KISS

support Five Finger Death Punch
author AP date 11/06/13 venue Forum, Copenhagen, DEN

My two June weeks of rock and metal in immense quantities - thanks to two concerts including this one, as well as Copenhell and Hellfest in the weekends - had a classic opening ceremony in the legendary hard rock/heavy metal/glam band KISS, whom I've managed to miss every time the band has visited Denmark. The frequency with which the band plays here might well explain the fact that Forum, though packed, does not look even close to sold out tonight as I enter the oppressing heat of the venue just in time for the evening's support act to take the stage.

All photos courtesy of Lykke Nielsen

Five Finger Death Punch

Inexplicably, the popularity of 5FDP has skyrocketed over the past few years, and the band has been in great demand in Denmark as well ever since their allegedly successful performance at Lille Vega in Copenhagen back in 2009. I have personally never been able to count myself a fan of theirs, as virtually everything about them - their music, lyrics, political beliefs and image - grinds my gear. I am of the stance that bands like 5FDP represent entry-level metal designed to make people with little or no experience with the genre feel they are listening to something hard, heavy and dangerous. But let's be honest: tonight they are here in support of KISS, who in this day and age are as PG-13 as metal bands get, and this, I feel, is well in keeping with 5FDP's quest for family-friendly mainstream stardom. The heavily distorted guitar work of Zoltan Bathory and Jason Hook, and the screamed vocals of Ivan Moody on opening piece "Burn It Down" do baffle many of the older attendees. But with a little attention to the subject matter, song structure and between-song banter it should be abundantly clear even to them that 5FDP are so distant from the core essence of metal we'd all probably be better off calling them a heavy pop act similar to, say, Pop Evil, or for something with a tad more integrity, Stone Sour.

Ironically, the highlight of the set comes with "Lift Me Up" - a song which, when I first heard it on the brand new Danish myROCK radio channel, I was certain stemmed from Stone Sour's most recent album "House of Gold & Bones Part II" - which for all intents and purposes is exactly the sort of super-scaled composition that works best in an arena setting like this, with its easily recognisable chorus and relatively simplistic instrumentation. "Hard to See" and especially the eponymous Bad Company cover "Bad Company" however, are downright awful in their attempts to grasp at powerful emotion. Combine this with a stage presence that's riddled in crowd manipulation clichés and a sound mix which is both unbalanced and all too low, and you've got yourself a performance hardly worth the two paragraphs I've just spent assessing it.

5

KISS

By all logic KISS should be defunct today by virtue of irrelevance. Yet they persist, a relic from the hey-day of glam-rock/metal when rock'n'roll was still considered too provocative and impious by most; when performances still relied on superfluous gimmicks and garb. In this respect, KISS succeed better than most, with Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer still upholding the image to which KISS fans around the world grew accustomed to some 40 years ago, bat suits, black and white facepaint and all. The setup on stage is no less impressive, with an enormous mechanical spider looming over the quartet, and all manner of excessive lighting, LED displays, suspension ropes and cable gliders providing huge entertainment value for the several thousand fans gathered here tonight.

Indeed, watching KISS live the emphasis is first and foremost on the show, with an enormous S. It does not damage the overall impression either, however, that even for a peripheral fan such as myself, the band's recorded material awakens many a memory and provides such an easy backdrop for rocking out. I know the standard three tracks by name, but when takes like "Shout It Out Loud", "Say Yeah", "Outta This World" and "Love Gun" are played, those, too, are instantly recognisable - which is a testimony to their longevity and mainstream appeal if ever there was one. Still though, feats such as the copious amounts of (loud) fireworks and flame blasts behind and around the band; Gene Simmons breathing fire just before "Heaven's on Fire" or spewing blood and flies from his mouth during a bass solo leading up to the classic "God of Thunder" and 'flying' up to the spider rig and performing the rest of the song from up there; Paul Stanley cruising over our heads on a cable glider through a storm of white confetti to deliver "Rock and Roll All Nite" from a small platform set up in the center of the venue; or Tommy Thayer shaking his hips, ass toward us like a proper pan-sexual primadonna... These are the elements that truly mark KISS' live shows as one-of-a-kind; these are the things that continue to woo audiences even in this day and age. As such, it is hardly a surprise that bands like Black Veil Brides and, to some extent, Lordi and Slipknot resort to similar methods in their reach for mass appeal.

My only complaints with respect to this pompous, over-the-top, extravagant cheese-fest (all meant in a positive light, mind you) are that first of all, the volume is all too low for a rock'n'roll show, removing any notion of heavy or hard-hitting from the performance. I like to be able to feel the rhythm in my chest, and have to prop my earplugs so far in they damn-near stroke my eardrums - at least whilst watching a band that most people would refer to as hard-rock, if not heavy metal. Second of all, though the voices of Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons are consistently excellent in their respective parts tonight, KISS as a collective unfortunately aren't quite as tight as they surely used to be, so the interplay between guitar, drums and bass exposes a multitude of minor hick-ups such as rhythmic offsets that drag my overall impression down somewhat. But even so, as "Detroit Rock City", "I Was Made for Lovin' You" and "Black Diamond" conclude the proceedings in a three-song encore, I feel privileged in many ways finally to have experienced the KISS phenomenon and concede that yes, even excessive gimmicks can sometimes provide incessant entertainment. Having said that, KISS would most likely not be a band I'd be interested in watching again, lest it be a festival performance or some such thing.

Setlist:

  • Psycho Circus
  • Shout It Out Loud
  • Let Me Go, Rock 'N' Roll
  • I Love It Loud
  • Hell or Hallelujah
  • War Machine
  • Heaven's on Fire
  • Deuce
  • Say Yeah
  • Shock Me
  • Outta This World
  • God of Thunder
  • Lick It Up
  • Love Gun
  • Rock and Roll All Nite

--Encore--

  • Detroit Rock City
  • I Was Made for Lovin' You
  • Black Diamond

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