Live: KISS, Houston
In order to get the idea of this Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, you have to imagine everything done big, like over the top. They have dudes on bucking broncos and wild jumping bulls, and sweet young things in cowboy hats riding horses around barrels too.
But in Houston it’s BIG – they used to have the Rodeo in the Astrodome, now it’s in the even bigger Reliant Stadium. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo helps thousands of kids go to school each year, but it also is very interested in setting records for humongous-ness too. I remember when Elvis Presley set an attendance record in 1974 or so, then other people broke it every year – back when the Rodeo was in the old Astrodome.
So anyway, they have all kinds of musical entertainment, mostly country acts, but this year they featured KISS. The kabuki-faced rockers love this kinda shit, where records seem to be broken every night, so it’s only natural they play the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. They drag out this big stage in the dirt on the floor of Reliant Stadium right after the chuck wagon races (!), then the performers come out in little golf carts and play on this stage that turns ever so slowly so everyone in the huge stadium gets a good look.
Kicking off with “Modern Day Delilah,” KISS wasn’t nearly as loud as I thought they’d be … but the pyrotechnics were pretty good. Paul Stanley addressed the crowd most of the time, in this high shrieky voice that seemed to suggest he didn’t know the difference between his singing and his talking voice. The band seemed to hit the high points of its catalog, with “Calling Dr. Love” and “I Was Made For Loving You” being the early highlights. You know “Detroit Rock City” and “Deuce” were on the set list!
We were way up in the nosebleed region of Reliant Stadium, but the high-def screens positioned above the band caught every little detail, like Stanley’s shameless mugging for the cameras and (more than once) the long drip of drool off Gene Simmons’ salaciously long snake-flickering tongue. A shout-out here to guitarist Tommy Thayer, whose lead guitar work was impeccable, and drummer Eric Singer, who good naturedly stood up on his drum stool when he had to sing “Beth,” the ballad written and sung by long-departed KISS drummer Peter Criss.
“Lick It Up,” from the early 1980s, featured thumping synthesizers that threatened to veer into the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and maybe they were just paying homage to that classic. But after that song Stanley invited a couple of military veterans on stage and talked about the many heroes in uniform overseas “getting the homecoming they deserve” before he led the crowd in a recital of the Pledge of Allegiance. It was a stirring bit of patriotism, and during it Stanley revealed that KISS are donating one dollar from every ticket sold to wounded veterans.
Then it was right into the closer, “Rock and Roll All Nite,” and KISS was out – the crowd numbered around 72,000 so it was a good night for them. Paul Stanley promised they’d be back, and despite all of the “farewell” tours they’ve had recently, I wouldn’t be surprised. Long live KISS!