Thrilling Theatrics

KISS making a return trip to Laughlin again is bittersweet for their legions of devoted fans.
It’s cool the guys are coming back for another powerfully amped up show, but unfortunately it could be their last. Laughlin is one of the remaining stops on their “End of the Road World Tour” that wraps up in October.
Think of it as an opportunity of a lifetime or possibly one last chance to experience the “Hottest Band in the World,” and America’s No. 1 Gold Record Award winning group of all time in every category. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famers have released 44 albums and sold more than 100 million albums worldwide.
But as their fans already know, there is so much more to KISS than hit songs. Those die-hard fans, a.k.a. “KISS Army,” are well versed and immersed in a musical history that started more than 40 years ago. They already know all the good, bad, ugly, and controversy connected to their rock heroes, and that just makes the rock gods all the more appealing.
Concert-goers are known to come in full makeup to their shows, accompanied by their small children, also in makeup. That’s how much they love these guys.
You have to admit, KISS is no ordinary heavy metal band. They were probably the first to combine rock, theatrics, carnival side-show attractions and comic book characters. Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley dared to be different by painting their faces and wearing elaborate spike-and-metal-studded black leather and spandex costumes, complete with platform shoes. Those comic book characters were The Starchild (Stanley), The Demon (Simmons), The Spaceman or Space Ace (Frehley) and The Catman (Criss).
As if their musicianship, ass-kicking anthems and power ballads weren’t enough, their stage antics like fire breathing, blood spitting, smoking guitars, shooting rockets, levitating drum kits and pyrotechnics were ridiculously over the top — and the reasons fans couldn’t get enough. It was electric sex, fantasy, and rock, all rolled into one explosive group.
From that first live show for three people at the Popcorn in Queens in 1973, to selling out arenas all over the globe, KISS became one of rock’s most influential bands.
After that first gig and their self-titled debut album, followed by tours as the opening act, they scored their first national TV appearance on ABC’s “In Concert.” Hotter Than Hell was released in October 1974, with lackluster sales, but the band’s live show started to create a buzz that helped propel them to headliner status in short time.
Dressed To Kill was released in March 1975, which included “Rock And Roll All Nite,” which would quickly become the signature rock anthem of generations.
It was their live over-the-top performance on one of the most popular music shows of the ’70s, NBC’s “Midnight Special” that began to solidify their reputation as the “Hottest Band in the Land.”
The band harnessed the excitement and musical sexuality of their live performances on KISS Alive! Album sales exploded, earning them their first gold record. The album would go on to achieve quadruple platinum status and spawned their first top 40 single, the live version of “Rock And Roll All Nite.”
The ’70s continued to be good to KISS. Their most commercially successful studio album Destroyer was released (’76) with many of the songs continuing to be concert staples to this day; the hit “Love Gun,” was released in ’77, the same year they headlined Madison Square Garden for the first time; and “Beth” won the People’s Choice Award for the Best Song category. They were voted the No. 1 band in America by a Gallup Poll and KISS’s tour of Japan broke attendance records previously held by The Beatles.
Their appearance on “The Paul Lynde Halloween Special” was an eye-opener for many of their fans who had yet to experience their dramatic stage shows or seen their outrageous costumes and makeup, but they were drawn in, like moths to flames.
The multitude of world tour stages couldn’t contain them as simply rock stars. As life often imitates art, their KISS Marvel Comic book was debuted in May 1977. In keeping true to the oddity they have always been, band members deposited their own blood in the comic book ink at the printing plant. They also animated cartoon characters on a Scooby Doo film.
They continued touring, performing, recording and selling millions more albums throughout the rest of the ’70s, with the single “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” earning gold certification for selling over a million copies and becoming a top 10 hit throughout the world.
Criss left the group in 1980 and was replaced by Eric Carr, Frehley departed in 1982.
As shocking as the guys were in the ’70s with their outlandish makeup and costumes, they shocked the music world again in the ’80s by appearing without their signature makeup for the first time live on an MTV prime-time TV special and debuted their video for the title track of their album, Lick It Up. The album also featured the band without makeup.
The ’80s saw KISS with more musical success — thanks, in part to the music video and MTV. Animalize was released and became a multi-platinum success. “Heaven’s On Fire” and “Thrills in the Night” became huge MTV hits and the band continued to be a solid concert draw.
KISS released best-selling albums — Asylum (1985), Crazy Nights (1987) and the compilation, Smashes, Thrashes & Hits (1988). They ended the ’80s era with the critically acclaimed Hot in the Shade, featuring the top 10 ballad, “Forever.”
Tragedy struck the band in ’91 when Carr died in November at the age of 41. Every artist and entertainer knows the show must go on, so as devastated as surviving KISS members were, they brought in drummer Eric Singer to finish the Revenge album and pick up the drum sticks on the road to finish the tour at the time.
The band’s popularity in the ’90s continued to be strong with albums like KISS My Ass and Carnival of Souls — but mostly fans “can’t get enough” because of their returned dedication to their fans. They staged the first Official Worldwide KISS Convention in Perth, Australia. The unique and revolutionary KISS Convention Tour of 1995 featured a traveling KISS Museum displaying vintage KISS stage outfits, instruments, and memorabilia. Performances by KISS tribute bands, KISS collectors/dealers buying, selling and trading KISS merchandise, precluded an evening appearance by KISS themselves, conducting a question and answer session, autograph signing, and a two-hour unplugged set comprised mostly of spontaneous fan requests.
Frehley and Criss joined Simmons and Stanley for a mini-reunion to perform on “MTV Unplugged” also in ’95. In the months that followed the Unplugged concert, the band returned to the studio for the first time in three years to record Carnival of Souls, despite the release being delayed for two years. However, that set the wheels in motion to plan an official KISS worldwide reunion tour with all four original members. The guys made a surprise appearance at the 38th Grammy Awards show in full makeup and costume, the first time in 17 years.
They performed for the Super Bowl, Winter Olympics, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and made the cover of Playboy magazine, the only rock band to ever do so.
The reunion didn’t last long with Criss and Frehley. Singer returned to the drums as “The Catman” and guitarist Tommy Thayer donned the Spaceman makeup and costume.
KISS has received many honors and accolades over their crazy extensive musical career, including receiving the ASCAP Founders Award in 2015. But more importantly, the band is dedicated to numerous veterans organizations including: The Wounded Warriors Project, USO, The U.S. Chamber of Commerce “Hire A Hero” program, The Legacy Organization in Australia, Help Former Heroes United Kingdom and The Dr. Pepper Snapple Groups Wounded Warriors Support Foundations.
The KISS legacy continues to grow generation after generation. Their unparalleled devotion and loyalty to their KISS Army is a striking testament to the band’s unbreakable bond with them. With their upcoming concert at the Laughlin Event Center, get ready to “rock and roll all night.”
Oh, and yes, die-hard fans, you may come in makeup too, if you want to release your own inner “Demon” or “Starchild.” However, no masks are allowed.
For those driving to the KISS concert — there is no parking at the Laughlin Event Center and vehicles are not allowed to enter to drop people off other than taxis and shuttles. There will be free shuttle service offered to and from the concert at the casinos. Also, be aware Bruce Woodbury Drive will be closed from Casino Drive to Thomas Edison Way (from about 6 p.m.-11 p.m., possibly earlier or later).


Laughlin Event Center

Saturday, Feb. 29 (8 p.m.)

See “Showtimes” for ticket info