Kiss at O2 Arena, London - live review

NYC rock legends start to feel the strain

Art for Kiss live at O2 Arena, London

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No one could ever accuse Paul Stanley of giving less than 110%. Kiss too; for Lick It Up – which comes only three songs into the set – the football field-sized stage has exploded in a dazzling array of green lasers filling the ceiling as the band segue cleverly into and out of The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again. The floor eddies and rises on gleaming pneumatic platforms, and the band are unstinting in their pointing, winking and general mugging, which they keep up for the full two-hour performance.

Paul’s intro to the song too is assuredly Kiss in tone; lurid and delivered with a knowing wink, the reassured timbre less so. At first it sounds like Stanley’s mic is on the fritz, but as he eulogises on a riff about cunnilingus he sounds like a teenage boy hitting puberty as his voice breaks. It’s hard not to feel for Paul Stanley. He still jiggles like the hard rock Mick Jagger and flies over the crowd in stack heels with élan, but the central tenet of Kiss’s sound, that classic, keening hard rock vocal, is slowly coming apart. The thick make-up might cover the cracks of age, but it’s hard to disguise a fading register – even if you do have drummer Eric Singer providing heart-stopping backing vocals.

That said, there’s little to disappoint in the Kiss razzle-dazzle. Black Diamond is a visual and aural treat – you’re surprised that they don’t cause a massive power outage in South London at some points – I Love It Loud throbs and broods on Gene Simmons’ guttural growl and Flaming Youth burns brightly. However, the entire world could have done without the crawling triumvirate of War Machine, Say Yeah and Psycho Circus. Telling, it’s on the latter that Paul takes to the air to land gently on a rotating platform at the back of the arena to will the flagging audience back into life. With a quick shake of his hips and a dip of his guitar he manages it, too. Kiss, as is their way, end on a high, the arena a dusting of confetti, streamers and glitter, but as the echoes fade they only reverberate back in diminishing returns from a band who might yet be looking for the way out.

Philip Wilding

Philip Wilding is a novelist, journalist, scriptwriter, biographer and radio producer. As a young journalist he criss-crossed most of the United States with bands like Motley Crue, Kiss and Poison (think the Almost Famous movie but with more hairspray). More latterly, he’s sat down to chat with bands like the slightly more erudite Manic Street Preachers, Afghan Whigs, Rush and Marillion.