The Danger Zone

by Alun Thomas

The Kiss farewell tour has been doing the rounds for the majority of 2000, and its May 15th stop in Peoria seems like years ago, considering it is now September and they are still out there peddling the same stale show, reluctant to change anything at all. Especially the songs.

Kiss have existed since 1973 and recorded 18 studio albums, a body of over 200 songs. But you're never going to hear ''Danger'' or ''Exciter''-- no, just the umpteenth version of ''Detroit Rock City'' or ''Shout It Out Loud.'' It gets a bit much at times, especially for 1980's Kiss fans. You would think Kiss, on their last tour, would mix it up a bit. But no. The only homage they have paid to the 80's on the tour has been to play ''I Love It Loud,'' ''Lick It Up'' and ''Heaven's On Fire,'' among the more predictable portion of their 80's fare.

What sickens me is the fans' blind acceptance of this. Don't they crave a bit of variety? I saw Kiss in January, 1997 and saw them play the exact same show in Peoria four months ago. And here in St. Louis, just a week ago (at time of writing) reports indicate more of the same -- you know, Gene Simmons' blood dripping routine, Paul Stanley flying through the crowd, Peter Cris's drum riser, Ace Frehly's boring soloŠ come on. Are people really going to miss this? When Kiss launch into ''Cold Gin,'' how excited are you, really? Shame on you. To act as though the 80's never happened is unprofessional on Kiss's part. It's all about money, and the 70's pay. The 80's don't. Even if that was their greatest period musically.

It is only the shrewd among us who have faulted this tour. They realize Kiss have played it safe and taken no risks, which has not always been the case. But it's Broadway at best, a stage show, repeating itself over and over when it should evolve. But the people are zombies and still can't get enough. Or are they scared to admit Kiss let them down? Who knows. I will tell you this: Watching U.D.O. in front of ten people was far more rewarding than watching Kiss in front of 12,000. It let me know I was a true fan. Most Kiss fans say they are the most loyal of all music fans. They might be. That's their problem. So is their lack of adventure. Just play it safe. Just like everything else they and Kiss seem prepared to do.

The most pathetic Kiss fan I've ever seen, incidentally, takes some beating. When my brother and I saw Kiss in Auckland in 1997, we were in an enormous line waiting to get in. It was at least 95 degrees and an all-round intolerable situation. A few feet in front of us stood some German (I heard him speak) wearing just shorts. For some reason he had a vinyl copy of ''Love Gun.'' He had no reason to have it there. Was he hoping to have Kiss sign it? Was he proving his fan worth? Did he realize he had to hold it for the next five hours? My brother once wrote me a letter that said, ''At Kiss it was hot, and that bass, I could feel the headache coming on when we were going thereŠ and that freak with the Kiss record, write about that some time.'' So I have, and it sums up Kiss, their fans and the futility of it all.

I was going to buy the new UFO album ''Covenant'' the other day but passed. I sensed it might not be a wise investment, as clearly this band's heyday passed decades ago. I was right. I heard a sampler containing one of their songs, and it was a slow blues, hard rock tune with little imagination. I bought ''Players Greatest Hits'' instead.

The trend shows no sign of letting up. I preferred U.D.O.'s 1991 ''Time Bomb'' over Halford's ''Resurrection.'' And to top it off, Hall and Oates' 1982 ''H2O'' seemed a better bet than those pathetically aging punsters, Motley Crue's ''New Tattoo,'' which would be rock bottom, as a purchase goes.

The year has come to a standstill in terms of new music and I do not sense an improvement. Metal fatigue. As much as I like Saxon, I would rather listen to Hall 'n' Oates right now. Probably because melody has become a lost art and the only way to get it is by delving into the past. The numerous joys of Kansas' ''Drastic Measures'' or Legs Diamond's ''Out on Bail'' is more rewarding musically right now than a Saxon album because Saxon sold out on ''MetalHead.'' I have hardly listened to them since. Dio's ''Magica''? Desperation time there. Music lost its melody when Nirvana hit it big. I have not heard a melodic guitar solo in years. What this means is: if I saw the new Manowar album and a second hand copy of The Jack Street Band's 1982 album, I know I would choose Jack Street.

But by the same token, I might, next week or month, get back into normal metal mode. It takes only one album. Or what mood you're in. Right now I crave melody and atmosphere. Something dramatic. And although you might not believe it, that's what Hall 'n' Oates were and are all about. And that makes them as great as Manowar.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online September 16, 2000

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