Photos by Katrina Wong Shue

One thing you can count on at a Kiss concert is pageantry. There was no shortage of it on Wednesday night when the band brought their farewell End of the Road Tour to the Scotiabank arena. As it happens, this farewell is a prolonged one, as the tour will loop back to the city again in the summer. Regardless, the show was designed to leave fans wanting nothing.

Warming up an audience for an epic rock-band is a big job. Never predictable, Kiss tapped speed-painting artist David Garibaldi to warm up the crowd. Garibaldi seemed unfazed by the enormous task of entertaining an arena full of rock fans and played to the sympathies of the T.O. audience. His engaging performance resulted in fabulous, large-scale portraits of Geddy Lee, Gord Downie and Kiss – all to be sold locally with all proceeds going to charity.

A short while later, the lights dimmed to the strains of Led Zeppelin’s Rock and Roll, causing the troops in the Kiss Army to stand at attention. On their feet, they were ready for the grand spectacle that is Kiss. They got what they came for – in spades! As far as epic rock entrances go, you can never go wrong with a descent from the sky. A giant black curtain fell to reveal the band members dropping from the rafters on hydraulic hexagonal platforms. With pyrotechnics, lasers, dry-ice and fire-guns blazing, Detroit Rock City kicked off the party. From there, the band rolled through Shout It Out Loud to Deuce, which ended with them bobbing in unison while vintage, 70s era band footage played on the high-tech screen behind them. Throughout the show the visuals were crisp and evocative – technology has only served to enhance the Kiss experience.

Fully garbed in their elaborate iconic costumes and make-up, their commitment to theatricality is admirable. Rocking those bedazzled platform shoes would be a challenge for most, but founding members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley have decades of practice under their belts. They wear their kits with pride and love. And that love is returned. It’s worth noting that the signature face-paint was evident on the faces of many fans – young and old. At a Kiss show, pancake makeup is the great equalizer.

The band is good at what it does. Really good. They balance music and over-the-top showmanship with a dose of camp. They play the songs fans want to hear. They show them what they want to see – fireworks, lights, dragons, demons, snakes and blood. They also generously hand their fans the tools they need to walk away feeling like they were part of the show. Stanley literally coached the crowd to ensure a successful call and answer element more than once.

Each of the four men had a solo – a reminder that a true musician lies behind each mask. There’s no doubt that Simmons and  Stanley are the heart of the band, but drummer Eric Singer and guitarist Tommy Thayer round out the group beautifully. Elevating platforms allowed each band member opportunities to get closer to the fans.  Simmons rose skyward and looked quite at home surveying his disciples during God of Thunder. Stanley actually “flew” over the people in the floor seats to the B stage. From his elevated platform at the back of the arena, Stanley belted out Love Gun and I was Made for Loving You, the band’s biggest ever international hit and a crowd favourite.

The three song encore started with Beth, which despite its success, was always an outlier in the Kiss canon. Drummer, Eric Singer sat centre stage at a glittery piano and did the ballad justice. Do You Love Me came next as the night wound down. Finally, with a barrage of firepower, beneath a rain shower of confetti and ribbon, the whole arena declared its desire to Rock and Roll All Nite. Can you think of a more perfect way to Kiss the band goodbye?  I can’t.