Venue: B.B. King Blues Club (New York, NY)
Label: Independent Tribute Artist
For as long as I can remember I have been a fan of KISS and while they were not the first band that I was ever turned onto, they were the first band that I spent my own money on in terms of albums as a growing Hard Rock and Metal fan. That being said I have gone to see the real KISS in action whenever it was financially possible to do so and over the years have not only jammed out on some drums to their classics but also enjoyed the talents of a number of the KISS tribute bands that make up the circuit. The one that sticks out in my mind is the band KISSNATION who I actually met way back at a Gene Simmons book signing a number of years ago. They were impressive in their costume design and manner in which they carried themselves and I had to say that when I caught them at a show not long afterward that it was a blast of a time. Since that gig the lineup has changed a little bit with both the singer and drummer going on to form ZO2 and in the place of Paul was now singer/guitarist Billy May. On drums would be Michael Demetrious who people call Mikey D. when they are not calling him the Catman. Tonight the band would be doing a headline show at the venerated B.B. King Blues Club and I was excited to see it based on my never having seen the group with these two new members. With no opening act on the bill, this would be all about the classics from the KISS repertoire and that was enough for me.
After one of the bands friends announced them with the same phrase that the legendary rockers use to bring them to stage it was on. The surprise came when they did not open up with the expected “Detroit Rock City” and instead delivered a new track off the latest KISS album “Sonic Boom” with “Modern Day Delilah”. They did a good job of it, and it was easy to see this early in that May was a sound choice to replace Paulie Z. In some sense perhaps a little better at the actual Paul inflections and tone than he was as well. “Take Me” was another tune that I never expected to find as even KISS themselves steers far from the song. Either way this was starting off as fun as I would want it to be and from here on out the more established classics came through the speakers. We got “Shout It Out Loud” and “Strutter” before their own Gene in Carlos Espada made the nurses in the room quiver with “Calling Dr. Love”. In my mind there is no easy way to emulate Gene Simmons but Espada had managed to do so for many years and he was a founding member of the bands lineup as far as the tribute went. It takes practice but the fruits of those labors were visible. He had this down pat. The register of May was soaring during “Heaven’s On Fire” and since this was a non-makeup years KISS tune one could only hope that others would follow eventually tonight.
The new Starchild also had the moves of Paul Stanley down pretty well himself so clearly he has both practiced and studied the films and videos of the band for a long, long time. If you closed your eyes and listened to him talk you would swear that the real Paul was in the room addressing you. The crowd was jumping as an electrically charged “I Stole Your Love” was done and this led us to the Spaceman’s time on the microphone with “New York Groove”. Since this was the town that it was written for and about the entire crowd in the club was singing along. That’s never a bad thing. While there would be no fire breathing from Gene tonight, we would get the blood spitting during the bass solo that brought us into “God Of Thunder” The crowd even yelled “Gene” just like at a real KISS show. It was nice to see him getting that reception because tonight would be his last performance in the costume and as a member of KISSNATION. He was going to focus on original music from now on and we wish him well. It is without question that his replacement has some pretty big dragon headed shoes to fill. The lead guitar work of Ruby was as good as ever, he successfully emulates some of the movements long since done by original KISS member Ace Frehley and is probably the second best at the job after Tommy Thayer who now serves in that role in the real KISS. The drumming was kept to the four on the floor feel by Mike aka Peter and since he was using a single bass was not as adventurous as his predecessor Joey who dished it out on the double kick. Either way, it was on target and bringing the music to great life.
We eventually got more standards ala “Love Gun” and “Detroit” but I think everyone was surprised to find an acoustic version of “Shandi” from the KISS “Unmasked” album being delivered by the Faux Paul. It sounded really good and it went over best with the ladies. “Lick It Up” was the first encore and you knew “Rock and Roll All Nite” was going to send us all home in style. This was a good time and I felt the band had a decent enough draw for a Sunday night. I was not going to miss this one even though I was pretty broken apart from the previous nights Exodus show. My love of KISS music kept me moving all night and therein lies the problem with Tribute Acts of this kind. The costumes and sound was top notch but that was it in terms of their show. There were no flames, no sparklers and no explosions. I do realize that a smaller level band cannot afford to do the dangerous tricks, and especially in spaces like this, but it just brings a whole different feel to the fun and leaves you wanting a little more than you might expect. I would have at least enjoyed the use of those fake lighted fire devices and perhaps a smoking guitar or smoke machine. Oh well. The lack of these things will not likely keep me away the next time, but I did want to make sure you knew that this is what you should expect when you see them in action. Good job guys and thanks to the venue, we were able to make a few dozen people the guests of PiercingMetal.com with a ticket giveaway from the club. That is never a bad thing in my opinion.
1. Modern Day Delilah
2. Take Me
3. Shout It Out Loud
5. Calling Dr. Love
6. Heaven’s On Fire
8. I Stole Your Love
9. New York Groove
10. C’Mon & Love Me
11. I Love It Loud
12. Do You Love Me
13. Gene Solo
14. God Of Thunder
15. Love Gun
16. Detroit Rock City
17. Shandi (Paul Solo) – encore
18. Lick It Up – encore
19. Rock & Roll All Nite – encore
Continuing our almost endless quest in presenting the venue marquee whenever it dawns on us to do it comes the bright lights that showcase these four New Yorkers who are masquerading as the legendary KISS tonight.
Outside of the venue we caught glimpse of the posted for this show, so a photograph was taken for posterity.
Sometimes the venue offers special VIP packages and they give you posters of this kind that have been signed by the band members. I don’t think that this was offered tonight since it was a tribute show to a legendary artist as opposed to the real deal. Now let’s check out a little of the visuals from the backstage area since we could present them to you all.
You might not know this as a member of the audience but B.B. King’s offers the talent two official dressing rooms and tonight since there was only one band performing the band was able to split off into pairs and utilize them for a little more comfort. The shot above shows the entrance to where Carlos and Michael would be and the crowd would soon come to know them as the clone Gene Simmons and the clone Peter Criss. This dressing room is usually used by the headlining band or bands and is slightly larger. That makes sense since in the part of Gene, Carlos has a lot of body armor to arrange.
Over in the second dressing room would be Bill and Ruby or as the audience will soon learn the clone Paul Stanley and the clone Ace Frehley. My guess is that they split up the rooms to give the guys a little more space and this worked since there was no support band for the show so why not. While we were backstage we managed to catch bassist Carlos Espada as he got prepared to be Gene Simmons one last time. If you read the article you will know why, and if not, well, then you have some catching up to do before you continue I guess.
Espada made the process of transformation look easy but then again he has been doing it for years.
It might have been fun to film this and include a video but there was plenty of other things to see and we could not remain in one place for too long as result.
I hope you notice how Carlos is sporting one of the official Gene Simmons “Money Bag” clothing line robes. See the little money bag? Gene secured that trademark in case you didn’t know. Time to take our leave of the “Gene Room” and let the man get suited up properly. Outside we caught up with an already costumed Faux Starchild and Faux Spaceman.
I would have loved to get the four of them in front of the signage but the odds were against me with their Gene still getting ready.
Bill The Starchild Talks to Fans and Friends.
Now he is ready for action. Followed by his own paparazzi.
We had invited Ash (far right) along with us for the show so let her take part in the photographic fun being done pre-gig.
I think she had a good time as well. At least enough to challenge the Faux Gene to a “Who Has The Longest Tongue” competition. That was pretty funny.
I had to say that I’ve not usually judged such a competition before so I plead the fifth and left the answer for the music adventuring history books.
Now it was time for a couple of shots of Carlos as Gene in front of the backstage B.B. King’s banner. I must admit I was sad to know that this was his last gig in the role. I like how he does this.
Here is Carlos with a couple of his friends. We did this one after the gig since you can see the fake blood all over his armor.
The band had a cake for Carlos’ last go round and it had a cool photo of the band on the top of it so we snapped it. It looked really nice, but no we did not manage to get a taste. Oh well. That stuff tastes weird after a beer anyway.
Here is something for you collector’s. I love signature guitar picks for some reason and have a few of them in my possession. The boys in KISSNation all use these and toss them out to the eager hands of the crowd.
I love the idea that they use the signature makeup on them as opposed to saying the band name but perhaps both would work out.
Fortunately I was able to position these jobbies in a front and back manner for ease of showcasing them for you. Sadly I did not manage to get the ones used by guitarist Ruby who does a mean Space Ace. Of course they are similar to the ones you see above.
In the full on concert review I mentioned having seen the band when other members were a part of it. I had shot a lot of photos of the group at this little Rock Club in Manhattan, and was not long away from beginning my own journey as a music scribe and photographer. When I “signed on” to the role I created a story for the larger public to enjoy. My t-shirt from that night is presented in the above photo. It was still in good shape so I was able to share with you all. To check out that narrative just click HERE.