Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
The beginning of 2001 was a tumultuous time for KISS, the much-vaunted reunion of the classic line-up starting to show major cracks given that both Ace Frehley and Peter Criss had both signed up for five years and that time was now up.
Whilst the guitarist agreed to stay on, Criss left the band, citing issues with the contract and in his place Eric Singer returned to the fold, his make-up the same as The Cat as he sat on the drum stool starting from the March dates in Japan.
Fortunately, this newly released show from Tokyo Dome on the 13th of March shows none of the internal struggles but presents the quartet as one determined to live up to their self-appointed title as “the hottest band in the world”, any existing tensions adding to the crackling electricity of the evening.
Classic opener, ‘Detroit Rock City’, kicks off the set in fine style, the kinetic and irresistible riff hitting hard, Paul Stanley’s swagger front and centre as Gene Simmons bass runs loops and dives. Needless to say, the 42,000 fans in attendance absolutely lose it, the opening chords of ‘Deuce’ pushing them further over the edge and ‘Shout It Out Loud’ from ‘Destroyer’ still punching hard. Only played on the Japanese and Australian dates of this tour, Frehley attacks the self-penned ‘Talk To Me’ with relish, one of the sole heavy rocking highlights from the disappointing ‘Unmasked’ album and worth the admission price alone for completists.
The recording is an honest one, with seemingly no overdubs, all adding to the vibrancy of the performances warts and all. An occasionally flat vocal note, moment of feedback or bum note brings the whole live feeling very much to the fore, a true reflection of what happened on the night that captures that urgency and excitement of a live rock ‘n’ roll show.
The set is a career spanning one, ranging from early classics like ‘Firehouse’, ‘Cold Gin’ and ‘Love Gun’ right up to the title track of ‘Psycho Circus’, released three years previously to the tour, as well as dips into the early 80’s resurgence like ‘Lick It Up’ and ‘Heaven’s On Fire’. Whilst the titular ‘Creatures of the Night’ is absent, both ‘I Love It Loud’ and a heartfelt run through of ‘I Still Love You’ by Stanley are included from the album that really kickstarted what some consider the second phase of KISS’s ascendancy back to the global arenas and stadiums.
Given the size of their back catalogue, there are going to be omissions based on time constraints and set choices, but there is enough range here to please everyone.
The album closes with an unbeatable run of a suitably glamtastic ‘Black Diamond’, the artfully crafted pneumatic disco rock hybrid ‘I Was Made For Loving You’ and crowd pleasing sing-a-long ‘Rock & Roll All Nite’, seeing the capacity audience head off into the night utterly sated.
Given that KISS are finally calling it a day, all we’ll have soon is the memories and barring the mass of pyro, blood dribbling, fire breathing and stack heels, releases like this will keep those good times alive. Whilst not quite as full of the primal excitement and wonder of those legendary first two incendiary in concert albums, ‘OFF The Soundboard – Tokyo 2001’ is still a great record of what was an obviously memorable night.
Off The Soundboard: Tokyo 2001 Limited Edition 3LP Set out this Friday!