On Monday 22 May 2017, a bomb detonated as people were leaving Manchester Arena following a concert by the American singer Ariana Grande. Twenty three people were killed, including the attacker and over 500 people were injured. Kiss were due to play Manchester and there were fears the London date woud be cancelled. However, the show went on, with heightened security. Admittedly, I was nervous seeing the increased security presence around London and the extra security check points, but it was better to be safe than sorry.
Opening the gig were The Dives, featuring son of Paul Stanley, Evan Stanley (who has since left the band). The Dives are a relatively new band, releasing their first single in January 2017. This was a once in a life time opportunity for the band and they took it in their stride. They weren’t the best opening band but they were better than I expected them to be. Giving off a Beatles vibe, The Dives played good time rock and roll from another time period, but with a slight modern twist. I don’t know what the future holds for The Dives, but this tour was certainly a memory to cerish.
Despite being on stage fifteen minutes late, when the lights went off the excitement levels in the O2 reached pandemonium. Then the iconic announcement rang out, “Oh right London! You wanted the best, you got the best! The hottest band in the world, Kiss!” Then the curtain came down and revealed Eric Singer on drums with the rest of the band being lowered onto the stage on a lift while playing ‘Deuce’. The pyro was going off as explosions and sparks dominated the stage, it really was the greatest show on earth.
The band then took their places on stage and followed up with ‘Shout it Out Loud’, which had the whole audience joining in with the band. Following this, Paul Stanley led the crowd in a moment of silence for the victims of the Manchester bombing. Apart from a few drunk wannabe comedians yelling during this moment, the 20,000 strong O2 arena was silent in their respect. After the silence, the band played ‘Lick It Up’, another classic. The set was domianted by classic material with a few rarities. Inbetween the songs the band waved to the crowd with each member getting a chance to say hello, tell stories and have their moment to shine. Gene Simmons got to breathe fire for ‘Firehouse’, while Tommy Thayer got to sing solo for ‘Shock Me’. Gene also got to smash out a bass solo while spitting blood over the stage, during the solo he was hoisted up onto a smaller stage where he then proceeded to launch into ‘God of Thunder’, following it with sing a long anthem ‘Crazy Crazy Nights’.
Paul Stanley got to fly over the crowd and onto a small stage in the middle of the arena for ‘Psycho Circus’ and ‘Black Diamond’. Kiss aren’t just musicians but are performers, for a band whose members are in their mid 50s and 60s, they are really committed, physical performers who perform with more energy than people half their age. The band ended the set with universal anthem ‘Rock and Roll All Nite’, which had the whole venue singing the song. At one point I didn’t sing and just stood their marvelling that in a time of great hardship for a country in the grip of an important general election and one that was recovering from a string of recent terror attacks; that people could stand defiant and rock and roll all night. As the song ended multiple explosions fired out the stage, confetti cannons fired streaks into the crowd and the pyro heated up the front rows. With one of the most impressive stage productions I have ever seen featuring lights, explosions, pyro, multiple stages, zip wires and confetti, Kiss are very much still at the top of their game.
But that wasn’t the end. The band returned for an encore of ‘I Was Made for Lovin’ You’, and ‘Detroit Rock City’. Just when you thought they had used up their energy, they gave it some more. It truly was one of the best arena shows I have ever been to. The production didn’t overshadow the music, only added to it. While their voices may not be as fine as they once were, for a band that started in 1973 it was impressive to see themselves still playing multiple shows a year. They even did another set earlier on in the day as a part of a meet and greet. The band members in their iconic make up stood triumphant on stage as Kiss’ first London show in five years was nothing but roaring successful, and it was something to shout out loud about.