Kings In Satan’s Service was the first band I ever really worshipped as a young and impressionable pre-teenager, so they will always hold a special place in my heart – kind of like that first girl you ever loved. Sure, you may barely remember her face now, but oh the memories seeing her again might invoke. In 1975, I was a mere ten years old, but the magic of music had long had me under her spell. Having a brother twelve years my elder, I was already schooled on the classics he loved such as The Beatles, Steely Dan, and Santana, but the power of hard rock and heavy metal was now beating down my door.
My first proper introduction to Kiss was via their landmark fourth album, Alive. It was a revelation, and nothing else compared. I was all ready to ship off to Kiss army boot camp, but, dammit, my dad wouldn’t let me. He hated Kiss, just like all of my friend’s parents. So all I could do was feverishly collect every Gene, Paul, Peter, and Ace filled Hit Parader and Circus magazine I got my hands on as I anxiously awaited their next masterpiece to hit the streets. When Destroyer came out that next year, my already insane intensity for the band nearly boiled over.
Well, like most of my friends, we eventually outgrew Kiss as the 70’s came to a close, high school was around the corner, and bands like Led Zeppelin and Rush became much more appealing. I still have a friend whose Kiss worship has not waned even after 25 years, so back in 1998 I agreed to accompany him to a stop on the Psycho Circus tour – after all it was Gene, Paul, Peter, and Ace together again in full makeup glory – just how I remembered them. How could I pass it up. The only other time I saw Kiss in concert was during their Creatures Of The Night tour of 1982, but I was too damn inebriated to remember much of it – well, except for that giant, tank turret/drum riser that shot exploding bombs out over my head! Very sobering.
With Kiss being one of the greatest live concert spectacles ever, and Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons being the shameless marketers they are, I was always intrigued as to why they never released an official live concert video from their heyday. I have seen some killer unofficial Love Gun-era concert videos that would have cleaned up real nice for DVD. The Live In Las Vegas DVD was one of the biggest disappointments in history, and the Unplugged and Symphony videos never really appealed to me, so when Rock The Nation Live was announced, I actually got a little anxious to see my favorite Kabuki characters one more time.
OK, so Ace Frehley and Peter Criss are nowhere to be found here, but then again they’ve barely been in the picture since 1980. In their places are longtime contributors Tommy Thayer, doing a killer Ace Frehley impersonation, and Eric Singer as the catman. I don’t know if these two were ordered by Gene and Paul, or if they did it out of respect, but they certainly imitated Ace and Peter perfectly, in both appearance and mannerisms. Although a lot of fans ridiculed this, I kind of preferred it this way. It made it easier to imagine I was seeing the real thing. I can see the Kiss franchise carrying on with ALL new members someday.
As for the concert, it was much better than I expected. Oh, and just let me get this off my chest first – FUUUUCK!!! Excuse my language. As I was sitting there watching this concert, I realized, "boy that venue sure does look familiar". Which is about the time Paul Stanley calls out to the crowd "Deeee Ceeee!" And then it hits me, this frigging thing was filmed at the Nissan Pavilion, which is, oh, only about 20-minutes from my house. Even though Stanley constantly refers to it as D.C., it is actually about 30 miles west, out in the Northern Virginia suburbs. I just may have actually gone to the thing had I known they were filming a concert DVD that night. Then I could have pointed my stupid ass out to all of my amazed friends. I just think it would be too cool to say, “yep, I was there”. Some footage from the previous night’s show in Virginia Beach was also used.
The DVD begins with the band making their way to the darkened stage as the intro music pumps the Kiss army into a frenzy. The army these days ranges from eight year old kids decked out in Kiss makeup, to some over-the-hill, half-naked, Hooter Girl wanna-bees. The band still looks larger than life as they take the stage in those legendary costumes. "Love Gun" made for a great show opener as the repetitive guitar riffs are coordinated perfectly with the massive strobe light array that decorates the stage. They wasted no time with the pyro either, expelling more fire and explosives during the first two songs than most bands do during an entire tour. Hey, it’s Kiss.
The setlist was a good mix of old and new – well, newER. A couple of Revenge songs from 1992, are the latest ones you get. Nothing from Psycho Circus – which is probably a good thing. They dug out the rarely, if ever, played Dressed To Kill rocker, "Love Her All I Can", which was a good choice, and even dusted off a few of their 80’s-era songs. The two Creatures Of The Night numbers, "I Love It Loud" and "War Machine" were especially cool to hear. The show’s highlights still come by way of the early-to-mid 70’s classics, especially the killer performances of "She", "Parasite", and "Detroit Rock City".
Gene and Paul are still wearing their ages surprisingly well. Both these guys are in their mid-50’s now, and the only way you’d know it behind all of that makeup and spandex is from their diminished singing voices – not that they were ever Lennon & McCartney to begin with, although they always wanted to be. Stanley is still one of the best frontmen in rock & roll, and his ultra-hairy, shirtless torso is still toned better than most guys half his age. He makes up for his horrendous guitar playing and mediocre voice with an uncanny ability to make the audience feel like they are all his old drinking buddies gathered together for the party of the century. The guy can also dance around in those platform boots like he’s wearing a pair of Air Jordans. Now, somebody please tell him to stop with all of the annoying yodeling. Please! Gene? Well old Gene’s singing these days is sounding more and more like Lemmy, from Motorhead, and he fucks up the lyrics on almost every song. But the guy can still drool blood and breath fire with the best of them. Now what’s more important, huh?
Kiss are certainly one of those love ’em or hate ’em bands. The reviews on Amazon.com are either five star or one star – not much in between. I am that rare in between. This DVD brilliantly (finally) captures a real Kiss concert. The video quality is incredible, and handles the massive light show with ease. The camera work is a bit frantic, and uses way too many crowd shots, but all of the most exciting moments are captured perfectly. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround audio is very enveloping and really places you right in the middle of the amphitheater. The cavernous sound quality may turn off some, but I felt it accurately represented what it sounds like sitting in the middle of that amphitheater.
There are plenty of great bonus features including a "Kiss Powervision" option, which lets you focus on one band member at a time, getting additional angles and shots that are not seen during the normal playback. This is a nice feature if you can stand having those small selection screens constantly displayed. There is also some great backstage and soundcheck footage which helps to remove some of the mystique of the Kiss characters and shows you the real personality of the band. Unfortunately, most of it gets placed between the song performances with no option to play just the concert.
Rock The Nation Live is about all a fan can ask for in a concert video from this legendary band in the twilight of their long and storied career. I hadn’t really given a crap about this band in over twenty years, but this DVD definitely had me ready to "Rock & Roll All Night"!
Lick It Up
Tears Are Falling
Got To Choose
I Love It Loud
Love Her All I Can
I Want You
Shout It Out Loud
I Was Made For Lovin’ You
Detroit Rock City
God Gave Rock & Roll To You II
Rock & Roll All Night
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