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KISS performs tonight, with The Envy and The Academy Is … opening.When • Wednesday, Sept. 22, at 7 p.m.Where • Rio Tinto Stadium, 9256 S. State, SandyTickets • $30 to $115 at

In 1974, Tommy Thayer's mother and father became the coolest parents on the block when they gave him KISS' first album for Christmas.

On the cover were the intimidating, dangerous faces of Paul Stanley as "The Starchild," Peter Criss as "The Catman," Ace Frehley as "The Spaceman" and a howling Gene Simmons as "The Demon."

Thayer said his parents were progressive and didn't think listening to KISS would turn him into a deviant.

They were right. In fact, listening to that first album, and every successive KISS album released, got Thayer a job.

He is now the lead guitarist of KISS, which is performing in Sandy on Wednesday, Sept. 22.

The second-to-last time the band rocked Utah was at Rice-Eccles Stadium during the closing ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics. It was the last show for original lead guitarist Frehley. Thayer joined the band a short time after that.

Throughout its 37-year career, KISS has sold 80 million albums and played in front of millions of fans. It has even become a part of American pop culture, shilling for Dr Pepper and allowing Simmons his own reality show.

KISS calls the tour "The Hottest Show on Earth," and while it may no longer be dangerous, fans can still expect the liberal use of pyrotechnics.

It also "is the loudest show on Earth," says Shaun Frank, lead singer of opening act The Envy. "You need earplugs or you'll suffer hearing damage." The Canadian rock band was the first to sign a deal on Simmons' record label. Also on the bill is the Illinois emo-rock band The Academy Is … .

Thayer had been a part of the 1980s hair-metal band Black N' Blue. Simmons was a fan of the band, even producing Black N' Blue's third album, "Nasty Nasty," in 1986. The band was an opening act on KISS' "Asylum" tour from 1985 into 1986.

Black N' Blue dissolved in 1989, and several years later Thayer and Black N' Blue lead singer Jaime St. James began a KISS tribute band called Cold Gin. They used the knowledge Thayer had gained as a teenager blasting "KISS Alive" every day after school."Just for fun, we played gigs around L.A.," Thayer said. "Paul and Gene would come to the shows, and we'd all laugh together."

After Cold Gin played Stanley's birthday party one year, Simmons offered Thayer a job as his personal assistant, which Thayer quickly accepted.

When the band parted ways with Frehley in 2002, Thayer was the natural replacement.

Thayer, 49, remembered the uproar among some in the KISS Army when he wore "The Spaceman" makeup that had made Frehley's face a fixture in KISS mythology. Although some considered it "blasphemy," Thayer proudly wore the makeup."I never had trepidation about it," he said. "When you have an iconic brand and band for 30 years, you don't mess with it."

Each member of the band still applies his own makeup, Thayer said.

"For an hour or two, we listen to our favorite music," he said. "It's part of the ritual. It's part of the bonding. We put our war paint on."