KISS: The End Of The Road Tour Rocks Cincinnati’s Heritage Bank Center Review+Photos: Kiss at Cincinnati's Heritage Bank Center 10/19/23
CINCINATTI, OH- For 50 years, there has been one name synonymous with Rock and Rolling all night and partying every day, and that band is KISS. Since the 1970s, they have been a staple in all that is considered rock. Their flamboyant style, relatable music, and thunderously extravagant live shows have been a must-see for hardcore fans and cursory viewers and listeners. Everything that you ever expected from a KISS show was there at the Heritage Bank Center in Cincinnati. The stage, the flying platforms, the fire-breathing, blood-spitting, zip-lining antics, the pyro, the lights, and the incredible guitar and drum solos. Even with all the bells and whistles, the four men on stage seemed bigger than it all.
My first introduction to the band was back in 1976. I was gifted “Rock and Roll Over” for Christmas along with a set of bongos from my parents or Santa. My cousin had played me a few songs from their previous albums and had seen some media coverage as we lived in Spain at the time. I just remember loving them so much every time I saw something that featured them, like the Midnight Special and Paul Lynde’s Christmas Special with Witcheepoo from HR Puffenstuff. They were and are rock and roll superheroes and also marketing geniuses. I remember having not only the music but also the two graphic novels, the bubble gum cards, a Colorforms set, notebooks (I didn’t have the dolls, though; they were hard to find on base). I would paint my face like the Catman, who also helped foster my love for drums.
With so much history, there also comes age, as at least the two remaining founding members (Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley) are in their 70s, but they don’t really show it. I believe it was Gene who coined the phrase, “if it’s too loud, you’re too old.” Let me tell you, KISS is definitely not “too old.” The fandom of the KISS army is amazing, as I saw many with face paint (I’ve painted mine as Peter Criss before, but I didn’t have time before the show) and a handful of folks in full getup as their favorite member. These people do a great job.
As the lights dimmed to cheers of the roaring crowd, Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” poured out of the speakers. As it ended, we heard the all-too-familiar guitar intro of “Detroit Rock City,” and as the curtain dropped and the pyro burst forth (by the way, fire is hot), Paul, Gene, and guitarist Tommy Thayer descended on a trio of floating platforms. As they touched down, joining drummer Eric Singer on the enormous stage, they wasted no time in just being a spectacular spectacle of a live rock show. The transition to “Shout it Out Loud” seemed seamless as they cranked out hit after hit, the ’70s classics, the ’80s staples, and beyond over their 2-hour set.
The banter from the band, especially Paul, to the audience was filled with appreciation for 50 years of support from the KISS Army and bidding farewell as the tour is on its final leg. At one point toward the end of the show, they led us in the Pledge of Allegiance and reminded us about the importance of unity. Rock and roll is a great equalizer because it doesn’t matter where you come from or where you’ve been. Their proud work ethic remains in effect, a seeming sense of obligation to give it everything they can, and the commitment to production remains strong, with all the fiery bells and whistles that long ago made Kiss a top rock attraction.
Everything one has come to expect was in the production. Stanley flew through the air across the arena to the “B” stage just ahead of “Love Gun.” He stayed there for two more songs, “I Was Made For Loving You,” and returning via zip line during the instrumental part of “Black Diamond.” Simmons, loaded down with his 30-plus-pound costume, is a lumbering figure on stage, still breathing fire during “I Love It Loud,” and snaked his weirdly long tongue out of a set of fake-blood-splattered teeth during “God of Thunder.” Thayer ripped a lengthy guitar solo, blasting fireworks from the neck of his guitar. Singer’s drum riser was elevated up high as a green-eyed cat statue loomed behind him during a drum solo. His solo also evolved into a portion of “100,000 Years.” His rendition of “Beth” featured Singer on a baby grand piano center stage bathed in purple lights.
Of course, Paul smashed a guitar and twirled his microphone in rockstar fashion. A fleet of white balloons drifted onto the audience during “Do You Love Me,” which also saw the introduction of so much confetti billowing out of the cannons in the pit area. Gene and Tommy flew high above the crowd on duo rotating platforms during the show closer “Rock and Roll All Night.” All these markings of a Kiss show were on full display for a nearly sold-out crowd.
Regrettably, this was the first and sadly, the only time I will see this iconic band live, and I kick myself for never taking the opportunity previously. I will never forget it. It was an amazing show, and I was gobsmacked at the set list, though I would’ve loved to hear songs like “Strutter” or “I Stole Your Love,” but I am content with what I got. The tour runs through December, culminating with the final two shows at the legendary Madison Square Gardens in New York. It’s appropriate that they end where they started. I will never forget you, KISS!! Thank you for all the music over most of my life. “God gave rock and roll to you, put it in your soul for everyone.” Godspeed.Follow Kiss on Facebook, Instagram and X.