Story and Photos by Nick McCabe
View a photo gallery below.
There was a lot of anticipation building up to the KISS show smoking Reno’s Grand Theatre. And smoke it did.
Press credentials were in short supply and late in arriving. The photographer rules where more stringent than typical too: arrive by 6 p.m., shoot for two songs only, then be escorted out. No reviewer seats (my friends at Grand Sierra Resort were kind enough to take care of me on that one) and if you’re staying, the camera equipment must leave the theater.
When I arrived shortly before 6 p.m. the line was already long. Fans started arriving about noon. Many of them were in the process of applying their KISS face makeup.
The crowd was amazingly diverse. There were a lot of fans in various levels of KISS makeup and costume. You had beautiful people, ugly people, scary people, athletic types, young, old, physically challenged people, wasted people, politicians, and celebrities… It was your normal rock and roll show crowd!
Showmanship is the mainstay of a KISS show, and there was no shortage of that. If you’ve never seen a KISS show, it will take your breath away. If you have, you know what to expect. Lots of spit, blood (fake), pyrotechnics, fog, lights, makeup, costumes, posing, and volume.
The show began with the band emerging to the roar of the crowd from a shroud of blood red fog that enveloped the stage, and promptly kicking into “Deuce.” Not wasting any time, Gene’s tongue made a quick appearance, darting out and waggling from side to side, spittle dripping from its tip (you gotta love it).
Since Gene was right in from of me in my pit post I really didn’t get a good view of the other band members. But it was hard to take my eyes off of this huge figure in a demonic bat-like costume right in from of me, shaking his head, mouth wide open, drooling and grabbing his crotch for the crowd. During his bass solo it seemed that he may have cut his lip, because about a pint of blood gushed out all over his chest, but he kept going. The show must go on!
Paul took the role of master of ceremonies, taking charge of all the announcing and chatting between songs. During “War Machine” he brought a young girl out from the wings to help him play guitar. She had on a KISS-adorned dress and Paul’s star child face makeup. She stood between him and his guitar while he played. When this was over and she was leaving the stage he made her stop and take a bow. It was very cool.
Lead guitarist Tommy Thayer, who joined the band full-time back in 2002, is an amazing player, shredding all night long. He especially killed it with an extended solo in “Shock Me.” Eric-Singer has been playing the drums and singing with KISS since 1991, joining the band after the untimely death of former drummer Eric Carr. Together, these two with Gene and Paul make a tight foursome and a powerful band.
With ages ranging from 58 to 67 the energy on stage is amazing. Not too many men could pull of wearing a half shirt on stage at 65, but Paul looked to be in great shape. He even flashed a little nipple at the crowd, laughing as he did it.
After “Black Diamond,” Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve and Lotus Radio’s Shane Whitecloud came out along with a full color guard. The Mayor presented KISS with the key to the city and declared April 21 KISS Day during their salute to the armed forces. Whitecloud, who works with The Veterans’ Resource Center, came to the mic to also acknowledge KISS’ personal involvement with veterans and their contribution of $150,000 to Hiring our Heroes, a nationwide initiative to help veterans, transitioning service members, and military spouses find meaningful employment opportunities.
When it comes to KISS, I am neither a lover nor a hater. There is no debating the fact that KISS has left its mark on American culture. They have gone from the crazy rock ‘n roll band that mothers hid their daughters from, to the classic iconic band that parents take their kids to. KISS is not just men in tights wearing makeup and playing rock ‘n roll. They are truly wonderful people.
Get off the couch and go out and hear live music. You just might be surprised at what you enjoy.
Gene Simmons – Bass Guitar, Vocals, Fire Breathing, Blood Drooling
Paul Stanley – Guitars, Vocals, MC
Tommy Thayer – Lead Guitar, Vocals, Shredding
Eric-Singer – Drums, Vocals, Rhythm Master
“Shout it Out Loud”
“Hide Your Heart”
“I Love it Loud”
“Lick It Up”
“Let Me Go Rock ‘n Roll”
“Detroit Rock City”
“Rock ‘n Roll All Night”
Nick McCabe is a Reno-based photojournalist and musician. He’s been shooting concerts in the Reno-Tahoe area since 2006 covering major touring acts as well as keeping up with local artists. He’s been writing articles and reviews since 2012, as well as doing interviews on occasion. His musical education and playing experience goes back to 1967. He is a founding member of the Reno Tahoe Forte’ Awards, and he still plays music locally for enjoyment. First concert: Jimi Hendrix. Last concert: we’ll see.