KISS performs in concert at Amway Center in Orlando, Fla. on Friday, August 16, 2013. (Joshua C. Cruey/Orlando Sentinel) (Joshua C. Cruey / Orlando Sentinel / August 16, 2013)
What does it take for a rock band to last 40 years?
Obviously, evolution isn’t required, judging from nearly two hours of blood-spitting, fire-belching, tinnitus-inducing, vintage arena rock by KISS on Friday at Amway Center. The band, in town for the Arena Football League’s ArenaBowl XXVI, still parties like it’s 1976.
Plumes of flame punctuated the opening “Psycho Circus,” an orgy of spotlights, fireworks and explosions faithful to the KISS glory days. Band members arrived atop an enormous illuminated frame that looked like a spider, one of the few things all night not ablaze.
The band’s flame-resistant style hasn’t changed since the Carter administration, though it never made KISS critical darlings. That never mattered to fans in the KISS Army, now a more benign band of warriors, occasionally with kids in tow.
On Friday, the Orlando army was a depleted force, one that barely occupied the upper bowl for the current KISS line-up featuring original members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.
The latter pitted sections of the arena against each other in a cheering contest in the first 20 minutes. Pretty early for that tired routine, dude, especially when songs such as “Shout It Out Loud” and “I Love It Loud” were solid.
Thanks to the wonder of face paint, the band’s latest additions – drummer Eric Singer and guitarist Tommy Thayer – slid comfortably, if anonymously, into the mix. The makeup also locks everyone into a helpful time-warp free of wrinkles, sagging jowls and other cosmetic issues of aging rock stars.
As many song titles attest, the band was loud, but there’s no other way to properly experience “Calling Dr. Love,” Detroit Rock City” and other signature anthems. And the music always faces stiff competition from the special effects, which included Stanley flying over the crowd in “Love Gun.”
On the old-school side, there’s still the primal amusement of watching Simmons exhale flames or drool fake blood on that garish costume. It’s one of rock’s iconic gestures, one for the ages, not to be updated or improved.
Same goes for “Rock and Roll All Nite,” the band’s reliable finale since the early days. On Saturday, it was one last chance for the Orlando army to experience a battlefield-worthy haze and the aroma of spent ammunition.When the smoke cleared, it was obvious that there’s no reason for KISS to change now.