time. Sure, the Creatures Of The Night outfits are cool and a reason to attend, but no. Plus, I knew that Paul Stanley’s voice is really shot by now and that would (probably) ruin everything. That’s when an old friend from work showed up on my Facebook chat and told me he had a Kiss ticket but couldn’t go. Was I interested in the ticket, maybe? For free? Ah, what the Hell, sure I would. So after meeting up with a few friends for beers and a good time pre-show, I found my way to the Arena. Of course, we sat in the pub for too long so we missed the first opening act Heavy Tiger and I only saw the two last songs by RavenEye so I can’t review them. Bummer because I really like their (RavenEye) debut album Nova.

But as soon as the “You wanted the best…” intro blasted through the speakers, the old feeling of expectation came along and for some reason I felt the same way that I did back in 1996 – it was Kiss, man! They opened with “Deuce” and I got goose bumps all over my arms, it sounded really good, it was heavy, tight and exactly like Kiss should – Gene might be a lot of things that’s not exactly positive, but he still got what it takes vocally. Yes. “Shout It Out Loud” broke loose directly after and the crowd went nuts. Paul’s voice was strained but it was nowhere as bad as i thought it would be. Gene and Eric helped out the best they could and the song really took off – the boys obviously had a good time themselves. “Lick It Up” might be a simple and somewhat cheap tune and I have never been a huge fan of it but it’s effective and one thing is clear – the fans love it. It’s a ‘live’ song that is not hard to sing so Paul pulls it off and even though it feels weird to see the make-up version of Kiss play it, it works like a charm. Killer! “I Love It Loud” needs no introduction and this is a song that is all Gene Simmons. Eric Singer does Eric Carr justice behind the drums and the roof lifts when the chorus kicks in. Gene owns the Arena by now – bloody amazing.

I know that “Love Gun” is more or less a must-play for the band but, dude, in 2017 it’s impossible for poor Paul to pull the tune off vocally. It becomes clear that this is a song that shouldn’t be played anymore because Paul’s voice sounds really bad. Gene, Tommy and Eric plays it brilliantly but Paul just don’t have that voice anymore. I love the tune, but I would have preferred another track instead – maybe “Strutter” would have been a better choice? But “Firehouse” delivers like crazy – with the mandatory fire-breathing from Gene. Paul sings the leads ok and takes some help from Eric and Gene when things get too rough. “Shock Me” is a somewhat bizarre experience here. I love the song but the song is Ace’s and even though Tommy Thayer does a fine job singing it, it just don’t work. The feeling of me watching a tribute act here is just too much. Kiss have a gazillion songs to choose from and the way I see it, they should leave it to Ace to perform it on his own. Tommy deserves his spot to shine but why not let him do one of his own songs? “When Lightning Strikes” and “Outta This World” are both great songs that sounds just like Kiss and could very well have been played this evening.

The fact that they have brought “Flaming Youth” back from the vaults is much more fun. Paul do have some vocal issues here but for the most they manage to kick it into shape as a live tune – and for me, only to get to hear it live is worth the effort to bring my sorry ass to the Arena this night – thanks for that one, guys. Next up, blood drooling from mr Simmons. Usually, the blood spitting is the intro for “God Of Thunder”, but that tune isn’t in the set any more. Instead we get “War Machine”. Now, I have a hard time imagining a Kiss gig without “God Of Thunder”, but on the other hand, I’ve seen it live so many times and “War Machine” is a gem that needs to be played and they totally nail it. Gene masters this tune like the flying demon he is and I don’t think anyone missed “God Of Thunder” this evening. Then it’s time for “Crazy Crazy Nights” – the sore thumb of the night. I love this little pop number, always have, but tonight it falls flat. See, the vocals on this tune are really, really high and Paul had problems singing it already in 1988, so it doesn’t take a genius to figure out how miserable the tune sounded this evening. The other guys tried their best to save it but the tune is out of their range as well. How did they think when they decided to put this one in the set? Besides, no matter how much I like it, Kiss still has shitloads of tunes that are better.

“Cold Gin” is next and it’s a pearl, a truly classic tune. Ace wrote it but Gene sang it originally so it works but I still can’t shake the nagging feeling that there’s something wrong whenever they play Ace’s tunes and he’s not there. That said, I get the same feeling when Ace plays Paul’s songs on his solo gigs. It sounded really killer tonight, though. “Say Yeah” from Sonic Boom was kind of unexpected but it went down surprisingly well. Kinda shows just how good Sonic Boom is and how well this one stood beside the classic tunes. Paul sang it ok and he made the audience sing there asses off. “Yeah, yeah, yeah” was echoing, bouncing between the walls in the arena. Brilliant! “Let Me Go Rock ‘n’ Roll” however, has overstayed its welcome long ago. Yes, I like the track and it sure is a good rocker live but Kiss have so many songs that are better and I don’t think I have ever heard anyone scream out just how much they MUST hear it live. Time for a change here, boys. “Psycho Circus” is a song that most people like, though, even though the album it is taken from is always under discussion – and rightfully so. Today, the tune is more or less considered a classic and it belongs in the set – it’s a real live killer. Paul struggles with it but Gene and Eric takes over the chorus with all the glory.

The intro for “Black Diamond” has always been a bit too long live but on the other hand, it’s nice to hear Paul sing it. It’s in his lower register and therefore he manages to make it sound good. But Eric takes over the lead vocals and gives Peter Criss’ original vocals a run for the money. It’s one of the highlights this evening and Eric comes out a big winner here. They guy is a great singer. Of course, there can be no Kiss show without their anthem “Rock And Roll All Nite” and even though I’m sicker than sick of the tune – I never listen to it at home anymore – there’s something about the song that makes my blood run wild when they play it live – and of course, the whole damn arena explodes.

But even though the band bid their goodbyes we all know it’s not over yet. “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” is the first encore and I don’t know what to think of it. I mean, I don’t like it, never have, never will. But it is one of the biggest – if not THE biggest – hits Kiss have ever had and I understand it must be played. But the song is for the mainstream audience, for the ones who know the hits, the ones who had no clue about where “Flaming Youth” came from. But for the diehards – and there are plenty of us here – I don’t think anyone would have minded if they dropped the song from the set list. Any way, the song goes down really well, Paul didn’t sound too strained and it always comes out way heavier than the studio version so I guess I can let this one slip. They close the show with “Detroit Rock City” and of course, this one can never be dropped from the set. The guys would be shot on sight if they did and it is a marvelous number. Despite being the last song, it is Paul’s best effort vocally this night and his and Tommy’s double guitar solo sounds amazing. Ace and Paul never nailed it like this after 1996 reunion. And with a big bang, the show is over for this time.

It was a long time since I heard so many positive words about a Kiss show afterwards and I am very positive myself. Kiss seems like a “mood band” today, if they’re in a good mood, they will deliver but it could also get ugly if they’re not. This evening, they must have been in a good mood because as a whole, the guys delivered the goods – no doubt about that. They were tight, they seemed to have a damn good time and the band really came across as a well-oiled machine. Besides, it’s time for people to cut Tommy Thayer some slack now and stop crapping all over the poor guy. The guy is a rock who plays a steady rhythm and really good solos. People always says that Vinnie Vincent once saved the band – and he did, but so did Thayer when Ace screwed things up. And Eric Singer too, for that matter. Because the fact is, Kiss would never have sounded this great had Ace and Peter still played in the band. The downside was, of course, Paul’s voice, but it did sound a lot better than in many years. The set list also leaves a lot be desired. Kiss have a treasure chest full of songs, but most of them never gets to see the light of day anymore. Bummer. And when they are going out playing in the Creatures outfits, why not play more songs from that album? Open with “Creatures Of The Night”? A breather spelled “I Still Love You”? Break some jaws with “Rock And Roll Hell”? Kick up some dust with “Danger”? That would have been awesome. That said, Kiss proves that they can still go out and show the world how the big boys do it even with minor set backs and that, my friends, speak volumes about what a great band this still is. You wanted the best…. well you know how that one goes. We got it!

8/10

Setlist:

1. Deuce
2. Shout It Out Loud
3. Lick It Up
4. I Love It Loud
5. Love Gun
6. Firehouse
7. Shock Me
8. Flaming Youth
9. War Machine
10. Crazy Crazy Nights
11. Cold Gin
12. Say Yeah
13. Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll
14. Psycho Circus
15. Black Diamond
16. Rock And Roll All Nite

Encore:
17. I Was Made For Lovin’ You
18. Detroit Rock City

Photos by Erik Modin (large) and Catharina Lindqvist (small).
Thanks a lot guys. My own pics blew…

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