Thursday , February 22 2024
I wanted the best and thanks to a new box set I’ve gotten the best — of KISS’ live performances, that is.

Music Review: KISS – Alive: 1975-2000

Okay, I’ll admit it, I happen to think that I like KISS.

I’m not sure if I actually do like KISS, mind you, only that my heart keeps telling me I do. Of course, this is all while my brain is screaming at me in denial. KISS? How can I really like KISS, it mocks?

Yes, if you must know, my brain mocks me occasionally.

I think my fascination with the idea that “KISS must be cool!” began when I saw them perform on television. I’m not sure what program it was on, and I certainly don’t remember what songs they played. What I am sure of is that my parents immediately looked at what I was watching and laughed at me.

That’s like daring me not to like this band.

Every now and then I’d pick up a KISS album and give it a whirl in my stereo. To my utter disappointment, the songs that emanated from my speakers were nowhere near as cool as the make-up wearing rock freaks that I’d seen on that television screen.

So, I rejected the idea that I liked KISS.

This continued for years. I’d see something on KISS and think “Why don’t I like these freaks?” then I’d grab an album and remember why, of course.

Throughout those years, KISS went through several changes of their own, whether it was original members leaving, deciding to “bravely” un-mask themselves, or live down song titles as goofy as “Let’s Put the X in Sex.”

All in all, it helped solidify my idea that they were pretty much the jesters of rock and not worth my time. If all that is true then why am I currently listening to the new Alive: 1975-2000 box set from KISS?

I think my answer would be that I finally had one experience that helped me to change how I think about KISS. A few years ago, when the original members of the band decided to get back together for a reunion tour, in full make-up no less, one of their tour dates landed them less than 30 miles from my home.

Add to that the fact that one of their opening acts was Ted Nugent, and you arrive at the logical conclusion that THIS is a spectacle that I must SEE!

So, I went.

The first opening act was a “Sebastian Bach-Free” version of Skid Row. Now, this isn’t really a review of their music, but they sucked. The only thing they had going for them was volume.

Then Ted Nugent came onstage and pretty much had me laughing and rocking out for nearly an hour. Honestly, who can’t love a man that can make something as goofy as “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang” something you can sing along to?

Not me, that’s for sure.

After the stage cleared and the curtains went up for a while, the main event began and KISS came out to play. And play they did, my friends; between the 999,445 times that Paul Stanley would stop and address the “people” or “good people” in the audience, KISS proceeded to convert me into a fan by playing their heart out amidst smoke, fire, and so many pyrotechnics that I thought I’d been drafted and sent into the heart of an battlefield.

I treasure the memory of feeling the heat singe my arm during their performance of “Heaven’s on Fire,” I’ll have you know.

That’s why I bought this box set — well that, and the fact that I’ve never owned any of their Alive records. Plus, this was a cheap way to own all three of the pre-existing Alive albums and the one unreleased Alive:Millennium that was supposed to have become Alive IV in glorious sounding remastered rock-goofiness.

Having listened to the entire set though, I find myself admitting that not all of KISS’ songs are so easy to laugh at as being goofy, y’know?

KISS, buried in all of the make-up and showmanship, have some genuinely good songs. Songs like "Deuce", "Strutter", "Calling Dr. Love", "I Love It Loud", "Hard-Luck Woman", "Beth", "Cold Gin", etc.

I’m sure that were I to trudge out and find the studio album versions of some of these songs, I’d think they were a little less “cool” than the live versions. But that’s okay with me.

I fell in love with KISS for their live performances — which is what this set delivers, in spades. It was well worth the price I paid, and it is well worth listening to. Maybe not all at once and all in a row, as that would be a bit too much KISS for anyone, but I have no reservations at all about telling you that this is worth purchasing.

You can hide it and treat it like a guilty pleasure if your brain mocks you, too.

About Michael Jones

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