There is often a whiff of scepticism every time a rock band announces their “Final Ever Tour”, as its not usually a promise that’s kept. But if this really is The End of the Road for Kiss, we just couldn’t miss it.
The video screens show the band walking to the stage before we hear the booming voice of Gene Simmons announcing “Alright Manchester! You wanted the best, you got the best! The hottest band in the World, Kiss!” a bold claim, one which they’ll spend the next 2 hours backing up!
The curtain drops and in a hail of pyrotechnics and with the smoke machine going into overdrive, Simmons, Paul Stanley and Tommy Thayer are lowered down on hydraulic platforms as they kick off the evening with Detroit Rock City and Shout It Out Loud. The sheer number of loud bangs and the heat of the fire is something we need to get used to quickly as it’s repeated throughout the evening!
Kiss was due to play here 2 years ago, but saw that cancelled after the Arena terror attack (they tried to put on a benefit concert at the time, but couldn’t due to security problems. They did raise over £300,000 for The Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital auctioning off, amongst other items, the equipment they were due to use that night). Paul references this before Deuce, saying “We’ve been thinking of you, we’ve been praying for you for 2 years, its an honour to be here with you!” before talking about the bands first appearance in Manchester – their first ever UK show – at the Free Trade Hall in 1976. What’s remarkable here tonight is the range of ages in attendance – that show was 10 years before I was born, and theirs plenty of youngsters (and adults!) dressed up as their favourite band members.
The crowd interaction is frequent, as Paul whips up the crowd before Say Yeah. Maybe its the makeup and outfits, but you’ve taken away into this alternative universe where this isn’t a band in their 60’s, they are immortal superheroes who will go on forever. Maybe its because they did their previous “Farewell” tour prior to this one 19 years ago. Maybe its because they are still the best at what they do. Nobody can put on a rock show with this level of theatrics. You won’tsee another band breathing fire on stage like Gene does during War Machine!
No rock gig is complete without a drum solo, as Eric Singer finally manages to grasp some of the limelight after 100,000 years, whilst Cold Gin has an extended solo outro from Tommy, complete with sparks shooting out from his guitar. “Blood” pours from Genes mouth during his bass solo that starts God of Thunder as the dramatics continue.
Paul zip wires to a stage at the back of the arena for Love Gun and I Was Made For Loving You, bringing everyone in this vast arena a bit closer together for this epic sing-along anthem.
Eric takes vocal duties on the only slow ballad of the evening, Beth, appearing on a piano that rises from below the stage, as the crowd hold up their mobile phones to create a sea of light.
Dozens of big Kiss balloons drop from the ceiling during the encore of Crazy Crazy Nights and Rock and Roll All Nite – with Tommy and Gene taking a trip around the Arena on their platforms – before a fireworks and pyro display more befitting of a New Years celebration brings the most extravagant gig I’ve ever seen to a close.
No other band will be able to fill the void – and the platform boots – left by Kiss. If this really was goodbye, they certainly went out with a bang.
Photography by Shayne Friessner-Day