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Posted: 11:35 a.m. Sunday, July 13, 2014

Review: Kiss & Def Leppard at the Austin360 Amphitheater 

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A-List: Kiss with Def Leppard at Austin360 Amphitheater
Tammy Perez / For American-Statesman
A-List: Kiss with Def Leppard at Austin360 Amphitheater

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A-List: Kiss with Def Leppard at Austin360 Amphitheater photo
Tammy Perez / For American-Statesman
A-List: Kiss with Def Leppard at Austin360 Amphitheater

By Patrick Beach

Months ago, when I asked my charming bride if she would like to see Kiss at the Austin360 Amphitheater Saturday (OK, I sort of told her we were going), her reply was: "Please take somebody else. Please." Then I said, "NOTE THE DATE." See, Saturday was my birthday, kind of a big one.

I won.

And maybe halfway into the set, even she was converted. So I'm done apologizing for liking this band. With founding members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley in their 60s, and in the band's 40th year, and with absolutely nothing left to prove, they worked like crazy to make the sold-out crowd lose its collective mind. The set list included a few relative obscurities and surprises. (This is a band know for its spontaneity-stifling discipline; apparently they're mixing it up a bit more this time out.) Stuff blew up. There were flames and fireworks and confetti. That show can most accurately be described with one word, one that's way, way overused: awesome. They are comic book superheroes complete with super powers. They can fly. And they're also a really tight, ridiculously entertaining rock and roll band. With crazy costumes and kabuki makeup, it doesn't even matter that founding members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss have no more chance of getting back in the band than Lance Armstrong has of pedaling the Tour de France. The idea of Kiss, shameless and grandiose at the same time, is greater than any one of its members.

I wasn't expecting "Shout It Out Loud" and would have preferred "Firehouse" instead of "War Machine" for Simmons' fire-breathing act, but they did unpack "Deuce" and "Hotter Than Hell" for us old-timers. Oh, yeah, there was a lot of gray hair in the house. And also kids, many of them in face paint. Being a Kiss fan apparently is an inheritable affliction.

Also wasn't expecting "Detroit Rock City" but they did that, too, perhaps because it was Saturday night and I was feeling uptight because of nightmarish parking misguidance and misdirection by Circuit of the Americas staff that had us driving around the racetrack for longer than the band was onstage. Even the post-makeup stuff like "Lick It Up" sounded great. Maybe because of the distractions. Maybe because I'm just a sucker. And they did "Cold Gin" and "Love Gun" and "God Of Thunder." That's when Simmons took to the air.

The one previous time I saw Def Leppard it was a professional obligation and I was fully prepared to hate it. Yeah, THAT band, those kings of melodic hard rock radio-friendly enough to be unthreatening to your high school girlfriend. But that time I happened to be sitting next to some high school-aged girls who were positively thrilled, and I couldn't help but watch the show through their young, uncritical eyes. This time what really stood out were the songs. Go ahead and laugh, but "Bringing on the Heartbreak" and "Foolin'" and "Rock Of Ages" and every other hit that MTV played way, way too many times have more hooks than your great uncle's tackle box and they stand up, a point made most emphatically during an acoustic mini-set, where it's impossible for a weak song to hide behind stomp box fuzz. Also standing up nicely is Joe Elliot's voice. Anybody looking to build an outfit of moderately heavy hitmakers should study these guys.

Back to Kiss: You know that feeling you get when you realize you've seen one of your favorite bands one too many times, like you didn't know you should have quit them and not tainted the memory of the one last good time with the last time that wasn't that good? That was not the case with Kiss Saturday night. They might be as packaged as a box of Lucky Charms but they know it, and so do we, and they've never broken the compact: Show up, give us a bunch of money and we will blow you away.

And that's what Kiss did Saturday night. They won.

About Patrick Beach

Patrick Beach is a reporter at the Austin American-Statesman.

Send Patrick Beach an email.

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