By Ken Sharp
In shining testament to KISS’s massive global popularity and devoted hard-core fan base from Tokyo to Tacoma, the band is embarking on their ninth cruise on the high seas. KISS Kruise IX is set to sail on October 30th to November 4th with stops in Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas and Falmouth, Jamaica. Sixthman’s “KISS Kruise IX,” dubbed “Rock and Roll Legacy,” is now a yearly excursion that finds the legendary kabuki superheroes joining by legions of KISS Navy members from America, Japan, Spain, England, Brazil, Italy, Denmark, Russia, The Netherlands and many more countries for an unforgettable fun filled adventure in the high seas with the hottest band in the world. In reflecting upon the unique connection between KISS and their loyal fan base around the world, Sixthman notes: “The KISS NAVY is an eclectic community of fans of all ages and from all parts of the globe. While the primary KISS fan grew up listening to the band in the '70s and is in their mid-40s and early 50s today….we have a large number of guests on board who are under the age of 18 as well as a good amount of fans in their 20s and 30s….it’s exciting to see so many generations enjoying the electrifying KISS live show all together on vacation on board the ship."
For those who have never had the good fortune of taking past in a KISS Kruise, here are some selected highlights from past years.
KISS KRUISE VIII
Former KISS members Ace Frehley and Bruce Kulick reunite with the current lineup during the band’s acoustic sailaway show.
Out on the pool deck, festooned with colorful flags from countries around the globe, Austria, Germany, Argentina, Australia, Ireland, Scotland, Scotland, Norway, Italy, England, Canada and South Africa, over 2300 fans are packed in like sardines anxiously awaiting the arrival of their heroes, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer, onto the stage. As in year’s past, the annual KISS sail-away show is the perfect way to commence this full immersion into KISSdom and lends an opportunity for this hardcore contingent of fans to witness the band perform in a stripped down acoustic setting delivering signature classics and a deep dive into the band’s 40 + year catalog of metallic heaviosity.
Opening with “Coming Home,” the first song the band performed on their legendary MTV Unplugged show, the band tore through deep cuts traversing their entire career. Remarking they’ve been rehearsing for their upcoming tour, Paul told the SRO crowd packing the ship’s pool deck they had no time to practice for this set but despite a few hiccups along the way—after a miscue in “Mainline”, Paul joked, “we’re in international waters so we can’t be arrested for murdering a song”, the band was loose and clearly having a blast performing KISS klassics from such albums as Hotter Than Hell, Dressed to Kill, Destroyer, Rock & Roll Over, Love Gun, Revenge and Hot In The Shade. But most exciting news for those in attendance was the surprise guest appearances by former KISS guitar players, Ace Frehley and Bruce Kulick, fueling the fire for ex-band members to have a in the group’s “End Of The Road” tour. Closing with the band’s national anthem, “Rock & Roll All Nite,” supercharged by four guitarists on stage—Paul Stanley, Tommy Thayer, Ace Frehley and Bruce Kulick--at the song’s climactic finale, both Gene and Paul threw their respective instruments into the crowd, excited fans battled it out for who’d leave with the ultimate prize.
KISS KRUISE VI
During the band’s intimate indoor performances, the group, adorned in Creatures Of The Night era costumes, unveil rare and never before performed tracks from 1982’s Creatures Of The Night and Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons’ 1978 solo albums.
Kismet is achieved for over 2400 KISS Kruisers with the two electric shows in the 1500 seat Stardust Theater. A throwback to 1982’s “Creatures of the Night” tour, Eric Singer’s drum kit is nestled atop a scaled down tank, which pays homage to that classic tour. Kicking off with a ferocious rendition of “Creatures of the Night,” the band’s 90-minute set is devoid of bombs and pyro for obvious reasons. But as Paul proudly states on stage, “You’re watching a live rock and roll band. There’s no canned backing tracks, no musicians playing underneath the stage, no musical karaoke.” And he’s right, KISS is much more than a theatrical music entity; this is a tough, no-nonsense rock and roll band. Judging by the band’s two make-up electric show performances, the energy level is unassailable and contagious, the group delivering a non-stop barrage of hits, essential album tracks and deep cuts. The rarely played “Keep Me Comin’” and “Rock and Roll Hell” from Creatures sound like ready-made concert staples, filled with crackling kinetic electricity and passion. KISS also surprised the devoted faithful by playing songs culled from Gene Simmons’ and Paul Stanley’s respective 1978 solo platters; “Radioactive,” performed for the first time in 37 years, and the Raspberries inspired power pop juggernaut, “Wouldn’t You Like To Know Me,” which packed the power and melodiousness of The Who at their best. Coming back for an encore of the KISS signature classic “Strutter” on show one and “Deuce” on show two, the concerts ended with the rock and roll national anthem, “Rock & Roll All Nite,” the opening and closing moments of the song ignited a spectacular rainstorm of confetti deployed, more than enough to plaster a 20,000 arena. Having witnessed four KISS Kruise shows, these shows easily rank amongst the best in terms of energy, tightness and high throttle combustibility and judging by the spirited discussions following the shows in the Garden Café, my fellow Kruisers wholeheartedly agree.
KISS KRUISE VI
Fans aboard KISS Kruise VI who purchased one of the limited edition Paul Stanley guitar made available were afforded the golden opportunity to witness a Paul Stanley acoustic “Storytellers” show where the “Star Child” regales the 50-100 fans in attendance with fresh acoustic renditions of songs, many rarely if ever performed, and lends the back story his musical life.
Part Q&A, part acoustic performance, Paul held court to a packed room at the Spinnaker Lounge fielding questions on topics ranging from if there’s any plans for a new KISS album (“if we did an album, it would have to be something different from what we’ve already done,” confirmation of a KISS world tour in 2018, if he has any interest in a return to Broadway and more. When questioned about his go-to songs, Paul responded, “A lot of Beatles, a lot of Zeppelin. I love Motown, Philly Soul. When I put on music, I listen to the Temptations, the Four Tops, the Marvelettes and Stevie Wonder. That’s as much my roots and the music I grew up on as much as English rock and roll.” He had some pointed comments when queried about the state of the music industry relating “I’m worried about younger bands. To me, I equate file sharing to stealing. Corporations are taking all the money in 360 deals. I feel bad for the people starting out. The industry is in shambles and as I said, the ones I worry about are the new bands who deserve to be paid.” He further offers advice to bands forging ahead with a career in music, “the way to build a band is not being on a talent show, you have to take it out to the people. KISS are a people’s band and that’s what we always did.”
In recalling the musical heroes that inspired him, Paul raved about Humble Pie. “Steve Marriott was a phenomenal singer and preacher onstage. Humble Pie was a band that really inspired KISS.” When asked about his dream collaborator Paul quickly answered: “Jimmy Page. He’s Beethoven, he’s Mozart. He’s the most underrated producer. What he’s painted with Led Zeppelin is phenomenal so to do something with him would be incredible.”
For Paul’s acoustic set, he was joined by his son, Evan who fronts the power pop combo, The Dives, and Mike Lefton, his band mate in The Dives. Opening with a spirited three-part harmony laden rendition of Eagles “Peaceful Easy Feeling” followed by a first time ever performance of “If We Ever Get Out Of This Place,” a song he wrote that was recorded by Eddie Money. Next, Paul called up a surprise guest, guitarist Bob Kulick for a first time ever live performance of “Ain’t Quite Right, “culled from Paul’s 1978 solo album, Paul on 12-string and Bob adding rhythmic and lead guitar fills. Closing out the set, Paul called up another friend, Derek St. Holmes, best known for fronting the Ted Nugent band and singing lead vocals on classics like “Stranglehold” and “Just What The Doctor Ordered.” They turned the clock back to 1970 and delivered a robust run through of Free’s “All Right Now,” Paul and Derek trading off soulful vocals.
KISS KRUISE V
The “Gene Simmons Master Class” draws fans in small intimate sessions with “The Demon” where he teaches KISS Navy members the essentials of songwriting 101, and serves as a guide as he, guitar in hand, leads small groups of fans in helping them unlock their creativity and create a song on the spot.
Dozens of cases of bass guitars emblazoned with the visage of Gene Simmons, tongue unfurled, sit off to the side of the stage. Hardcore fans who purchased one of the basses from Gene’s bass line, were given the opportunity to take part in a special once in a lifetime Gene Simmons Master Class. Over 100 fans assembled inside the intimate venue to watch Gene share the secrets behind the science of songwriting. He explained, “Songwriting starts with the bare bones, which is the foundation and then you add the flesh.” Picking up a black Gibson Les Paul, Gene played various riffs stressing that simplicity serves as the bedrock of a great song; he used KISS’s “Lick It Up,” “We Will Rock You” by Queen, AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” and the Beastie Boys “Fight For Your Right” as examples of popular songs sharing similar musical DNA. Each class was limited to 10 students, from beginner level to advanced. Gene ran each group through the fundamentals of songwriting, singing nonsensical lyrics hot-wired to boogie guitar riffs to demonstrate how to construct a song from initial idea to final product. I took part in the second class alongside 9 other fans, each armed with a different Gene Simmons bass in our hands. With Gene driving the musical ship and firing off meaty guitar riffs and occasional lead guitar solos, we crafted a song titled “T.K.O,” which sounded like the bastard child of KISS’s “Rock & Roll All Nite” and “Lick It Up.” Gene sang along with me and another student
with whom I shared a microphone, helping us hone in on the correct high harmony. By the time we had nailed the song—and make no mistake, we weren’t gonna make KISS or AC/DC lose any sleep--but with Gene’s patient guidance, we actually sounded half decent. Orwigsberg, Pa resident Joe Lagana purchased a Gene Simmons acoustic Punisher bass and gushed, “By day I’m an environmental safety manager so my job isn’t that exciting. So to be able to learn how to write a song from one of my biggest musical idols is mind blowing; the experience is priceless.”
KISS KRUISE IV
Beyond the concerts, both acoustic sailaway performance and full makeup shows in the Stardust Theatre, which are an undeniable highlight for the ardent fans on board, each member of KISS takes part in special activities aboard the ship.
And in the case of the KISS Kruise, there are ample opportunities for that intimate interaction afforded to the fans to get up close and personal with Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer. A lengthy Q&A with the band allows those to query the stars about topics like which opening act gave a band a run for the money (Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band), Paul Stanley took part in a discussion about his New York Times Best Selling memoir, Face the Music: A Life Exposed while Gene Simmons commandeered a pick throwing contest. Members Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer also helmed their own events, a Halloween KISS Kostume contest and an “Almost Famous" competition respectively. It's a treat watching fans during the meet and greets. Hard core fans of the band since 1974 intermingle with families numbering first, second and third generation supporters as they line up for a photo with the group. The excitement is palpable and it’s contagious; the beatific joy on the faces of those taking part is priceless. 50-somethings turns into little kids awed meeting their hard rock heroes face to face; some fans are so overcome by emotion that they’re literally shaking—and it’s not the boat rocking back and forth. The band get it too. Throughout their 40-year career, KISS remain dedicated to the notion that the fans are the bosses; Gene Simmons reiterates their mission statement, “we hear and we obey.” Watching the proceedings over the past few days, whether it’s the meet and greets, Q&A sessions, the “unmasked” acoustic show or two full-on indoor rock shows, it’s abundantly clear that the band themselves are reveling in that personal connection, feeding off the passion and love generated by 2300 of their most devoted followers.
There are a limited number of cabins still available so if you want to join the KISS Navy for a once-in-a-lifetime rock and roll all day and and nite event with KISS and fans from all over the world, log onto http://www.thekisskruise.com/ and make your reservation now.