The Prudential Center
August 14, 2019
When the music on the venue’s PA system switched from generic classic rock to Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll,” a pre-recorded “You wanted the best, you got the best. The hottest band in the world...KISS!!!!” introduction brought the sold-out Prudential Center crowd to its feet. It’s a way of life, a tradition, a truth and a rite of passage for anyone who has ever seen KISS in concert. The band has been introduced as such for over 40 years. Immediately following the intro the stage at the Newark, NJ arena erupted in a flash of light and the fury, pyrotechnics, fire, brimstone and glitter rained down on the stage as Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer descended from above as their platform perches were lowered onto the stage—all the while playing a driving version of “Detroit Rock City.” That’s one helluva opening! And the fans, The KISS ARMY loved every second of it.
With many bands embarking on final tours, KISS has taken the End of the Road World Tour to the level of an extreme sport, with 111 dates scheduled in 2019 beginning with the January 31st show in Vancouver, British Columbia. Five legs of this tour over the course of the year have allowed the band to snake through North America, Europe, back to the States, Oceania and finally in Asia with the final show to take place in Nagoya, Japan on December 19th. By delivering huge spectacles at each stop with production values that are unsurpassed, KISS has truly set the standard to which many bands aspire. It can’t be simple. But KISS makes it look simple.
Stanley (The Starchild), Simmons (The Demon), Singer (The Catman) and Thayer (The Spaceman) continue to bring the thrills that fans have grown to expect. The band members range in age from 58-70 (Simmons turned 70 on August 25th), but their chronological ages really can’t be pinpointed based on the high energy of their performances. The original members of KISS, which formed in the early 1970s, include Stanley on rhythm guitar and co-lead vocals and Simmons, the other lead vocalist and bassist. Influenced by The New York Dolls, Alice Cooper, The Beatles and rock guitarists like Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton, KISS has amassed an enormous and ever-growing fan base called the KISS ARMY. Singer, on drums, has rotated in and out of the band a few times, taking his alter ego from that of original member, Peter Criss. Thayer, who handles lead guitar has been with KISS since 2002 and has taken on the persona first created by Ace Frehley.
On a somewhat drizzly mid-August evening, the KISS ARMY was out in full force in Newark at The Pru Center, otherwise affectionately known as The Rock. The sold out show boasted the vans of rock radio stations in the parking lot, from smaller Jersey-based outfits to major market New York City stations, all sharing the music and love of the band as the fans strolled around, decked out in KISS t-shirts, caps and hats (and even some tattoos), singing their favorite songs and greeting old friends. The party atmosphere carried around the large venue and snaked inside as the many merchandise stands became popular destinations. Huge tractor trailers were parked outside, having carried the thousands of pounds of stage paraphernalia to create the sort of concert that fans have grown to expect.
The show that the fans have grown to expect is part rock show, part happening and all spectacle. Simmons spit fire, blood and flashed his enormous tongue at the audience. Stanley acted as master of ceremonies while steering the show along and, of course, as has become the band’s custom chastized the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame for ignoring KISS for over 15 years before enshrining the band.
As the show progressed along from the opening song, it was apparent that the band was firing on all cylinders as it roared through its powerful hard-rockinig set. The band and Simmons (literally) were on fire and the fans loved it. The foursome had the audience on its feet for the entire performance as it delivered old favorites from the classic years such as “Shout It Out Loud;” “Deuce;” “Calling Dr, Love;” “Cold Gin” (with a guitar solo courtesy of Thayer); “Let me Go Rock ‘N’ Roll;” “Love Gun” (during which Stanley ventured into the crowd); “Black Diamond” “God of Thunder” (during which Simmons spit blood) and “100,000 Years) during which Singer pounded away on an epic drum solo). Other highlights included the performance of tunes from the band’s second and third acts (“Heaven’s On Fire;” “Lick It Up” featuring a snippet of The Who’s “Won’t get Fooled Again” at the end; “I Love it Loud” and War Machine”), from the original band’s reunion (“Psycho Circus”) and from the current band’s more recent release (“Say Yeah”).
The encores were strong and, for many in attendance, life-affirming. Singer contributed lead vocals on “Beth” (the band’s highest-charting single in the US, reaching #7 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart) which when released was sung by Criss. A strong version of “Crazy Crazy Nights” led into the show-ending classic anthem “Rock And Roll All Night” which caused the entire audience to fist-pump, dance, bop in place and sing so loudly that the band’s vocals were virtually drowned out by its adoring fans. When the lights went up and KISS took its bows it was evident that the musicians as well as their fans were drained. The night and the performance were amazing and draining. Everyone in the arena was both exhausted and thrilled. As the fans exited the arena, many were drenched from dancing to the music. Other were physically exhausted. Regardless of the fan and his or her physical condition, all were happy.
The performance was tight and the band performed like seasoned pros. The energy was an eleven on a scale of 10 and the fans were elated to see their heroes in one of the last performances on the latest of the farewell tours. The crowd members left the venue singing the classic tunes and debating whether this was truly the end. The consensus seemed to be that, yes it was the end of the road—until enough money was dangled in front of the band somewhere between 2022 and 2025 when, in one fan’s words, “the makeup will go on again, the gates will open and the road will go on forever.”
Photos by Christine Connallon