Review: Gene Simmons (Cleveland Agora- 3/18/17)

This was a historic night for the KISS Army. Cleveland was the site of the very first full Gene Simmons solo concert (not counting the corporate gig a few weeks back). In addition, the Cleveland Agora became the first venue to ever host a solo show by both Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley (who played there on 3/2/89). But did Gene deliver the goods? You bet your ass he did!

Backed by an insanely talented group of musicians otherwise known for playing regular gigs in Nashville under the moniker ‘Thee Rock N’ Roll Residency’, Gene and his band tore through a mix of classic KISS gems, Gene solo songs, and a tribute to the late Chuck Berry, who passed away earlier in the day. It is widely known that the band members are huge KISS fans. They played these songs with reverence, but also with an intensity that made the crowd feel that they were truly witnessing something special. I truly believe the band gave Gene confidence to take a few chances with the setlist, and it sure paid off.

The set kicked off with a raucous version of ‘Radioactive,’ off the Gene Simmons 1978 solo album, and the energy kicked into a higher gear with the KISS classic, ‘Deuce.’ For the fans who wanted KISS deep cuts, Gene did not disappoint, as the crowd was treated to ‘Almost Human’ early in the set, as well as a one-two punch of ‘Plaster Caster’ and ‘Charisma.’ Another huge surprise of the night was the inclusion of ‘Got Love For Sale.’

A poignant moment in the show came when Gene preached about the importance of Chuck Berry to rock n’ roll music, and the band tore into an impromptu cover of ‘Johnny B. Goode.’ He also made it clear that he wanted the crowd to have fun, and he was clearly having fun himself. The show ended with KISS staples ‘Let Me Go, Rock and Roll’ and ‘Rock and Roll All Nite,’ in which Gene invited female members of the audience on stage to sing the chorus.

Clearly there was a very loose, fun vibe to this show. This is exactly the kind of show fans wanted, and Gene pulled out all the stops to make it a good time for all involved. This could be a stepping stone to more shows of this nature during KISS’ downtime, and I don’t think the KISS Army would mind one bit.

Setlist:

Radioactive

Deuce

Nothin’ To Lose

Calling Dr. Love

Almost Human

Cold Gin

I Love It Loud

Got Love For Sale

Parasite

Plaster Caster

 Charisma

See You Tonight

Christine Sixteen

Johnny B. Goode

War Machine

Let Me Go, Rock and Roll

Rock and Roll All Nite

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Review: John 5 and the Creatures- Season of the Witch

From the opening track, ‘Book of Spells,’ which sounds like the score to a sinister horror flick, John 5 and The Creatures take the listener on a trip through hell and back, with many interesting stops along the way. The band, rounded out by drummer Rodger Carter and bassist Ian Ross, is about a tight a trio as you will ever come across. There is a freakishly strong chemistry here that even at its most manic moments, ties this record together as a cohesive piece.

Things immediately kick into high gear with ‘The Black Grass Plague,’ showcasing each band members’ insane proficiency on their respective instruments. On this track, we get a drum solo, bass solo, and John 5 doing things no human should EVER be able to do on guitar, mandolin, and banjo. Trust me, you will need many, many spins to have a prayer of taking it all in. There are literally zero clunkers on this record, so it is pointless to list standout tracks. However a few of my other personal favorites are ‘Making Monsters,’ complete with intro provided by one of my favorite childhood movies ‘Mad Monster Party?,’ and ‘Hell Haw’ where John gets to show off his country roots. In addition, the incredibly emotional piece ‘Ode to Jasper,’ dedicated to John’s beloved dog who passed away recently, is enough to extract tears from any animal lover.

There is literally something for everyone here, from searing metal to country/bluegrass. I can’t imagine a record with more variety and crossed-genres than this one. The lack of vocals really allows you to focus on the mayhem unfolding. Make no mistake, this is a true labor of love. You can hear it in every note. There is not a ton of money to be made with a record like this (although there should be, in a perfect world). This is the work of a man who wakes up every day happy to have earned this level of musical talent, has achieved a standard of virtuosity most people can only dream of, yet still looks for ways to improve his playing. As avid music fans, we are the lucky ones who benefit when an artist of this magnitude shares their work with us. We need to do our part to support it. This is a record that you will marvel at for a long time to come.

 

5 of 5 Devil Horns:

\m/ \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

 

Mike