Kiss Kruise Day 2: The Boat Really Rocks

KISS Kruise

The Palladium Lounge, Carnival Destiny

Friday, October 14, 2011

View all of our Kiss Kruise coverage here.

After an unmasked Sailaway Show on Thursday, KISS Kruisers got the full-on, legend-making experience Friday. The mild-mannered Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer, and Eric Singer morphed into seven-foot-tall aliens to the delight of the overflowing Palladium Lounge Friday aboard the Carnival Destiny.

Revelers, with a few Carnival staffers mixed in, packed the 1,200-capacity theater in various Halloween garb -- many of which featured meticulous facepaint of their favorite member of the band -- and from the moment the lights dimmed, all attention dripped onto the wall of 124 lightbulb-decorated speakers, the dry ice fogging the floor, and a giant video screen running through countless digitally enhanced versions of the band's iconic logo.

Throughout time, many popular musicians to name have expressed their admiration for long-surviving KISS. Weezer's Rivers Cuomo famously dedicated a verse of "In the Garage" to "my favorite rock band KISS," and Wilco's Jeff Tweedy recalls summers in St. Louis "playing KISS covers, beautiful and stoned." Although there are plenty of glam-rock sendups that follow in the footsteps of this power quartet with a refrain repeated until it's Super Poly-Gripped into your brain -- here's looking at you, Andrew W.K. -- the majority of artists stay far away from bad imitations of the unparalleled stage show.

Seeing KISS in full costume for the first time is disturbingly familiar -- especially on a boatful of fans with their faces tattooed to their bodies, T-shirts, hats, duffel bags, doors, coffins, and board shorts. The only difference is that the lighting is much better, and they move! And, KISS is not the band that needs costume changes -- they take time away from face-to-face interactions with the fans, and it's the most flamboyant gear in the biz.

"I might put on my studded swimsuit tomorrow," 59-year-old Paul Stanley announced -- and if he did, he wouldn't have to cover up his bulging biceps, which is was not afraid to flex. Along with his body, his voice has survived nearly 40 years of performance with less wear and tear than many comparable bands that rose to prominence in the '70s.

"Strutter" brought out Stanley's best slinky prance, and the fringe on his boots rustled regularly as he moved around the stage as one with his platform boots. Equally mobile was lead guitarist Tommy Thayer, who made plentiful use of the Palladium stage's wings. Although it took some KISS diehards some time to get used to Thayer's presence, his muscular Les Paul fretwork during solos commanded plenty of attention.

Between tongue wagglings and taking huge bites out of the air, kabuki vampire bat bassist Gene Simmons made a point of showing off his wedding ring during "Got to Choose" He was working hard enough all night that the black towel hanging on his mic stand got plenty of action to relieve the sweat from his brow. Late in the set, he switched to a hatchet-shaped bass.

"This one's one of the newer ones," Stanley cracked. "It's 35 years old." As "Shout it Out Loud" broke in, streams of photos of fans of all ages -- much like the assembled Kruisers -- pour out of the giant screen behind them. As one might guess, every single person onscreen has the black-and-white paint on their faces. Stanley mentioned that the mistakes the band made were all their own, and nothing could be attributed to samplers or musicians backstage, but there was nothing egregious -- maybe a lack of "Detroit Rock City," if we're gonna get picky.

"Lick it Up" proved to be the evening's climactic number. And the crowd took orders well, devouring the fierce harmonies by clapping along as vigorously and eventually singing a cappella along at the end after the song cycled to its end. This seemed to be the song the band enjoyed playing the most -- and there was an added youthful glint in their eyes. Simmons even dropped a pick on the head of a guy in the front row. The song closed out with a heroic bit of the coda from the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again," and probably could've been the closing note of the night.

But Stanley announced "C'mon and Love Me" as the last song of the night, and the crowd erupted in boos, "until you call us back out."

The encore, which began not long after thee chants of "We want KISS" erupted, included a couple of the sensitive moments from their catalog with "Hard Luck Woman" Also, "Beth," which is drummer Eric Singer's lead vocal contribution of the evening. The ultimate piece of KISS lore "Rock and Roll All Nite" closed things out, and a blizzard of confetti filled the room. This is when the pick-tossing got really intense, and someone in the audience returned the favor by giving Stanley a small bouquet of roses to hold in his teeth -- he obliged willingly.

By song's end, Stanley kept windmilling his Flying V guitar, pretending as if he would smash it. The anticipation built as the confetti showered down, and the guitar looked as if it would scrape the floor, or fly out of his hands. While it's never a relief to see a guitar get destroyed, this one died as civilized a death as could be expected on a KISS Kruise -- at least it didn't get thrown overboard.

Critic's Notebook

Random Detail: Now fully entrenched (and married) into the KISS Army Shannon Tweed threw up a pair of metal horns before the show while watching from the soundboard with flashbulbs surrounding her.

Gene's Bassline of the Night: The ominous Edvard Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King."

At the End: The video screen onstage read, "The KISS Navy loves you."

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Reed Fischer
Contact: Reed Fischer