In November 2014, Kiss descended upon Las Vegas, doing a nine-show run at the Hard Rock Hotel. It was a rare opportunity to see the band's bombastic stage show in a smaller setting and the group delivered. The stage was arguably as good as any they have had in their careers with a spectacular light and video production and the group's performances, which spanned their 40-plus year career, were top notch as well. The cameras were rolling and the band has released a new Blu-ray simply titled Kiss Rocks Vegas.
Kiss Rocks Vegas is available in multiple configurations. A two-disc version featuring the show and the backstage acoustic set on Blu-ray and a single CD of the concert, were made available for this review.
In what could have been a scene from 1977, the Blu-ray begins with the dramatic entrance of the band by helicopter. The massive stage makes its presence known at once and the band opens with the classic "Detroit Rock City." The song is played a little slower here, emphasizing the groove, but the performance is solid. Much has been said about Paul Stanley's voice and the songs throughout the show are tuned down, but this is a veteran singer who is still better than most and who has learned when to push his voice and when to defer to the capable backing vocals of bassist Gene Simmons, drummer Eric Singer and lead guitarist Tommy Thayer. Stanley sounds solid throughout and there doesn't appear to have been much studio wizardry involved to make that happen.
Two more Stanley songs follow, a gritty "Creatures of The Night" from the album of the same name and the title track from the Psycho Circus album. Singer stars on "Creatures" and we get good camera shots of his massive drum kits. With Kiss, bigger is better with everything. Thayer proves himself adept at not only replicating Ace Frehley's signature leads but also those of Vinnie Vincent and Bruce Kulick. While "Detroit Rock City" may have been played a little slower, "Psycho Circus" picks up the tempo a bit from the recorded version, adding to the song's excitement.
Simmons features on a heavy "War Machine," complete with his fire breathing at the end. Purists may lament the fact that he isn't doing it after "Firehouse" as in years past, but it works here as well. Simmons also delivers an explosive "Deuce," a song that seems odd in the middle of the set, but one that remains no less potent. He delivers his signature blood and flying bits during an evil "God Of Thunder." While it may have been easy to criticize Simmons' commitment to the band in the 1980s, he is arguably the strongest member on stage these days, giving 100 percent to every track. Not to be outdone, Stanley does his own flying bit on a strong version of "Love Gun," having an entire runway stretching across the arena to perform on.
The band shows they are not purely about nostalgia with the driving "Hell Or Hallelujah" from the underrated Monster. The song is a driving slice of hard rock reminiscent of "I Stole Your Love" and Stanley delivers a strong vocal on the track. The show closes with a triumphant "Rock And Roll All Nite," proving yet again that no one does a big rock show quite like Kiss.
A great bonus feature of the Blu-ray is the backstage acoustic performance. These shows feature the band, sans makeup, at their meet and greets, doing a loose, informal acoustic set. Stanley shines on solid renditions of "Coming Home," made famous by MTV Unplugged, and "Hard Luck Woman," written by Stanley but originally sung by Peter Criss. For his part, Simmons gives a fun version of "Christine Sixteen."
The video is presented in 1080i High Definition 16:9 and looks great. While it sometimes can have too many quick edits, something that plagues many modern concerts, it doesn't become too much of a distraction. Thayer, who produced the collection, outdid himself here. Audio options include LPCM Stereo, Dolby Atmos, and DTS-HD Master Audio. The sound is full and powerful. Sadly this Blu-ray was not reviewed on a system capable of taking full advantage of the Dolby Atmos sound.
Kiss Rocks Vegas is a strong performance by the band with an exciting visual presentation. After all these years, Kiss still delivers live. Fans of the group should feel no qualms about picking this one up.