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Sandy • Nearly 40 years after the iconic, face-painted band KISS formed, the hard-rock quartet returned to Utah after a seven-year absence and delivered everything their fans wanted Wednesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Guitarist Paul Stanley, with a chest full of jet-black hair, exhorting the crowd to say "Yeah" frequently with his infamous high-pitched squeals in between songs? Check.
Bassist Gene Simmons blowing fire and showing more tongue than you'd see at a popular Basque restaurant? Check.
Guitarist Tommy Thayer playing his guitar behind his head? Check,
Drummer Eric Singer performing an elaborate, extended drum solo after "Shock You"? Check.
And because the show was billed as "The Hottest Show on Earth," there were enough fireworks, strobe lights, fire and assorted other pyrotechnics to checkmate subtlety.
But by no means did it seem like the band phoned in the performance, even though Simmons is 61 and Stanley is 58. With more than 100 bright red and blue lights bathing the stage in primary colors that accented the blood coming out of Simmons' mouth during "I Love It Loud," the three high-resolution video screens portrayed the band in all of its gleeful glory. The band's famous thunderbolt logo was also bright and front and center throughout the show.
The acoustics at the half-full stadium were excellent during an especially loud concert, with a 20-song set list consisting largely of songs from the band's classic "Alive!" album and last year's "Sonic Boom" record.
The musicians, especially Singer, seem to be showing their age, and Stanley's repeated pleas to buy "Sonic Boom" "exclusively at Walmart" brought a shudder to aficionados of independent record store lovers everywhere. The sterling acoustics also revealed KISS' dirty little secret, that the songs are generally simple three-chord anthems without much complexity in the lyrics or composition.
But, in the end, the band's enthusiasm as the band neared the end of the night carried it through songs that have become comfort food: "Black Diamond," "Detroit Rock City" and "Beth." The show was an entertaining spectacle and Stanley's unbridled energy was infectious, especially when he zip-lined to a small stage in the middle of the lawn seats, during "I Was Made to Love You."
After playing "Beth," the band stopped the show to welcome representatives from the armed services and delivered a check of more than $400,000 to the Wounded Warrior Project. As one of the band members held a large flag, Stanley asked the crowd to put their hands over their hearts and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. That was a first.
Only one question lingered. Does Stanley dye and add conditioner to his chest hair, or it is naturally that thick and dark?
When • Wednesday, Sept. 22
Where • Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy
Bottom Line • KISS does what you expect them to do and it's not half-bad.