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Headbangers

Paul Stanley in Mapplewood, Minnesota

By A Headbanger, Do You Bang Head?
Friday, November 10, 2006 @ 2:29 PM


At the Myth Nightclub

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Reviewed By: Nightfox

Seventeen years after his last solo outing, and 28 years after his last solo album, Paul Stanley has once again hit the road, sans makeup and KISS cohorts, for a club tour showcasing KISS classics and solo material from 1974 to the present.

Upon my arrival at the venue at 7pm, the KISS Army was already out in full force. There was KISS paraphernalia everywhere; hats, t-shirts, halter-tops, and quite a few tattoos. However, I was somewhat surprised at the absence of painted faces. Clearly, the fans were here to see Paul Stanley the solo artist, and to hear him dust off some lost KISS classics as well as a few choice cuts from his two solo albums.

At approximately 8:30pm, the opening band took the stage. Hailing from New York, the chick-fronted Slunt delivered a half hour’s worth of fast-paced punk jams. The act was not really my thing, but they put on a high-energy show and clearly were having fun. The crowd was appreciative of their effort, and the band exited to warm applause.

After a quick changeover, the houselights dimmed, and Mr. Paul Stanley took the stage to a raucous crowd. No bombs, no fireworks, no “you wanted the best, you got the best” just the KISS frontman in street clothes, flanked by the house band from the CBS show Rock Star. It was a very low-key entrance by a man accustomed to the bombast of KISS, but Stanley clearly wanted to embrace the club setting and have a few words with his audience before launching into the music.

After thanking the crowd for coming to the show and promising to deliver some rare gems, Paul and the band kicked off the night with the title track from his new Live to Win solo album. As he would prove many times over the subsequent two hours, Stanley’s songs sound much better live than they do on CD, and “Live to Win” got the crowd rocking from the first note. For a man with so much classic material in his repertoire, Stanley showed that he can still craft the perfect hook-filled rock song and have audiences respond with fist-pumping abandon.

Stanley wasted no time digging into the KISS vault, following up the opening number with “Hide Your Heart”, perhaps the one redeeming quality on 1989’s otherwise dismal Hot in the Shade album. From my spot near the front of the stage, I looked behind me and saw that virtually everyone was singing along to every word. It never ceases to amaze me how many diehard KISS fans there are, and how well versed they are in the band’s music. This would become even more clear as the evening unfolded.

During his opening monologue, Stanley promised we would hear songs never performed live by KISS, and he delivered on the third song, “A Million to One” from 1983’s Lick It Up. Paul and the band tore through the song as if it had been written yesterday, making one wonder how this could possibly have never found its way onto a set list from past KISS tours. Once again, everyone in the crowd seemed to know the words, in this case to a song that, until then, had lingered in obscurity on a 23-year-old album. Unbelievable!

Leading into the fourth song, Stanley announced that the current tour was an opportunity for him to play his favorite KISS songs, implying that this was his night away from having to share the stage with the other egos in the KISS machine (not to name any names). He then teed up the opening riff to “Got to Choose” from 1974’s Hotter Than Hell and once again, the crowd went wild. This was yet another example of the superiority of live performance over studio recordings. Paul and the band, most of whom hadn’t yet been born when the song was written, ripped through this classic with a fury that had to be experienced to be appreciated. Not since 1975’s immortal Alive! album has this song sounded so raw and powerful.

Throughout the night, Stanley offered a generous helping of songs from his underappreciated 1978 solo album, including “Tonight You Belong to Me,” “Wouldn’t You Like to Know Me,” and, as the final encore tune, “Goodbye.” Prior to playing “Move On,” Stanley offered up some spoken-word lyrics: “People, when I was just a baby, my momma sat me on her knee, and she said, Paul Stanley…” Then, realizing that most of his fans know that Paul Stanley isn’t his real name, Stanley gave the concertgoers a wink and a smirk and added, “Yeah, that’s right, she actually called me Paul Stanley” which elicited a collective laugh from the crowd.

Paul offered up one last deep cut, “Magic Touch,” before moving back into familiar territory with “Strutter,” “Do You Love Me,” “I Want You,” and “Love Gun.” After a very short break, Stanley and his band returned for an encore, blasting out “Detroit Rock City” before closing with “Lift,” from the new solo album, and “Goodbye.”

Paul’s stage banter was much improved over his typical KISS raps. Rather than screaming People This and People That at glass-shattering pitch, Stanley delivered several creative intros for his songs, and he showed his sense of humor on more than one occasion. As he was introducing one song, a fan interrupted him by yelling “New York Groove!” Stanley smiled and said, “Yeah, that’s right, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Ace Frehley.” Later, as Paul was about to introduce the band, he explained that he discovered them by watching a certain television program that otherwise really wasn’t that interesting. When a fan blurted out “Gene Simmons Family Jewels?” Paul deadpanned, “No, that’s the best show I’ve ever seen on television.”

At another point in the show, a girl in the crowd calling herself Shandi caught Paul’s attention. Stanley asked if that was really her name, and with a sigh explained that “Shandi” wasn’t really in the set. Nevertheless, he played a few verses of the song, and the entire nightclub joined in on vocals, virtually serenading this girl who may or may not have been telling the truth. Either way, it was an awesome impromptu moment in the show, and once again illustrated that, through all of the showmanship, merchandising and swagger that is KISS, the songs are what the fans care about.

Overall, this show was a KISS fan’s dream come true. Having the chance to see Stanley in an intimate club setting, churning out KISS classics and forgotten obscurities with a killer backing band, was as good as it gets. Stanley is the consummate professional, and goes out of his way to show his appreciation for his fans' years of devotion by giving them what they want (short of a four hour show). The only possible complaint was that, as strong as Paul’s voice remains after 30 plus years of touring, the music occasionally drowned out his vocals. Then again, with a few thousand people singing along to your every word, perhaps it was the collective voice of the KISS Army that overcame the Starchild’s pipes. Either way, Stanley promised to be back before another 28 years, and no doubt the fans will be waiting.

Set list (in order):

  • Live to Win
  • Hide Your Heart
  • A Million to One
  • Got to Choose
  • Move On
  • Bulletproof
  • Tonight You Belong to Me
  • Lick It Up
  • Wouldn’t You Like to Know Me
  • Magic Touch
  • I Still Love You
  • Strutter
  • Every Time I See You Around
  • Do You Love Me
  • I Want You
  • Love Gun
Encore:

  • Detroit Rock City
  • Lift
  • Goodbye



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