Loyal fans pay big for night with `the best, the hottest'

$1,000 for singed eyebrows and `Platinum' treatment for Kiss fans of all ages


November 24, 2003|By Kevin Eck | Kevin Eck,SUN STAFF

So I'm checking out the Web site for the legendary rock group Kiss when I stumble across a ticket offer for shows on the current tour.

I already had planned to buy tickets to this past Thursday night's Kiss/Aerosmith double bill at MCI Center and - being a huge Kiss fan - wanted for one time in my life to get really good seats.

The Kiss Web site offered to make it easy for me. If I signed up for the "Kiss Platinum Package," I would be guaranteed a seat within the first five rows, get to meet the guys and have a photo taken with them, painted faces, 7-inch platform boots and all. A T-shirt, autographed tour book, set of guitar picks and a $50 coupon for Kiss' online store completed the package. All of this could be mine for just $1,000.

A thousand dollars? Unless I'm shopping for a car, a house or an engagement ring, I usually don't expect to see a list price that includes a comma. But this would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I rationalized.

There was just one problem: How would I persuade my wife to check off on this one?

When she gave me a look that said, "This is the dumbest thing I've ever heard," I decided to go for the hard sell, explaining why it would mean so much for a 36-year-old man to meet the garish rockers he idolized as a kid. Time for a little lesson in Kiss-tory.

I told her about buying my first hard rock album, Kiss' Destroyer, at age 10 and how it changed my life. They looked incredibly cool on that album cover, a larger-than-life image that combined rock 'n' roll, comic books and horror movies. What 10-year-old boy could resist that?

I remember older kids in my neighborhood making fun of me for liking Kiss. They were into Led Zeppelin. Hey, even at 10, I realized Kiss' music and lyrics weren't all that sophisticated, but I knew one thing: Jimmy Page may be a great guitar player, but he didn't breathe fire and spit blood on stage like Kiss bassist Gene Simmons. Now that is rock 'n' roll.

My wife listened patiently as I went on and on about my 26-year relationship with Kiss before asking, "But haven't you seen them in concert enough?"

Well, I had been to 18 Kiss concerts covering six states and the District of Columbia, including an acoustic performance in 1995 at the Kiss Convention in Chicago. But this one was special, I insisted. This could be my last chance to see them. For God's sake, drummer Peter Criss is only a few years from his 60th birthday.

Stopping just short of getting down on my knees and begging, I suddenly had a flashback to 1977. Kiss really was the hottest band in the world then, and was coming to the Capital Centre. I had to go.

After I pleaded and cried and promised to keep my room clean, my mother gave in. I still recall the concert vividly. After all, no one ever forgets their first Kiss. We got the expensive seats back then, too. Eight bucks!

"Why is Kiss still doing concerts, anyway?" my wife asked. "Didn't Kiss already have a farewell tour?"

My only argument was semantics. "Well, it depends on how you define `farewell tour,'" I said. "That 2000 version was the farewell tour of the four original members. Lead guitarist Ace Frehley is no longer with the band, so, technically, this is a new group."

She had heard enough. "I don't understand it," my wife said, "but I know it means a lot to you, so just go ahead and do it."

With my wife's blessing secured, and my pride only slightly tweaked, I got out my credit card and ordered the package. Six weeks later, the big night finally arrived.

My seat was in the third row, to the left side of the stage. I struck up a conversation with fellow "Platinum" members in my row. For some reason, there were a number of guys like me who came to the show alone.

At 7:50 p.m., the lights went down and a deep voice blared out the words of introduction that every Kiss fan knows by heart: "All right, Washington. You wanted the best, you got the best, the hottest band in the world, Kiss!"

The black curtain covering the stage dropped as pyrotechnics fired and an explosion sounded. Kiss descended from the ceiling on a platform while playing the opening strains of "Detroit, Rock City."

There they were, 10 feet from me - Simmons, Criss, Paul Stanley and Tommy Thayer (Frehley's replacement). I felt the hair on the back off my neck stand up as I began singing along. Thirty seconds into the show and already I was thinking: "What thousand dollars?"

For the next hour and 25 minutes, Kiss performed 14 of its classic songs. I savored every second, even as it felt like my eyebrows were being singed off from all the pyro. The show concluded with a rousing version of "Rock And Roll All Nite." I was spent, but the evening was far from over. After Kiss left the stage, all of the "Platinum" members - 22 of us - were ushered backstage.

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