Wednesday, August 27, 2014

KISS, Def Leppard rock Blossom

CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio — There’s no “foolin’” — Def Leppard and KISS know how to “shout it out loud.”

Now that I have those song-based clichés out of the way, you should know I’m taking a break from the cape-and-cowl crowd to review Tuesday’s killer one-two punch.

Despite dark clouds rolling in before Def Leppard’s set started, there was a big crowd at Blossom Music Center — about 14,000 people, as KISS frontman Paul Stanley told the audience. From what I understand, 19,000 is maximum capacity.
Fans at Blossom Music Center show their dedication.
(Eric Martin/

The Dead Daisies opened the concert with a solid show. While we didn’t take our seats during their set, it was obvious the band delivered a solid hard-rock performance. I especially enjoyed their energetic closer, “Helter Skelter.” What amazes me is how fresh and aggressive that Beatles tune still is — even 40-plus years after Paul McCartney wrote it with John Lennon and the Fab Four recorded it.

Def Leppard delivered nothing but the hits. Granted I don’t know their music nearly as well as I do my personal Fab Four, KISS (OK, so it’s just Stanley and bassist Gene Simmons left, but you know what I mean. …), but I appreciated Def Leppard’s 14-song set, which included “Foolin’” and “Love Bites.” 

The band began its show by finishing up The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” which had been playing over the loud speakers just before the band members took the stage. KISS included its own Who homage by playing a few bars of the same tune during “Lick It Up.” An especially nice touch was when Def Leppard tagged KISS’ ballad “Beth” onto the end of “Hysteria.”

My only criticism with the concert was the audio mix was slightly muddy, making it difficult to understand Def Leppard singer Joe Elliott. On the other hand, KISS was crystal clear — even as Stanley did his monotonous between-song banter. Hmmm …

The main Def Leppard show ended strong with “Rocket,” “Armageddon It” and the crowd favorite, “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” which got many audience members shaking their booties (including yours truly). Since my first hard-rock album was PYROMANIA — which along with the classic KISS catalog inspired my love for the genre, I really dug the two-song encore set of “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph.”
Is it just me or does KISS' stage scaffolding resemble the one from David Bowie's 1987 "Glass Spider" world tour?

The left side of the KISS logo got hung up on the front of the stage so the Blossom crowd missed out on the massive banner dropping to the stage floor as the band lit into “Psycho Circus” and then “Deuce.” The road crew valiantly tried to rehang the curtain, but it didn’t take anything away from a great opener.

Aside from that incident and Simmons trading around a few lines of “War Machine” (as always), KISS was in fine form. “War Machine” has one of the greatest riffs the Demon has ever written and it shined as the fourth tune.

Another of the concert’s highlights was the fifth song, “Hotter Than Hell,” a track I hadn’t heard KISS do before in my previous six shows. “Hide Your Heart,” another treat to hear, and “Love Gun” became crowd-sing-alongs during the choruses.

Throughout the 15-song show, KISS blasted pyro after pyro. The Blossom show featured a sweet light show, one of the best I’ve seen over the years from My Boyz.

Gene Simmons points to the crowd Aug. 24, 2014 at
the First Nissan Pavilion in Burgettstown, PA.
(Courtesy of KISS' Facebook page)
Stanley, whose range and vocal quality has taken a severe nose dive in the last 10 years, seemed to have a much stronger voice Tuesday. However, Scott Seitz — my “partner in crime” lately for all KISS-related concerts — disagreed. He listened to more than half of the KISS set from the lawn with Norwalk resident Jim Sitterly and said the distance helped him he hear that Stanley struggled at times.

“We’ve been doing this ever since before some of you were born,” he said, alluding to KISS’ 40th anniversary tour.

Four decades into rock-n-roll madness, the band only seems to have increased its budget on confetti, some of which managed to reach where I sat with Seitz and my girlfriend — and we were in the last four or so rows at the center back of the pavilion. There was nothing short of a white-out during “Rock-N-Roll All Nite.”

Ever the charismatic showman, Stanley recognized the children in the crowd. The Star Child even brought a youngster dressed as the Catman to the stage, held him in his arms and got the boy to wave to the audience. What a night to remember for him — just as it was for me.

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