KISS, Mötley Crüe to play DTE Energy Music Theatre on Sept. 5Written by Alan Sculley | | ASculley@toledofreepress.com
KISS has never worried about being upstaged by an opening act.
“We’ve always believed in letting the best bands available go out there and do what they do because it only fires us up that much more,” singer/guitarist Paul Stanley said in a mid-July phone interview. “Our track record is pretty stellar, whether it’s, my gosh, Bob Seger, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Bon Jovi, early (Mötley) Crüe, John Cougar Mellencamp, AC/DC. The list just goes on and on.”
On one of this summer’s biggest tours, KISS will close out an evening that also includes a 90-minute set from co-headliner Mötley Crüe, a band known for making its own show a visual spectacle and nonstop party. The party rolls into the DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston, Mich., on Sept. 5.
Stanley knows his band will deliver as well, if for no other reason than the enthusiasm he sees in the band 40 years into its career.
“KISS today is KISS as I’ve always wanted it — four guys who get along great, who play fiercely and are proud of who we are, proud of our fans and celebrate what we do from the time we wake up to the time we go to bed,” Stanley said.
Of course, KISS also knows a thing or two about putting together a spectacular live show. And the band has reloaded for the tour with Mötley Crüe.
“It’s a whole new show, a whole new stage,” Stanley said. “We will have a brand-new show and a brand-new stage and just some pretty amazing visuals. This whole summer is giving new meaning to ‘bang for the buck.’
“If anybody’s expecting high-tech subtlety, forget about it,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is build a bigger bomb.”
As is evidenced by Stanley’s enthusiasm for this summer’s tour — as well as KISS’ recently completed new CD, “Monster,” which will be released in October — KISS is experiencing a rebirth that few would have predicted when the new century rolled around.
At that point, the band seemed to be trying to recapture past glories for one last time.
In 1996, Stanley and bassist Gene Simmons had reunited with the two other original members of KISS — guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss — for what became a blockbuster reunion tour.
This was followed by the release in 1998 of “Psycho Circus,” a reunion album that was a reunion in name only.
Criss and Frehley made only minimal contributions to “Psycho Circus,” although the CD was billed as being made by the original KISS lineup. In reality, guitarists Tommy Thayer and Bruce Kulick and drummer Kevin Valentine played on the vast majority of the material.
Stanley is open in admitting the shortcomings of “Psycho Circus” and the tensions that existed with Frehley and Criss during the reunion years.
When Criss and Frehley departed the lineup for the final time, the replacements — Thayer and drummer Eric Singer (who had been in the band in the late ’90s, prior to Criss’ return) — injected new life into the band.
And in 2008, work began on a new KISS album. The band decided it would either succeed or fail on its own terms. Stanley served as producer and the group kept all key aspects of the project in-house.
“To go back into the studio after not having done an album in probably 10 years is a risky move,” Stanley said. “The band was just so strong live, just so potent, that I thought, ‘We have to make an album.’
“But I didn’t want any of the pitfalls that had happened in the past,” he said. “I needed some ground rules just to make sure that everybody stayed focused and committed. And the key one was all writing had to be within the band. No outside writers, no phoning in your parts, and the band was going to play live and the band was going to record on tape. And whatever songs went on the album would be my choice. That’s a producer’s job,”
The 2009 album, “Sonic Boom,” was hailed as the best KISS CD in years and a return to form for the group.
Now KISS has “Monster” ready for its October release. Once again, Stanley served as the producer, and it was written and recorded entirely by the current lineup of KISS.
Stanley isn’t shy in expressing his excitement about the CD.
“‘Monster’ is exactly what the name implies. It’s just a ferociously good album,” Stanley said. “‘Monster’ is far, far, far beyond ‘Sonic Boom.’ It’s a much more focused, a much bigger sounding album. The songs are better. And everybody’s playing more assuredly. We clearly established on ‘Sonic Boom’ who we are now. And ‘Monster’ just reinforces that like a sledgehammer.”
The last time Mötley Crüe toured with KISS, the situation couldn’t have been much different than it is this summer as these two popular bands hit the road together for one of the year’s biggest tours.
It was 1982, and Mötley Crüe was just getting started. The band had just been signed to Elektra, which had released a newly remixed version of the group’s debut album, “Too Fast for Love.”
The radio hits didn’t start until the next album, as 1983’s “Shout At The Devil” started a string of four platinum-selling albums that continued for Mötley Crüe through the 1989 CD, “Dr. Feelgood.”
KISS, by contrast, had already reached the heights as one of the world’s biggest bands and arguably the most spectacular concert attraction to date in rock history. Although original members Ace Frehley (guitar) and Peter Criss (drums) were gone by that 1982 tour and the band’s album sales were dropping precipitously, KISS was still a major headlining live band.
Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx remembers that 1982 tour with KISS as one of the early big moments in his group’s career.
“KISS and Ozzy (Osbourne) were the two bands that gave us our first shot,” Sixx said in a mid-July phone interview. “I look back, and it was a short amount of dates (with KISS). It was four or six dates, but they gave us our first taste of playing up and down the West Coast and on big stages. We’ll always remember that. They’re fond memories.”
Now, 30 years after the two bands first shared stages, they are back on tour again for the first time since that handful of 1982 shows.
KISS will still close out the shows this summer, but Mötley Crüe, obviously, will be in a position to make a much bigger impression on this tour, as both groups will be doing full 90-minute sets.
“We really look at it as a double headliner,” Sixx said.
Both bands will bring out big stage productions this summer. For Mötley Crüe, that means bringing back the major stunt from last year’s tour, as drummer Tommy Lee will again do a solo as his drum kit does a complete circle on a 360-degree track he has dubbed the rollercoaster.
And yes, there will be pyro and other special effects when the show hits the DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston, Mich., on Sept. 5.
“It’s a very raw, dangerous show,” Sixx said. “There are times in the show where if we’re at the wrong place at the wrong time, things could go horribly wrong. It takes a lot of work … and that’s the only way Mötley thinks, is ‘How do we push it beyond what we’ve done in the past?’”
Mötley Crüe will also perform a new song, “Sex,” that is being released to coincide with the tour. It came together this past spring while the band was doing a three-week gig in Las Vegas.
Whether “Sex” catches on and becomes another hit for Mötley Crüe remains to be seen, but the tour with KISS is part of what Sixx said he expects could be the biggest four or five years in the career of his band (with other members singer Vince Neil and guitarist Mick Mars).
Exactly what other events will populate these next few years remains to be seen.
“It’s nothing I can really unveil,” Sixx said.
But the tour with KISS may get extended beyond this fall.
“Globally, the concept of KISS and Mötley Crüe has promoters salivating everywhere from Japan, South America, Europe, the U.K. It’s everywhere,” he said. “We all said, ‘Let’s get on the road. Let’s see how this works.’ I don’t know 100 percent what KISS has planned for next year.”
Other activities that are in the wind for Mötley Crüe include a movie based on “The Dirt,” the book about the band’s colorful career, hard partying lifestyle and internal dramas.
New music is a possibility as well, although Sixx said nothing is in progress yet.
After the flurry of activity ends in several years, Sixx said, it may be time for the band to re-evaluate its future.
“We want to go away friends. We want to go out on top,” Sixx said. “When that time is we don’t know, but it’s not a negative. It’s a positive. We started on a positive and we want to end on a positive. The bands that just wear it out and just cripple off into the sunset to milk that last nickel, and it’s like if you haven’t saved your money to take care of yourself and you have to do that, it’s not a good look. And that’s not how we want to be remembered.”