By STEVE MASCORD/Hot Metal
SOME of KISS’ staging staff may be lined up outside the unemployment office in Perth this morning – but the first-night gaffes did absolutely nothing to detract from a dazzling performance by the veteran glam rockers.
Bassist Gene Simmons, in full battle regalia and dangling from cables, was forced to crawl onto his platform 15 metres above the Perth Arena stage before performing “God Of Thunder” on the first night of the Monster Tour, which also included a disappointing Motley Crue and feisty Thin Lizzy.
The microphone cut out during Simmons’ 35-year-old pre-amble to the song, forcing him to say “well alright” twice.
When guitarist Tommy Thayer “shot” balls of fire from his instrument during his solo turn, the explosions in the overhead rig were nowhere near where he was aiming. The flashpots during the “clap” breakdown of “I Was Made For Loving You” were so out-of-synch that singer Paul Stanley was left with a bemused expression.
Simmons stumbled over some of the lyrics from the welcome setlist inclusion of 1982′s “War Machine”, singing at one stage “Strike down the one who leads me/Let the arrows fly”. Additionally, the mix during Thayer’s vocal turn on “Outta This World” was tinny and Simmons’ bass was almost inaudible during his own turn on vox with another newy, “Wall Of Sound”.
But only the afficonado would have spotted such flaws. With Eric Singer on drums completing the current line-up, KISS tendered one of their most accomplished performances ever on Australian soil.
Songs which many of us have carried in our heads longer than we have retained most worldly posessions, like “Calling Dr Love” and “Black Diamond”, suddenly assumed a new life thanks to the crunching delivery while the 99 per cent of staging which did work was mind-bogglingly spectacular.
The $250-a-head ‘Monster Madness’ zone was under-patronised, giving those in the area the surreal opportunity to walk casually around sipping a drink as the encore finished with Simmons and Thayer pushed out over their heads by extending cranes and Stanley smashing his guitar on a mid-stage platform amid twirling fireworks – all as confetti rained down.
Even diehard KISS fans mock the band’s mercenary ways but it was apparent as one made one’s way out of the brand new venue late on Thursday that Simmons and Stanley managed to trap lightning in a bottle four decades ago this year.
They have never had the cork jammed more securely in that bottle than it is now as they enter their 41st year of quasi-religious bombast in career-best form.
Irish veterans Thin Lizzy attracted some 65 per cent of the total audience for their early set and managed to get fans even in the back row of the cavernous arena on their feet for classic rock hits like “Rosalie”.
Folk music standard “Whiskey In The Jar” was a highlight, with former Almighty frontman Ricky Warwick having little trouble winning over the crowd with his energetic stage presence and rock poses in an hour-long set that climaxed, predictably but pleasantly, with “Boys Are Back In Town”
That Thin Lizzy respect their audience enough to change their name before releasing new material is an enormous testament to the integrity of long-standing members Scott Gorham, Brian Downey and Darren Wharton. They come across as sincere enough not to have gone to the trouble.
Members of Motley Crue walked through the audience to the stage before opener “Saints Of Los Angeles” and their set was half over before it became anything better than terrible.
The mix was so muddy that a brontosaurus could have been buried in it. Had they bothered to soundcheck? It was if drummer Tommy Lee’s DJ set at a local nightclub had started early.
The distortion and heavy bass was almost unbearable, singer Vince Neil’s delivery nonchalant and there was a palpable lack of emotion until drummer Lee’s ride on his drum rollercoaster.
It is just as well no glass was allowed inside Perth arena, as much of it would have shattered with some of the bum notes hit by Neil during “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)”. The high-fives and handshakes that proceeded “Home Sweet Home” appeared wan and routine.
Even when the band returned for “Live Wire”, the Crue seemed to be going through the motions in the most isolated city in the world outside of Siberia. But with “Primal Scream”, the mix improved and the musicians’ minds seemed to be finally on the job.
A semblance of groove and momentum finally imbued their set in the run through “Dr Feelgood”, “Girls, Girls, Girls” and “Kickstart My Heart”, the performanc rescued from being a complete shambles. But for a “coheadliner”, Motley Crue sounded and looked like an apathetic opener.
Guitarist Mick Mars’ concerns. aired last year, that Motley Crue are not making the right decisions for their legacy appear well-founded. This often seemed like tiredly-delivered nostalgia from a titan of the Sunset Strip era.
This reviewer has been watching both bands live for 23 years. This was KISS’ best performance in that time – and Motley Crue’s worst.