KISStorian reflects on Houston ’77 (2nd Night)

cropped-imag02032.jpgIt’s definitely the first live video boot I saw of the band from ’77.  We had gotten a copy of it after going to a KISS convention in Chicago in like ’86. We ended up going to this girls house afterwards to burn a copy of it in exchange for my red vinyl original pressing of Love Gun, also from ’77. And why not? We now had KISS live on video at their most mega-zenith. My bro and I felt it was the ‘Holy Grail’ of all KISSdom and, in some ways, it really still is. That’s why it was featured in KISSOLOGY and, before that, on KISS Exposed.  It’s pro-shot and they kick major ass throughout. Plus, it’s easily KISS’s best ’70’s stage set. They do not look or sound like any one on earth then or since. It is a rock & roll freak show that proves they are some of the greatest entertainers of all-time.

I didn’t see KISS live until they unmasked for real on the Lick It Up Tour. In ’77, I was only eleven and a KISS concert was not in the cards, though I would get riled up when I heard the “KISS!!!!……LIVE AT THE AMPLITHEATER!!!” ads on the radio. I never even asked to go. I instinctively knew it was out of the question. That is how cool KISS was in ’77 – I wasn’t worthy.

Gene’s performance on this show is nothing short of astounding on every level: musicianship, focus, theatrics, vocals, gravitas. Gene rarely misses a moment to shine when the camera is rolling and Houston ’77 is quintessential, must-see Simmons. I can’t say I have ever seen him more convincing as the Demon. His performance is the grizzly photo of Gene on the back of Alive II brought to ghoulish rock & roll life. No one in the band can compete with Gene for sheer spectacle and by ’77 it had been he had been whipped up into a bloody froth. Theatrics aside, I don’t think he misses a note on bass all show and, vocally, sounds literally possessed. During his solo he climbs on a hydraulic lift and ascends for the most whack sounding blood-letting in all KISStory. He never breaks character: even between songs, just off mic, you can hear him and he is 100% Demon.

Ace is on fire here (if a little forgetful on some chord changes) but remarkably in command of his sound and guitar considering whatever heady mix of booze and drugs he was on at the time. It suits him, or did then anyway. Man …..seeing KISS live in ’77, and witnessing Ace’s guitar solo, could have only left jaws agape. He’s as cool as the other side of the pillow, ripping through solo after solo as if he is God’s gift to rock & roll. One forgets what an incredible stage presence Ace had back then but watching this show again it’s obvious that Ace is, in a word, electric and (quite possibly)”DOWN TO THE BARE WIRE!” Some say he was his best on the Dressed To Kill tour, but I believe this Love Gun tour footage shows him, and the band, at the topper most of their poppermost. Side-note: Ace has a boo-boo on his left hand pointer finger and is wearing a band-aid. Wonder what sort of hi-jinx led to his injury?

Peter sings and plays great throughout this show even if he can be heard between songs asking his drum tech for cocktails and who knows what else. “Whaddawee Got??!!” His lead vocal on “Hooligan”, and some of the screams he pulls off, make it clear he is by far the best natural singer in the band. When Paul returns to the mic to sing lead he sounds almost hackish in comparison. There is stuff that Peter can do with his voice that no one on earth can duplicate. His drums solo here is also one of his best on vid. Later on in the show happy Pete gets a fit of giggles that eventually spreads to Ace and then even Paul. I get the feeling they were all laughing about Gene’s singing which was so over the top at times anyone would be insane not to see the funny side of it from time to time (especially if you’re hearing it blaring through your monitor 3 or 4 times a week (and you’re high!)). Side-note: Peter likes to say “Mommy” when testing his mic throughout.

Surprisingly, Paul comes off a little bit like the weak link in the band here. I know he wasn’t because he wrote the best tunes but, I’m just sayin’, Houston ’77 shows Paul as a bit of a work in progress. By the time the 80’s came around I believe he had become twice the front-man he was here in ’77, largely because he had to. Sans make-up, KISS became the Paul Stanley band, but back in ’77 they were a four-wheel drive beast. Each man competed for the audience’s attention fairly equally. And sure, Paul holds down the fort nicely but comes off to me as a little uncomfortable at times in comparison to later on in his career. Plus, I don’t believe this is his best night on vocals to be fair (though the between song raps stand as definitive Paul Stanley). “HOW YOU DOIN’ HOUSTON?”

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