Def Leppard and KISS -Saratoga Performing Arts Center (Saratoga Springs, NY), 8/5/14

KISS And Def Leppard Announce Summer Tour At The House Of Blues In Hollywood March 17, 2014

In my day, the school bus was the equivalent of the Wild West; it was the one place where kids were lumped together without much adult supervision. It is not surprising, therefore, that this is where we picked up a lot of stuff that our parents wouldn’t necessarily be happy with. Put 5th graders on the same bus with curious (and gullible) younger kids and there is bound to be some bad behavior learned in the process. It was mostly harmless stuff, but years of riding the public school bus was certainly a different kind of education than we were getting in the classroom.

It was on one such school bus ride that I first heard that the rock band KISS had connections with the devil. I have no idea why we were even talking about KISS – I don’t remember them being particularly popular at the time – but at some point in the conversation an older kid told us that KISS stood for Knights In Satan’s Service and there were satanic messages hidden in their music. Now, I was a pretty savvy kid and I was usually pretty astute at sniffing out the ridiculous in these bus ride conversations; I was one of the more outspoken advocates that professional wrestling was fake, a controversial stance to take at the time. So while I doubted the overall veracity of this statement, it still made me a little concerned. You also have to remember that this was the 1980s, when people were obsessed with finding the devil in any pop culture that they didn’t understand. Heavy Metal was often under fire for it possible connection to devil worship. 60 Minutes even did a segment on the game Dungeons & Dragons and its possible connections to witchcraft, demons and even suicide. Given the climate at the time, even though I didn’t necessarily believe that KISS was in fact in legion with Beelzebub, I wasn’t taking any chances and generally stayed away from them. “I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night” didn’t strike me as all that demonic, but the news had me convinced that Satanism lurked everywhere. It is ironic that this was the time period when KISS had actually been “unmasked” and they were no longer wearing their makeup, which I found actually scarier. Gene Simmons is kind of terrifying.

Somewhere down the road, after the Lucifer paranoia had generally died down, I rediscovered KISS and found it hilarious that anyone ever thought that they were satanic henchmen. I’d like to think that Satan wouldn’t pick a band that is so cheesy to be his messenger. I don’t mean cheesy as an insult, but it’s hard to take a band that has a song called “Love Gun” all that seriously. I’d presume that the devil is more subtle than that. I didn’t necessarily seek out KISS, but I would occasionally hear a song that I liked and would be surprised to learn that it was by them. The prominence of the band’s music in the movie Role Models was another source of exposure. I was by no metric a KISS fan – I can only name a handful of songs – but given their stage theatrics I thought that if the chance presented itself for me to see them live, I should do it. That opportunity presented itself this summer when KISS rolled into town as part of a double bill with Def Leppard. The Groupon deal for discounted lawn tickets didn’t hurt either; it was a small investment to check out this traveling circus in person.

We arrived late to the show (during the opening act – that’s late to me), but it was immediately apparent that based on people watching alone the cost of admission was well worth it. It appeared that most of the people in attendance did not receive the memo that it was no longer 1985; it was like stepping into a time machine, with mullets and big hair as far as the eye could see. I’m sure that the majority of these people got “into character” for the show and do not normally walk around looking like this, but I’m sure that some percentage of them embrace this look for their daily lives. After all, one does not grow a mullet overnight. KISS fans also do not seem to subscribe to the general concert etiquette that you don’t wear a t-shirt of the band that you are there to see. Everywhere I looked, there were people decked out in KISS garb. Of course, the truly dedicated members of the KISS army came all decked out as their favorite members of the band, makeup and all. I was curious if that was something that people still did and it is a tradition that is still going strong. Though they were the minority of the audience, I still saw way more people in replica KISS costumes than I would have anticipated at this particular venue. I didn’t snap any photos, but in a way I kind of admire their commitment and passion. I don’t think I feel that strongly about anything, so kudos to them for not giving a crap what anyone thought. I did speculate that if I wore a pair of the KISS platform boots I would grow about three inches in height, which would be sweet, though I’m guessing frowned upon in my office.

Def Leppard took the stage first and worked their way through their seemingly unlimited number of hits. I’ve seen Def Leppard before and while I’ve enjoyed them both times I was struck both times by how quiet they were. I don’t know who is setting up their amps and sound system, but they are not nearly as raucous as other bands that I’ve seen at the same venue. The first time I saw them they were blown off the stage by Journey and while my affinity for Journey knows no bounds, they shouldn’t be out-powering a band like Def Leppard. We weren’t that far back on the lawn and they sounded somewhat muted. Maybe it’s from years of being on stage and their hearing is damaged; the word deaf is right in their band name. Whatever the reason, it was definitely noticeable and slightly took away from the overall show. It was hard to make out anything that they were saying in between songs and while I doubt I missed any great oration it still would have been nice to know what they were saying.

Still, listening to Def Leppard is like a visit to my early adolescence and even a quieter version is enjoyable. I still think that Hysteria is one of my favorite all-around albums and it is impressive how many hit songs they actually have. In fact when they came back on stage for an encore at the end of their set, I was puzzled as to what they were going to preform since they had seemed to hit all the high notes of their career already. Of course, the band knew better than I did and they had two more popular songs in reserve (“Photograph” and “Rock of Ages”), which I somehow either forgot about or just assumed that they had already played. They were solid and I’ll always be impressed with the skill of their drummer, but I don’t know that I necessarily have to see Def Leppard for a third time.

The reason that I was there was KISS and I was surprised, given the number of people we saw wearing KISS paraphernalia, that the crowd on the lawn really thinned out after Def Leppard finished their set. It appeared that a lot of people left, though perhaps the more die-hard KISS fans just made their way closer to the stage. I really couldn’t see much of anything during Def Leppard – even standing I couldn’t see over the people in front of us – so I mostly just relaxed in my chair. Def Leppard may have a lot of hits, but they don’t have much in way of a stage show. By the time KISS took the stage, I could move up enough that I had a pretty clear sight line of the entire stage. And for what was about to be unleashed, you wanted to have a good view.

2014-08-05 22.28.00

Despite the fact that I don’t love the lawn, I had balked at getting inside tickets for the show because I could not justify spending over $100 to see these two bands. I couldn’t figure out why they were so expensive for performers whose most popular days were probably behind them. But once KISS took the stage, the staggering ticket prices suddenly make sense; the sheer amount of pyrotechnics that they set off during the show probably cost more than the GDP of some small countries. It was insane – between the lights and the pyro and their costumes, I had no idea where to focus. I may have briefly given myself ADD as I struggled to take it all in.

2014-08-05 21.43.47

KISS was just as cheesy as I had hoped that they would be; at this point, their on stage banter sounds exactly like you would expect a stereotype of an arena rock band to sound. Paul Stanley did all of the talking and it was clear from his earnestness that he really loves performing. I’d always assumed that Gene Simmons was more of the front man of KISS, probably because he was the only member who I knew thanks to his gift for self-promotion, so I was a little confused by all this. When Stanley asked the audience to chant his name, I had to confirm with my friend what his name was. On top of all the pyro, Stanley also flew out to the middle of the crowd on a zip line and Simmons made blood come out of his mouth. It was all the spectacle that I always assumed would occur at a KISS concert, but I was glad that I got to experience it first-hand.

2014-08-05 22.37.23

I must have picked up some knowledge of KISS songs by osmosis, since there were far fewer songs on their playlist that I failed to recognize. The crowd loved every minute of the show and was enthusiastic throughout the set. We were sitting next to a family of four, with a pre-teen son and teenaged daughter and I was surprised by how into all of this the kids were. The daughter was shrieking and jumping up and down like she was at a One Direction concert which was impressive given that she wasn’t even born when these bands were at their peak popularity. The only issue was the obnoxious group of people sitting a few rows ahead of us. They had smuggled in alcohol which they had consumed in excess and somewhere toward the end of the KISS set one of the guys, slumped over in his chair, vomited all over the lawn. His friends found this hilarious and took photos of this; it’s worth mentioning that this group was in their mid-forties. Thankfully we were far enough away from this hot mess that it didn’t directly impact us, but it certainly wasn’t the best aroma to have wafting through the crowd.

2014-08-05 21.47.14

In the interest of beating traffic – it was a school night – we ducked out a little early, so we heard “Rock and Roll All Night” from the parking lot. That was fine with me – I’d kind of reached my KISS limit at that point. It was a fun show and I’m glad that I got to see it with my own eyes, but it’s not necessarily an experience that I’d be anxious to repeat. Even if you don’t dig their music, I think it’s still worth going to see KISS once in your life just to say you did it and to see the spectacle unfold before you. They really are entertainers first and a rock band second. It was a surprisingly fun night.

2014-08-05 22.29.17

Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Breaking Bad Edition

I normally have a lot of Breaking Bad info in these pop culture roundups, but with the show recently returning for its final eight episodes ever (SOB!), there was more awesome info than normal this week. I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, so sprinkled throughout the roundup is an abundance of links related to the show. And for the love of all that is holy, if you aren’t watching this show get to steppin’. You are missing out! So kick back and bring yourself up to speed on all the pop culture that you may have missed over the last two weeks. Let me be your pop culture curator.

  • N’Sync is rumored to be reuniting at the MTV VMAs on Sunday, which now forces me to watch the VMAs. I’m skeptical as I’m not sure what Timberlake gets out of this. But I do hope it happens.

 

  • Jimmy Fallon is doing a Breaking Bad parody. This will be amazing.

 

  • It’s hard to get excited about football season when you root for the Bills, but I do love when the Manning brothers do commercials:

 

  • This is an interesting casting rumor (emphasis on rumor) – could Charlie Hunnam play Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey film adaption? By the time this movie comes out, will anyone still care?
  • Friday Night Lights, the movie? Make it happen!
  • HBO has released a trailer for the new season of Girls:

 

  • NBC is clearly in the Jonathan Banks (Mike, Breaking Bad) business. After a guest appearance on Parks and Recreation, the actor will be a regular on Community.

A quick break for the depressing stuff:

  • Lisa Robin Kelly, who played Topher Grace’s older sister Laurie on That 70s Show, died. She was 43.

OK – back to the more lighthearted links.

  • Blog fave Dean Winters (Dennis the beeper king on 30 Rock) is headed to the new Andy Samberg comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
  • Oprah gives away cars when she is just a guest on a show. Mental note – get in the audience when Oprah is on a talk show.
  • A trailer for the new season of Homeland:

 

  • Jay Leno’s last night on The Tonight Show will be February 6th. Believe it when you see it, Jimmy.
  • Mark your calendars: the third installment of Adam Scott’s The Greatest Event in Television History drops on November 7th. Nothing is confirmed, but speculation is that they are doing the opening credits from Too Close for Comfort.
  • Ha! Billy Ray Cyrus does look like fat Mac:

 

photo from Uproxx

photo from Uproxx

  • Whoa – it’s Walter, Jr. from Breaking Bad:

 

Photo from Uproxx

Photo from Uproxx

 

  • A tweet from Sons of Anarchy creator and showrunner Kurt Sutter makes me very nervous.
  • The chicken fight from Family Guy was never one of my favorites, but kudos to these two stunt women for the live action re-enactment:

 

  • This new trailer for season 3 of Revenge has piqued my interest:

 

  • The new channel FXX, which will show new episodes of The League and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, launches September. Use this handy website to find out if FXX is available on your cable system (Phew- it is for me!). The network is off to a promising start with a Parks and Recreation marathon.
  • This slowed down version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” is pretty cool:

 

  • The house from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is for sale.
  • This Avril Lavigne music video is a little nuts:

 

  • The White House Twitter account made a Mean Girls reference:

White House Twitter_Mean Girls

  • My birthday is a month from today and I would sure like it if someone bought me this Breaking Bad Lego set.
  • Another pop culture roundup, another American Horror Story: Coven teaser:

 

  • I’m surprised it took so long; watch a guy crowd surfs in order to “Come on Down” On The Price is Right:

 

  • Benedict Cumberbatch had a message for the papzrazzi trying to get spoilers on Sherlock:

 

Getty Image

Getty Image

  • In this trailer for Fading Gigolo, watch Woody Allen act as a pimp for John Turturro. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.

 

  • I’ve always like Donal Logue, so I’m not surprised he helped a stranger propose. P.S. Terriers is now streaming on Netflix – do yourself a favor and watch this late great series.
  • J.J. Abrams released a mysterious trailer on Monday.

Turns out it was for a book.

  • Listen to the Breaking Bad theme played on meth lab equipment:

 

As always, we end with the mashups and supercuts

  • Mean Girls mashed up with Book of Mormon

 

  • Here are some super cuts of movie clichés. First up “You just don’t get it, do you?”

 

  • Phone numbers that start with 555:

 

  • Superheroes introducing themselves:

 

  • Vulture put together a supercut of all of John Oliver’s explanations for Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show absence.
  • Nerdist put together a Breaking Bad/Saved by the Bell mashup:

Dustin Diamond was available? I’m shocked.

  • Behind Elysium (A Behind the Candelabra/Elysium mashup)

 

  • The opening of Adventure Time done in Legos:

 

 

Another installment of a Seinfeld/Game of Thrones mashup:

 

  • Ha! Thor meets Arrested Development in Thorested Development:

 

  • Breaking Bad recut as a romantic comedy:

 

  • President Obama “sings” Demi Lavato:

 

  • Listen to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” in the style of other divas:

 

  • We Are Never Ever Gonna Cook Together (Taylor Swift/Breaking Bad parody)

 

  • And finally – Walter White “sings” “My Way”