They say you never forget your first Kiss. I vividly remember mine.
The date was Dec. 20, 1977, and I was 10. That was the night I saw the self-professed hottest band in the land for the very first time, at the old Capital Centre in Landover.
What I experienced that night was much deeper than a school-boy infatuation. It was the start of a lifelong relationship, and even though there have been peaks and valleys over the past 32 years, the passion is still there ...
I've lost count of how many times I have seen Kiss in concert, but it’s more than 20. I added two more shows to the list earlier this week when I saw the makeup-adorned rockers at Wachovia Center in Philadelphia Monday night and Verizon Center in Washington the next night as part of the Alive 35 Tour, which celebrates Kiss' 35th anniversary.
The members of Kiss may be long in the tooth – their ages range from 48 to 60 – but they're not short on energy, as the band performed for two hours each night and kept the crowd on its feet the entire time.
Kiss dug into its extensive catalog of catchy, three-chord rock songs and pulled out 18 classics, two-thirds of which came from its first three albums – "Kiss," "Hotter than Hell" and "Dressed to Kill," all of which were released between 1974 and 1975. I can't find much fault with the song selection, although I was disappointed that it was the exact same set list both nights.
As usual, front man and rhythm guitarist Paul Stanley commanded the stage. During the latter part of the show, he summed up the band's lack of pretense in regard to its live performances: "If you're here to hear about saving the whales, or ending world hunger, or who to vote for, you're in the wrong [expletive] place! You came here to forget about all that stuff."
While Kiss has always been more about flashy stage shows and larger-than-life characters than musical virtuosity, the band sounded tighter on these shows than it did during its glory years in the '70s.
That's due in large part to the presence of lead guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer. Some hardcore Kiss fans are angered that Thayer and Singer perform in the makeup and costumes made famous by original members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, respectively, but it's clear that Kiss is a better band with the facsimiles playing alongside founding members Simmons and Stanley.
Kiss got the show off to a rousing start with the vintage one-two punch of "Deuce" and "Strutter," the first two tracks on Kiss' landmark 1975 live album, "Alive!" Eleven of the first 13 songs Kiss played were included on "Alive!"
While watching Kiss close Tuesday night's show with "Detroit, Rock City," I really tried to savor the moment because I knew it could very well be the last time I see the band live.
Then again, I have felt that way at every Kiss concert I've attended since the band put the makeup back on in 1996. Something tells me this was not a Kiss goodbye.
SET LIST (same for both nights)
Let Me Go, Rock 'n' Roll
Hotter Than Hell
Got too Choose
Modern Day Delilah
C'mon and Love Me
I Love It Loud
Rock and Roll All Nite
Shout It Out Loud
Lick It Up
Detroit, Rock City
(Photos of Kiss performing at Verizon Center in Washington by Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images)