Sunday, September 16, 2012

"The Tour" rocks Toronto - Wally's Story

All Photos by Wally Norton

It seems like forever and a day ago that I heard wind of "The Tour". I remember my jaw dropping when I learned that Kiss and Motley Crue were going to embark on a summer tour playing together and delivering a rock spectacle like no other. Let's face it both of these bands have forged long lasting careers by creating some of the most visually exciting rock and roll shows for their legions of fans. On September 13th, 2012, Toronto was going to get both bands, playing full shows on the same night.

For the past 29 years, Kiss and Motley Crue have been far and away my 2 favourite bands. Over the years my friends have asked me "if you had to pick just one as your favourite, who would it be?" and I can't answer that question. Then they came up with the worst question of all; that planted a horrifying dilemma that I prayed would never happen, "if Kiss and Motley were to play in town on the same night, who would you choose?" My response to that question is much like the scene in the movie "Home Alone" when Kevin tries some aftershave, claps his hands to his cheeks and screams in horror at the top of his lungs. The thought of having to sacrifice one of these bands for the other is truly that horrifying for me.

Motley Crue was my first ever concert back in June of 1984, Kiss followed in November of that same year and combined I have now been witness to 26 Kiss and or Crue shows. So for me personally, "The Tour" is a "pinch me I must be dreaming" kinda thing, a Christmas and Birthday all rolled into one and definitely something I never thought would happen.

So lets begin, shall we? We headed down to the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre and were greeted by a sea of concert goers. The age range at a Kiss concert these days seems to cover ages 5 to 65 with most wearing the required "heavy metal" uniform, a rock t-shirt. Wait!, make that age range a little wider as I witnessed a father carrying his infant daughter (headphone ear protection in place) wearing Paul Stanley makeup.

I met up with fellow Decibel Geek writer Rich "The Meister" Dillon, grabbed dinner and caught up on his "Accept" concert from the previous evening and headed on inside for the show.

I do have one serious question to ask here, since when does a rock n roll show start EARLY? I don't mean on time, I mean early! The tickets stated a start time of 7:00pm and due to some traffic problems (not uncommon here in Toronto) my friend was running a little behind schedule. He arrived at exactly 6:30 which should have been plenty of time for a bathroom pit stop, a beverage purchase and a few minutes to get to our seats. At exactly 6:40pm, as I was mid-stream at the bathroom pit stop, opening band "The Treatment" kick into their set. WTF?!? So by the time we got out of the bathroom, grabbed a beer and got into our seats we had missed the first song and a half!

With some of the support bands that Kiss have toured with especially during the Reunion Tour, I wouldn't have cared less but the Treatment is a great new band with a rock solid debut album and I was excited to see them.

Finally in our seats with beer in hand The Treatment were rocking it up to a lukewarm audience response. This has always been a thorn in my side here in Canada, it seems we rarely pay much attention to opening bands and instead use the time to grab beers, t-shirts and chat? I don't get it. The Treatment are a great new band from England and they tore it up onstage. It is so refreshing to see young kids (these guys are still in their late teens, early twenties) who have obviously been heavily influenced by all the great "classic rock" bands. Weaned on Aerosmith, AC/DC and Zeppelin these guys rocked through most of their debut album. Working the stage with piss and vinegar they put on a high energy thirty minute set that deserved a much better response than they got. "The Doctor", "Departed" and "Shake the Mountain" were highlights of the set. After which they personally invited everyone over to their merchandise table for a meet and greet after their set. Interacting with the audience certainly earned them some new fans.

After a very brief set change it was time for the "Saints of Los Angeles" to take the stage. Lucky for us too, because earlier in the day, news had hit that Motley's lead singer, Vince Neil had broken two bones in his foot the previous night in Cleveland. In a case of the proverbial "the show must go on" Nikki Sixx assured us via twitter that the Toronto show and the rest of the tour would not be affected. He added that Vince was a trooper.

The houselights went out and the MC clock clicked down as the intro music rang through the P.A. Attention was drawn stage left as a procession of red cloaked "Saints" marched through the crowd carrying red and white MC flags and shooting smoke throughout the crowd. Some have mentioned the walk to the stage took too long but the Crue were onstage at exactly 7:40 so the prolonged intro didn't actually eat any of the allotted stage time.

Opening with the aforementioned "Saints of Los Angeles" the Crue launched into an 85 minute non-stop ride through some of the Crue's biggest hits. Vince did his best to work the stage and although he was obviously limping, he didn't let it affect his performance. In fact, being forced to slow down a bit seemed to have actually improved his vocal performance. I don't remember ever hearing him quite as sharp vocally since the Dr. Feelgood tour. After the opening number he pulled up his pant leg revealing his broken foot encased in a special medical boot. He thanked Kiss for lending him the boot and they soldiered on.
Mick Mars, in my opinion one of the most underrated guitarists, wielded a well worn, beaten to death white Fender Stratocaster. He looks so frail yet continues to play like a possessed beast, truly the soul of Motley Crue's sound. "Shout at the Devil", "Wild Side", "Same Old Situation" and then they brought out the new tune "SEX". A good tune that fits nicely in the catalogue.

The only blip in the road personally was "Don't Go Away Mad". Never one of my favourite tunes, I certainly didn't need it taking up space in a shortened set list.

The piano took center stage as they slowed things right down with the ever popular "Home Sweet Home" and as Tommy tickled the ivories his band mates crowded around for what truly is one of the greatest rock ballads of my generation.

Then it was time for a roller coaster ride, T-Bone treated the fans to an encore of last year's 360 degree thrill ride of a drum solo! Tommy Lee has always been inventing new ways to make his drum solo a thrilling highlight of any Motley show. He is the consummate showman and tonight he brought audience member "Charlene" to take a ride on the "roller coaster of love". A band that has always promoted the notion of "entertainment or death", Tommy's drum solos are always a sight to behold.

Mick stretched his fingers with a short, bluesy guitar solo that lead right into "Live Wire" Probably the highlight of the set for me. The "Too Fast For Love" album is still the best and Live Wire always kills in the set.

Nikki Sixx sporting a 1981 t-shirt and I don't know quite how to explain it but he never looked more "Shout at the Devil" than he did on this night. "Primal Scream" (my absolute fav Crue song) had Nikki using a bass guitar equipped with a flame thrower for a little added effect. The tune had 16,000 plus fans primal screaming with the "scream" and "shout" parts. Ahhh that felt good!

They ended their set with a killer 1-2-3 combination punch of "Dr. Feelgood", "Girls, Girls, Girls" and "Kickstart My Heart". Just under 90 minutes the Crue delivered everything they promised at the beginning of the tour, enough pyro to level a small country, dancing girls, acrobats, water canons and chaos. In a word "perfect"

My friend leaned over to me and said in a very hoarse voice "Wow, I don't think I have anything left for Kiss"

That's when it sunk in just how special this night really was. I just witnessed an absolute killer Crue concert. Normally I would be heading for home tired and happy but instead, I get to buckle up and see an entire KISS show. Amazing.

"Toronto! You Wanted the Best, You Got the Best, The Hottest Band in the World, KISS!!!"

KISS from above!

Down went the curtain and the opening chords to Detroit Rock City filled my ears, as Paul, Gene and Tommy were lowered from the lights on a smoke shooting lighted platform. Nobody has ever accused Kiss of not making an entrance for sure.

Now I have recently wrote that if I never heard the song Detroit Rock City it wouldn't bother me (due to being an extra in the Kiss movie and being subjected to the song over 100 times that day). That said, it really is the perfect show opener, high energy, explosive and gets everybody "on their feet"!

Firing next with "Shout it Out Loud" the party was in full swing. I love when the guys trade off vocals and "Shout is just one of those perfect party songs. Gene then took the control for "I Love it Loud" from my favourite Kiss album "Cratures of the Night".

At this point I was really blown away with the sound quality of this show. I don't know what it was but for an outdoor show the sound was incredible, crystal clear with all every one's levels just perfect. For that, I tip my hat to the sound crew. It was flawless.

"Firehouse" complete with the Demon blowing fire lead into the brand new track "Hell or Hallelujah" from the upcoming Monster album. Damn this song rocks! High octane, 90 mile and hour KISS with Paul Stanley at his rocking best. I will go on record as placing this tune in my personal top ten Kiss tracks of all time! Absolutely KILLER live, and I can't wait to hear the rest of the new album.
The giant video screen was used in a variety of ways. As an animated KISS logo that could pulse and move and change. It could play a variety of animated graphics such as the robot Gene Army during "War Machine".

Lastly, it was used to broadcast the band members up on the screen with enormous proportions. For those of us up in the cheaper seats, it made it possible to see their expressions and made it more intimate from a few hundred yards away.

The band sounded fantastic, vocally everyone was on their game. I love Paul Stanley's voice and it was quite honestly painful to see him struggling over the last couple tours. It sounded to me that the surgery he underwent last year seemed to be a success. Paul's voice was strong and I think he is finally learning to play within his means. He belted out his songs without straining and he sounded fantastic.

Paul introduced Tommy to come out and sing (ohhh I can hear the tension in the air) "Shock Me". Did he sing it well? Absolutely. Did he play it well? Absolutely. Did I enjoy it? Sure! BUT and this is a big "Spinal Tap" BUTT! I would have enjoyed it just as much if he had of played "When Lightening Strikes". "Shock Me" really is Ace's property and in my opinion should be left alone.

The standard Gene "blood spit/bass solo" always a crowd pleaser, looked amazing on a 200+ foot screen and as is customary he spread his wings to fly high up into the lighting truss for "God of Thunder"

Paul then informed us that he wanted to come out and see us, so for "Love Gun" he flew out over the crowd to his small rotating mini stage. I always love this part of the show but honestly I wish he would mix up the song choice. Sorry Paul, I know its one of your favourite tunes but personally I am little tired Love Gun in the set.

"Lick it Up" the only non-makeup song of the evening was killer. This song has a soft spot for me as it was the first song I ever learned to play and the first song my band ever played live back in 1985. The fact that they worked in a segment of the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" made it even cooler.

After an extended guitar solo from Paul they kicked into "Black Diamond" (my brother's favourite Kiss song). Eric's voice was off the charts, this song sounded so good. The drums levitated to reveal the return of the cat tapestry in front of the drums and a great end to the set.

For the encore Kiss treated us to "Doctor Love" and the national anthem of the Kiss Army "Rock n Roll All Nite". With the confetti blowing, Paul in true rock n roll fashion destroyed one of his guitars as the smoke and the pyro exploded everywhere signalling the end of a perfect night.

The exhausted audience shuffled towards the exits, completely spent of energy. My friend commented you know your getting older when the lyrics start to be "I wanna rock and roll all night and sleep in every day!"

As a Kiss geek I could spend a day or two criticizing the never changing set list. The fact that they only played one "non-makeup" tune. I could bitch and moan that they only played 90 minutes. I could whine and complain that Tommy sang Shock Me. I could do that, but I wont. Instead I am going to quote Mr. Tommy Lee.

As Tommy took his place at the piano for Home Sweet Home he stated "I am not sure if it gets better than Motley Crue and Kiss under the same roof!" and with that I couldn't agree more. If you still have a chance to catch "The Tour" don't miss it.


Anonymous said...

I was at the concert too .I wish I could have enjoyed it a bit more but the drunk people coming and going from their seats and the people taking pics / video clips with their mobile devices really annoyed me .

Mike Fowler said...

An amazing concert combo. We had section 100 floor seats seven rows back, yet stood against the front security fence on Gene's side. Cool photos of the show, many souvenir guitar picks,(Motley Crue + KISS), and many great memories all around! The only negative of the entire concert was the spitting of, spraying of and the dumping of buckets of water on the crowds during the Motley Crue portion of the show. That I did not want or pay to have happen. The rest, as I said, was amazing.

Anonymous said...

The show was AWESOME!!

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