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Aerosmith Tops Kiss In Opening-Night Battle – Review

Aerosmith and Kiss launched their coheadlining tour on Saturday (August 2) at the Ctnow.com Meadows Music Center in Hartford, Connecticut. Befitting their status as heavyweight champions, both bands came to win, but Aerosmith was declared the victor at the end of the night.

Following a quick opening set by Saliva that was received fairly, if not enthusiastically, Kiss came out to their traditional “You Wanted The Best, You Got The Best” introduction and played a hit-filled 14-song set including “Detroit Rock City,” “Shout It Out Loud,” “I Love It Loud,” “God Of Thunder,” and “Rock And Roll All Nite.”

However, the concert did not go off flawlessly. At the start of the show, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, and Tommy Thayer descended to the stage on a riser as lights and pyro started firing, but a problem with the curtain diminished the effect of their entrance. There were other glitches, including a bad sound mix that had Simmons’ bass much louder than on past tours while Thayer’s lead playing was sometimes buried, and Simmons messing up the lyrics in the second verse of “Let Me Go, Rock ‘N Roll.”

Even with that, the band tried their best to deliver the usual Kiss spectacle. Stanley, Simmons, and Thayer were all over the stage throughout their set, which was filled with enough lighting and pyrotechnic effects to truly demonstrate the meaning of “shock and awe.” Special notice is due Thayer, who has replaced Ace Frehley in the band, for not only looking the part, but playing Frehley’s solos virtually note for note, much to the crowd’s delight.

Kiss trimmed their set back due to time constraints, which meant Simmons didn’t breathe fire, and there were no extended guitar or drum solos. Simmons, did, however, spit blood before “flying” to the top of the lighting rig for “God Of Thunder,” and Peter Criss drum kit did rise off the stage during “Black Diamond.” Simmons and Thayer also rode lifts off the stage while Stanley broke a guitar at the end of the set-closing “Rock And Roll All Nite,” which also saw the drum set rise again.

There were a few surprises in the Kiss set. One was the video history they played during the song “Do You Love Me” that charted the band from their earliest days through the release of their solo albums in 1978. It featured a lot of pictures and footage of Frehley, which might have been understandably edited out considering his decision not to work with the group again. Frehley’s status wasn’t discussed from the stage, and Thayer wasn’t introduced. Another was their failure to use a ramp which ran about 20 rows into the audience from the center of the stage. Finally, the decision to go without the traditional confetti for “Rock And Roll All Nite” had a lot of people scratching their heads.

The fans seemed to enjoy the show, but there was a feeling that they had seen a great fighter on an off night-still able to execute the moves, but not as crisply as usual, and susceptible to a knockout.

Before the tour began, Simmons revealed he was so confident in how well it would do, he even promoted it as a weight-control assistant. “The Kiss/Aerosmith tour, which is gonna be the tour of the year-this is a tour that’s gonna kick anybody’s butt,” Simmons said. “This tour is gonna drop five pounds off any fat girl within a thousand yards of that stage.”

Aerosmith lead guitarist Joe Perry didn’t go that far, but he revealed the tour would provide some serious entertainment. “Well, I’d say that it’s gonna be as close to a circus as you can get,” Perry said. “It’s gonna be a lot of fun.”

After a short intermission to change the stage, Aerosmith’s road crew opened the curtain as the band kicked into a rousing version of “Let The Music Do The Talking,” delivering a not-so-subtle message. Steven Tyler and Joe Perry spent a good amount of time out at the far end of the audience ramp, where they and bassist Tom Hamilton would return throughout their show.

Playing on a fairly minimalist stage in contrast to Kiss, Aerosmith was tighter and more focused on the music. In keeping with that idea, Tyler didn’t spend a lot of time talking to the crowd between Aerosmith’s 16 songs, as Stanley had done throughout Kiss’s set.

Aerosmith’s set included hits such as “Walk This Way,” “Love In An Elevator,” “Dream On,” and “Sweet Emotion.” Without taking a break, they also had the road crew spin their stage amps around to create the effect of a bandstand in a small club, at which time Tyler said, “Blues album time. We’re gonna break off a little piece. Joe, you ready?” They then played three blues songs-Little Walter’s “Temperature,” Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You),” which was renamed “I Never Loved Another Girl Like The Way I Loved You” on the setlist, and the blues standard “Baby Please Don’t Go.”

The new staging also revealed some neon-style signs, including one that said “Honkin’ On Bobo,” which is the working title of the blues album Aerosmith will release in January.

Perhaps not surprisingly, a lot of people decided to use the blues portion of the show to make their runs to the bathrooms and concession areas.

Oddly, there was no formal encore for Aerosmith. Following “Back In The Saddle,” Perry looked at his watch and asked the crowd, “You wanna hear one more?” After some hearty cheers, he asked, “How about two?”, and the audience roared. Perry then said, “I think we got time,” and Aerosmith played their last two songs-“I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” and “Sweet Emotion.”

In contrast to the little mistakes that Kiss suffered through, Aerosmith’s set appeared flawless, including a much better sound mix that allowed each member of the band to be heard clearly.

While their set was about the music, Aerosmith did do something straight out of the Kiss handbook. Aerosmith set off a blizzard of confetti during two different songs-“Back In The Saddle” and “Sweet Emotion.”

Only the most partisan of fans would say that Aerosmith scored a clean knockout-after all, even on a bad night, Kiss puts on a better show than most bands ever dream of doing. However, the general feeling in the venue was that Aerosmith won the first night’s battle on points.

Kiss and Aerosmith will go for a rematch on Monday (August 4) at the Tommy Hilfiger At Jones Beach Theatre in Wantagh, New York. The tour is currently scheduled to run until October 18, but they’re expected to add shows that will keep them on the road until later in the year. Discussions are also underway to extend things until next year, which could include some overseas concerts.

The Kiss setlist: “Detroit Rock City,” “Deuce,” “Shout It Out Loud,” “King Of The Night Time World,” “Do You Love Me,” “Let Me Go, Rock ‘N Roll,” “Firehouse,” “I Love It Loud,” “I Want You,” “God Of Thunder,” “100,000 Years,” and “Black Diamond,” with the encore of “Beth” and “Rock And Roll All Nite.”

The Aerosmith setlist: “Let The Music Do The Talking,” “Walk This Way,” “Love In An Elevator,” “Jaded,” “Rag Doll,” “Cryin’,” “What It Takes,” “Temperature,” “I Never Loved Another Girl Like The Way I Loved You,” “Baby Please Don’t Go,” “Dream On,” “The Other Side,” “Back In The Saddle,” “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing,” and “Sweet Emotion.”

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