KISS and Def Leppard at Target Center, 8/17/14
Photo By Tony Nelson
KISS and Def Leppard
with the Dead Daisies
Target Center, Minneapolis
Sunday, August 17, 2014
KISS brought their 40th anniversary victory lap tour through the sold-out Target Center on Sunday night. A legion of young and old fans witnessed their makeup-clad, platform boot-wearing rock heroes. A few odd song choices dotted the newly minted Rock and Roll Hall of Famers' crisp 75-minute set, but KISS still brought the hits. Add in a spirited set from co-headliners Def Leppard, and classic rock was alive and well in downtown Minneapolis.
Slideshow: KISS rock Target Center
Def Leppard provided massive countdown clocks on the sides of the stage, letting everyone know precisely when the rock would commence. With the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" blaring over the PA, the curtain was raised as the song built to its boisterous conclusion. It eventually dropped to reveal the English quintet picking up the ending of the familiar mod anthem, as singer Joe Elliott chimed in with the lyrical kiss-off, "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss." Union Jacks were everywhere, from Rick Allen's bass drum, to the scarves draped on Elliot's mic stand, to the big screens behind the band, as the group wasted little time firing up the crowd with their early High 'n' Dry hit, "Let It Go."
Def Leppard have been around since the late '70s themselves, stalwarts of the classic rock scene just like KISS, so they also know a thing or two about longevity and rocking arenas. Their well-paced set was packed with hits from throughout their career, as a slightly reworked version of "Animal" was followed by a rousing run-through of "Foolin'" with the large crowd singing along emphatically. Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell's guitars added some warmth and texture to "Love Bites," while scripted lyrics were spelled out on the screens on stage. On this number and others throughout the set, Elliott's vocals struggled to reach some of the high notes of old, and he counted on his bandmates for help.
Photos By Erik Thompson
Songs like "Let's Get Rocked" and "Armageddon It" represent the bloated, cheesy classic rock that grunge did away with, but they still had an appeal for Sunday's crowd. An acoustic version of "Two Steps Behind" saw a mass exodus to the bathrooms and beer lines, but thankfully that misstep was quickly righted by a slow-burning "Bringin' On the Heartbreak," which began with Collen, Campbell, and Elliott standing side by side at the front of the stage.
After a quick wardrobe change for Elliott, "Hysteria" featured vintage photographs of the band in various stages of their career. "Rocket" had an artistic backdrop of a wall of TVs on the screens surrounding the band, giving a nod to the industry that help propel them into superstardom. The over-the-top guitar jam singalong that is at the heart of "Rocket" perfectly exemplifies just why they became such a massive band in the first place, but also what made them fall out of style so rapidly.
"Are you ready for this?" Elliott asked before the band launched into "Pour Some Sugar On Me," which hasn't aged too well but can easily and effortlessly rock an arena any day of the week. After taking a brief encore break, the band returned with Elliott mentioning how $1 from every ticket sale is going to the Wounded Warrior project, then he let "our own wounded warrior" Allen kick off the boisterous "Rock of Ages," which sounds good no matter what decade we're in. Classic images on archival celluloid rolls appropriately filled the screens as the band delivered their potent last song of the night, "Photograph," with Elliott saying warmly, "Thank you, Minneapolis, it's been a pleasure as always. Don't forget us, and we won't forget you."
After a changeover long enough for the crew to construct the towering spider-like feature on the stage, KISS dramatically ascended from the top of the structure and immediately launched into "Psycho Circus." While the song clearly isn't one of the strongest from their 40-year catalog, the pyrotechnics and menacing costumes assured that the start of the show was a spectacle. Gene Simmons took over lead vocals frequently throughout the rapid-fire set, adding some bite to the enduring hit from KISS's eponymous 1974 debut album.
At times, the band took on the role of masked cheerleaders leading the crowd to cheer this thing called KISS, with the occasionally stale music becoming secondary to the visual extravaganza. There aren't many surprises the band can jolt us with that we haven't already seen before, so we're left with this unstoppable musical machine that steamrolls through town every couple of years with a show entertaining enough to keep fans coming back. "Man, Minneapolis, we've been coming here for a long, long time," Paul Stanley said appreciatively toward the start of the show. "In fact, we've been coming here since before some of you were born. We know what to expect from you, so don't let us down. You're looking at a band that's in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because of you!"
Photos By Tony Nelson
"Shout It Out Loud" got the crowd involved in the simple chorus, while "War Machine" took on a sinister, Danzig-esque metal edge. Simmons breathed fire in a carefully orchestrated routine during "Hotter Than Hell," as flames shot out over the top of Eric Singer's drum kit, with the intense heat from each burst felt throughout the arena. There isn't any spontaneity in a KISS show, with each move perfectly calculated to coincide with an explosion or burst of light. So when you remove that element of surprise from the equation, some songs ("I Love It Loud," "Hide Your Heart") don't hold up on their own, and when you are playing a set celebrating your 40th anniversary as a band, having a few clunkers in a set of only 15 songs is a big misstep.
"I read the newspaper, and I see that the world is full of bad news," Stanley explained. "We can't change the world, but what do you say we just have a good time tonight?" And anthemic versions of "Lick It Up" and "God of Thunder" -- complete with Gene menacingly spitting blood during an introductory bass solo -- assured that a good time would be had, because this was a freaking KISS show after all. "Calling Dr. Love" featured Paul strangely sitting on the edge of the stage, ceding the spotlight to Simmons, before he flew above the audience to a stage at the back of the arena for a lively take on "Love Gun."
Photos By Tony Nelson
A song as potent as "Black Diamond" will always kick ass and ignite any set, and it certainly did on this night, kicking off a powerful string of hits that closed out the night. "Rock 'n' roll is about something in your heart," Stanley said passionately. "And Minneapolis, you've got it!" With that, the group tore through a raucous version of "Detroit Rock City" that proved to be a brazen highlight of the set. Of course, they couldn't let us leave without playing their party staple, "Rock and Roll All Nite," which brought the night to a lively end as confetti and fire rained down from above. After 40 years, the KISS army marches steadily on, leaving another city shaking in its wake.
Personal Bias: I became a member of the KISS Army when I was 7, but haven't seen them live since the original lineup's reunion tour in 1996. I also wore out my Pyromania LP back in the day, as well.
The Crowd: A full house 14,000 strong, with a mixture of Def Leppard fans sprinkled in among the makeup-wearing die-hard KISS fans.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I wish every show had a countdown clock so you knew just how much time was left until it started."
Def Leppard Setlist:
--"Won't Get Fooled Again" Intro--
Let It Go
Let's Get Rocked
Two Steps Behind
Bringin' On the Heartbreak
Pour Some Sugar On Me
Rock Of Ages
Shout It Out Loud
Hotter Than Hell
I Love It Loud
Lick It Up
God Of Thunder
Hide Your Heart
Calling Dr. Love
Detroit Rock City
Rock And Roll All Nite
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