If you go
• What: Kiss with Def Leppard, in concert.
• When: 7 p.m. June 27.
• Where: Sleep Country Amphitheater, 17200 N.E. Delfel Road.
• Cost: $40.80 to $188.90.
• Information: 360-816-7000 or sleepcountryamphitheater.com.
Earlier this year, Kiss received a big dose of vindication when the original edition of the band — singer/guitarist Paul Stanley, bassist/singer Gene Simmons, guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss — was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Today's edition of Kiss — with guitarist Tommy Thayer having replaced Frehley, and Eric Singer on drums — is following up that event with a tour that marks the 40th anniversary of the group.
Obviously, Kiss has had a major impact on rock and roll — in terms of albums sold (more than 100 million worldwide), with the group's ground-breaking pyrotechnic-filled stage shows, and with the makeup the original band members wore that gave a blueprint for any number of acts (Slipknot, Daft Punk, the Residents) to don masks or other costumes to create stage characters for their bands.
The makeup — with Stanley as the starchild, Simmons as the demon, Frehley as the space ace and Criss as the catman — remains perhaps Kiss' greatest signature, and it helped create a mystique that was a big part of the band's appeal during the 1970s and very early '80s — the group's peak years as hit-makers. Looking at the world today with pervasive social media, camera phones and the public's hunger to know as much as possible about its celebrities, Stanley doubts that Kiss could have kept the secrecy that came with the makeup and helped create a larger-than-life image for Kiss.
"I think that certainly in all walks of life in terms of public figures, there is a certain mystique that is gone because everything is known," Stanley observed during a mid-June teleconference interview with a group of reporters. "I think mystique is healthy. And I think to glamorize and fantasize is a good thing. I'm not sure that Kiss could have accomplished what we did initially in this time because (in the 1970s and 1980s) we could make sure that photos weren't available and the paparazzi didn't have photos of us out of makeup. We could create this mystique, which was not unlike the mystique of Hollywood of the 1930s and 1940s, which really was a romanticized version of reality. I'm a fan of it."
When the band came on the scene in 1973, music fans hadn't seen anything quite like Kiss. The group's first three studio albums sold modestly, but the group managed to launch the early versions of what would become a continually more extravagant live show. The commercial breakthrough came with the 1975 concert release, the double LP, "Alive." Featuring the hit "Rock and Roll All Nite," it opened the door to a string of hit studio albums that continued through 1979's "Dynasty."
Since then there have been albums that bombed ("Music From 'The Elder'"), others that have been hits ("Crazy Nights"), lineup changes, an unmasking that lasted from 1983 to 1996, a reunion of the original lineup and a return of the makeup and several recent arena-filling tours with the current lineup.
This set the stage for the band's induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and this summer's American leg of the 40th anniversary tour. When it was announced in December that Kiss had been voted in, it came with controversy, though. The hall insisted that only the original band would be inducted. Stanley and Simmons argued forcefully that other members of the band — including Thayer and Singer — should also be enshrined.
But the Hall stood firm and Stanley and Simmons protested by declining to perform with any version of Kiss at the induction ceremony. The four original members, though, did attend and took the stage to receive their Hall of Fame trophies. Stanley said he and Simmons wanted to make their appearance on behalf of the group's fans, who had long lobbied for the band's induction.
"It was vindicating in the sense that it was vindicating for the fans," Stanley said of being inducted. "This has been very important for them, and I wanted to share that moment. I wanted to raise my statue up in the air and say 'Yeah! We did it,' in spite of the people who clearly didn't want us in."
So with induction event in the rear view mirror, Stanley, Simmons, Thayer and Singer are doing what they consider far more important — playing live. This summer's 40th anniversary tour (with Def Leppard as the opener), Stanley promised, will more than live up to past live extravaganzas.
"I believe that this is the greatest and really the best stage that we've ever had," Stanley said. "We call it the Spider stage because the lights are actually in the shape of a spider and the legs are actually dangling down onto the stage and move. "The band is firing on all cylinders, so between that and the fact that we're psyched up for this and we're celebrating our 40th year, we're out there to do a victory lap, although the race isn't over yet," he said. "There will be more races. But this is a celebration of everything we've done until today."