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Over a dozen LCD screens of all shapes and sizes, a slew of lasers, hydraulic lifts and platforms, the requisite pyro (big flames, sparks, fireworks and fire-eating), confetti, streamers, giant balloons, a zipline-like ride into the crowd and onto a smaller stage in the center of the stadium, blood, makeup, costumes and solos for all. Say what you will about Kiss, they don’t skimp.

These days Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, 70 and 68 years of age respectively, obviously need the distractions playing live, especially since guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss are long gone. But Kiss were always about style over musical substance and menace over emotion or anything human. That isn’t a slag either, there are plenty of pseudo-earnest rockers out there who don’t value the spectacle, and having attended a lot of both kinds of concerts, we’ll definitely take the latter. Circus freaks meets Vegas showmen meets Halloween ghouls, Kiss still entertain even with the money-grubbiness they’ve come to represent these days.

Sparks fly (Lina Lecaro)

David Lee Roth’s Van Halen-less rockin’ lounge lizard act was pretty much the perfect opener, too. Dressed in metallic red spandex, Diamond Dave, 65 years young, swaggered through Halen hits and his sultry solo stuff including “California Girls and “Just A Gigolo.” There was clearly backing track help happening here, and the bombast bro-magic of Eddie and Alex was sorely lacking, but it was fine — fun even. Singing along with one of rock’s craziest and crooniest (and yes, sometimes corniest) frontmen is still a kind of awesome thing to do. He isn’t the performer he once was but that was the case during the last Van Halen reunion too — there were some kicks but no jumps, even during “Jump.”

Which is why Kiss’ “End of the Road World Tour” also gets two big tongues up. Like the Motley Crooks’ retirement ruse, this last tour claim is probably a lie too. Gene will milk the Kiss cow til he’s dead and buried in the Kiss coffin, and then I’m sure we can all expect the hologram tour (which would actually be really cool). In the meantime, the fans will don kabuki makeup and bring their kids (in kabuki makeup), and buy $50-75 t-shirts happily, just to take part in the escapist sci-fi horror fantasy of it all.

(Lina Lecaro)

All this said, there was a very real and poignant moment at the Staples Center Wednesday night. It was one of the first big concerts since the Kobe Bryant tribute at the venue last week, so Stanley and the band paid proper tribute. At the end of the set, Paul donned Kobe’s jersey and said a few words to honor the basketball legend’s impact on L.A. and what it meant for the band to play “the house that Kobe built.” He also said a few words about the other victims of the helicopter crash as Bryant and his daughter’s jersey numbers were displayed on the screens above the band, followed by a heartfelt version of “Do You Love Me.” The show ended with a purple and gold balloon drop and the band’s signature anthem, “Rock and Roll All Nite,” which saw the crowd shoutin’ and cellphone shootin’ til the fiery finale.

(Lina Lecaro)

Set List:

Detroit Rock City

Shout It Out Loud

Deuce

Say Yeah

I Love It Loud

Heaven’s on Fire

Tears Are Falling

War Machine

Lick It Up

Calling Dr. Love

100,000 Years

Cold Gin

God of Thunder

Psycho Circus

Parasite

Love Gun

I Was Made for Lovin’ You

Black Diamond

 

Encore:

Beth

Do You Love Me

Rock and Roll All Nite