KISS go out all guns blazing in their final ever UK show!

KISS – Manchester AO Arena – 07/07/2023

When Paul Stanley & Gene Simmons joined forces in 1973 with Ace Frehley & Peter Criss, they’d have never believed they would still be playing 50 years later to packed arenas all over the world. But here we are after an incredible career influencing the world of Rock and Roll, we’re finally at the end of the road. Now in 2023, only Paul Stanley (Vocals/Guitar) and Gene Simmons (Bass) remain from the original line up but take no credit away from guitarist Tommy Thayer & Drummer Eric Singer, who have kept the flames burning strong in KISS for many, many years.

This evening’s show at Manchester AO Arena is only KISS’s 6th time playing Manchester, but it will be in fact their last ever UK show in their monstrous 50-year career. So, there is little surprise to see the streets of Manchester flowing with band T-shirts and painted faces of the Starchild, Demon, Catman, and Spaceman, as the excitement begins to rise leading up to showtime.

Just short of 21,000 people fill Manchester AO Arena surrounding a hugely impressive custom-built stage with inflatable statues of the four legends either side, and a studded edged stage peaks out beneath a huge curtain hiding what is yet to be revealed with KISS’s iconic logo on display. Finally the lights drop and screams echo around the arena.

“You wanted the best… you’ve got the best. The hottest band in the world… KISS”

Photo via KISS social – Keith Leroux

The curtain falls to an eruption of sparks, blasts of fire, & CO2 cannons to the thunderous sound of ‘Detroit Rock City’ ringing out through the room, and above, the entire four piece lower from the sky on individual platforms to the stage amid the chaos.

Typically, this is the KISS (11/10!) experience. They’re not just here to rock, they’re here to put on one of the best performances you’ll ever see in an arena filled with explosions, pyrotechnics, flashing light displays, and flying platforms, all around the best of 50 years’ work of their Rock and Roll history.

The two-hour long set is crammed with incredible moments from track to track, as KISS truly are the masters of Rock. Following the night’s opener, ‘Shout It Out Loud’ rings out showing the sheer volume of epic tracks they have at hand to be able to initiate a set so strongly.

As ever, when Paul Stanley isn’t glued to the microphone, he’s working his way around the stage swinging his hips with his guitar above his head, waving at members of the KISS Army surrounding the stage. Likewise, Gene Simmons drags himself around with his huge demon platform shoes and bat wings, pointing out members of the front row and working it at the cameras with his power stances and iconic tongue flicking for good measure. It’s obvious they’ve done this thousands of times before, but yet through the familiarity they remain enthusiastic and as crazy as ever for every city they step foot in.

Photo via KISS social – Keith Leroux

There is an incredibly cool moment the three guitarists stand united front of the stage, and rock themselves and guitars from side to side in front of a video of them doing so when they were younger throughout their career, showing that some things have never changed.

It’s honestly difficult to pick out any highlights, because every minute of the two-hour long set is filled with so much energy and charisma from the band and each track thrown into the mix sounds fantastic live. Even at the age of 71, Paul Stanley’s voice is still astonishing live and his stage presence as a frontman is something to be in awe of. You can even forgive Gene for taking himself away for 30 seconds mid song to cool down in front of the stage fans because at the age of 73, he’s still playing and performing like he’s in his 30’s. I’d be happy to still be attending shows in my 70’s let alone slay them night after night like KISS are.

The classics such as ‘Heavens on fire’, ‘Lick It Up’, and ‘Love Gun’ all blow us away, and the latter even found Paul Stanley flying across the arena above the crowd to a second stage at the back to get up close and personal with the fans for a special moment with one of their best tracks. ‘I Love It Loud’ also features with Gene breathing fire on stage to heat things up even more.

Between songs there is much need for a break for the band to cool off as maintaining maximum level with this much effort is tiring work, but even in these moments one of them takes it as an opportunity to strut their stuff and be the centre of attention.

Drummer Eric Singer has his moment as he’s shot up into the air with his drum kit on his platform for a thrashing solo. Guitarist Tommy Thayer works his way to each section of the stage to shred a solo as sparks fire out of the head of his guitar shooting down parts of the stage with explosions. Gene Simmons also takes his moment to release the Demon for his Bass solo as he becomes possessed, with blood flowing from his mouth and flying up to the top of the arena with his wings on a platform before ‘God Of Thunder’ is released onto the KISS Army.

As the night comes to a close, ‘Beth’ kicks off the encore with Eric singing and playing piano at the front of the stage, before we’re led into the hugely infectious ‘I Was Made For Lovin’ You’, which erupts in the arena with every single person singing along and fist pumping with Paul to the beat with explosions keeping everyone on their toes.

Finally, there is no better way to close out the show than with the incredible ‘Rock And roll All Nite’ which kicks into another (yes you guessed it) huge explosion of pyro, and this time red and white confetti fills the sky with colour. Paul makes sure everyone from each section of the arena is joining in during the breakdown before they enter the last chorus in pandemonium. The band return to their platforms to rise into the sky one last time to finish off the song, and as Paul smashes his guitar on stage there’s blasts of fire, sparks, CO2 Cannons, and streamers shooting into the crowd, while Paul swings his microphone around walking over to the camera to address the crowd through the big screen.

Photo via KISS social – Keith Leroux

“Manchester, have you had a good time? Did you get what you came for?”

“Manchester, we will never, EVER forget you. We love you, thank you. Goodnight.”

And with that, a firework display kicks off behind them as the band leave the stage for the very last time in the UK.

It’s incredibly fair to say it’s been an unbelievable ride through the roller-coaster that is KISS over the last 50 years, and few bands come close to the level of performances these guys put on. KISS will live long in the hall of fame and rock history books, and those four painted faces will continue to live long into the future in the memory of one of the greatest Rock and Roll bands the world has ever seen. KISS.

Danny Peart
Danny Peart
Editor / Live Music Photographer / Journalist at Soundcheck-Live

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