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PULL MY FINGER: Paul invites a front-row groupie to smell the magic.

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C’MON AND LOVE ME: This late-1970s poster played right into Paul’s image as a rock-n-roll Romeo.

By Metal Dave

In 2004, I took my wife to her first KISS concert. By then, of course, she had been subjected to the KISS albums, my off-limits collection of memorabilia and the ceaseless, to-the-grave blathering about the band’s indelible influence on my life.

She listened and nodded at her oh-so-cute manchild, but I knew she didn’t fully appreciate my fandom. How could she? This level of ridiculous could only come from Y chromosomes of a certain vintage.

On this night, however, she “got it.” As always, the on-stage spectacle was so over-the-top it made all other concerts look like comatose tea parties. She even called it the best concert she’d ever seen. It didn’t hurt that Rikki Rockett and C.C. DeVille from opening act, Poison, invited us to watch from the soundboard where we three boys played air guitar and shouted out loud to the soundtrack of our teens. It was a great night. Even my wife agreed.

(The following originally published in the San Antonio Express-News)

By David Glessner
Special to the Express-News
June 4, 2004

A Kiss laced with Poison blows into the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater Thursday and it promises to pack plenty of tongue. You wanted the best, you got the best …

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NEW ROMANTIC: During the early ’80s, KISS cut their hair to keep up with the times. Most would agree it didn’t quite work.

Kiss, the longstanding kings of kabuki-face hard rock, are teamed with veteran proteges Poison, proclaimed by VH-1 to be the greatest glam-rock band of all-time. Expect lots of tongue wagging, blood, sweat and cheers as both bands bring their fireworks and power-to-the-people stage show to the adoring masses.

“People know when they pay to see Kiss they’re going to get something to see,” says soft-spoken, starry-eyed front man Paul Stanley, calling from Tokyo and battling a vicious, hacking cough. “When Kiss first came on the scene, I think we were a wake-up call to audiences that they were getting cheated. The idea of us coming out and sitting on stools on a Persian carpet or something isn’t gonna happen. Kiss remains Kiss. It’s walls of amplifiers, video screens built into the amps. New Kiss is about as necessary as new Coke. It’s still Kiss, but the blade’s been sharpened.”

Still waving goodbye on a never-ending reunion tour that began in 1996, the latest Kiss trek is more about fine-tuning than farewell. The band, which ranks alongside the Beatles and Elvis in terms of record sales, is digging deep into the platinum catalog to unearth long-hidden gems.

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FACE OFF: Paul’s mugshot minus makeup. During the 1980s Hollywood hair-metal explosion, Paul was in the running to produce albums by Jetboy, Poison and Guns N’ Roses. None ever happened.

“Not only did we shake up the set list, but we also did two small shows (in Australia recently) in theaters where we virtually played a slew of songs that either never have been played or haven’t been played in 25 years,” Stanley says. “We did a two-hour set without the benefit of special effects or pyro that consisted of ‘C’mon and Love Me, ‘ ‘Goin’ Blind, ‘ ‘Makin’ Love, ‘ ‘All the Way, ‘ ‘Got to Choose, ‘ ‘Hotter than Hell, ‘ you name it. We’re really fired up, because at this point on any given night we can throw in whatever we feel like playing.”

On behalf of San Antonio, this writer requested “Love Her All I Can,” from Kiss’ 1975 album, “Dressed to Kill.” Keep your fingers crossed for the obscure song, but don’t expect to see original guitarist Ace Frehley or on-again/off-again drummer Peter Criss. They are replaced by guitarist Tommy Thayer and veteran drummer Eric Singer. Stanley chooses his words carefully when explaining.

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LOOKIN’ FOR A KISS: Ace, Paul, Gene and Peter circa 1971 looked more like the New York Dolls than the larger-than-life superheroes they would soon become.

“We created some great things together and I’d rather think about the positive things we did than start airing dirty laundry,” he says. “The fact is, it’s easy for somebody to portray themselves as a victim when they don’t want to take responsibility for their position. For all the good we accomplished, I will always wish Peter well. It wasn’t working any more for a lot of reasons and it was best for the band and the audience to bring Eric back.”

As for Frehley, Stanley says, “Ace, for years, had an ambivalence, to put it mildly, about being in the band because he felt it was keeping him from his solo project. Ultimately, Ace opted out. The door doesn’t swing both ways. At some point, you can only walk through that door so many times and then the lock gets changed. This is hallowed ground and you’re expected to give a hundred percent. If you don’t, I have a problem with that.”

Asked what keeps himself and blood-spewing, fire-breathing bassist Gene Simmons together after 30 years, Stanley answers, “A common love of Kiss. A common appreciation, dedication and reverence for something we created a long time ago as young fans of rock who had a dream.

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PRE-STARDOM: Before he settled on his trademark black star makeup, Paul wore a silver lining.

“I saw a lot of bands and either I saw bands that looked great and sounded awful or sounded great and looked awful. Basically, I’m the kid in the audience who got on stage and said, ‘Let me show you how it should be done.’ That was purely from a fan’s perspective. It was to create the band that we had never seen.”

Today, Kiss remains unlike any band fans have ever seen. From platform boots to amazing pyrotechnics, a Kiss show is a spectacle of epic proportions. So where does it go from here?

“All bets are off as far as where it goes and when it ends, “Stanley says. “It will go until it stops and right now it’s going full-speed, and anyone that’s in the way is gonna get creamed.”

Kiss/Poison
Where: Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, 16765 Lookout Road, Selma; When: 7 p.m. Thursday; gates open at 6; For openers: Spin 66; Tickets: $29.50-$85.50 at Ticketmaster outlets

FAB FOUR: Not to be confused with the Beatles' 'Let it Be,' 'Love Gun' is nonetheless a KISS classic.

FAB FOUR: Not to be confused with the Beatles’ ‘Let it Be,’ ‘Love Gun’ is nonetheless a KISS classic.

KISS AND TELL

While Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons put the finishing touches on their respective solo albums, a new Kiss album may be a long time coming. How long?

“That’s a tough one,” Stanley says. “I get asked that almost every day and my problem or issue with that is that if I wrote (The Beatles’) ‘Let It Be’ people would still want to hear ‘Love Gun.’ What happens over the course of time is songs become more than songs. They become a snapshot of your life.

“When you’re up against songs that are a moment in your life as opposed to a melody, it’s pretty hard to compete with. So ‘Love Gun’ or ‘Detroit Rock City’ is not just a song, it’s a girl you were sleeping with or the guys you were out at the diner with. So anything we would do today wouldn’t have that history tied to it.”