SHOCK reviews the ‘one night only’ KISS theatrical film KISS ROCKS VEGAS.

When you think about it, KISS and Las Vegas are really the perfect mix. Las Vegas has always represented the extremes of American society with its glitzy lights, big shows and using every trick in the book to keep you coming back for more. The same goes for KISS.  In fact, KISS already has their own mini-golf park there and I’m frankly surprised they haven’t built their own casino there yet (but I’m sure its coming). This has culminated in their own concert feature KISS ROCKS VEGAS that will screen for one night only on May 25, 2016 at select cinemas around the world. This was filmed during KISS’ 9-day run of concerts at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada in November 2014.

For 40 plus years KISS has brought its unique blend of theatrical bombast mixed with straight ahead classic American Rock n’ Roll. Through many band member incarnations, different musical and fashion styles, make-up to non-makeup then back again; the heart and soul of KISS things have remained the same with its passion and energy. At the core of this is its founding members Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons with their ongoing dedication to making and sustaining the biggest band in the world.

Not counting a few live Pay-per-view releases, it is hard to believe but this is the first concert film they have released theatrically and the first time we’ve seen a proper concert video from them since 2005’s Rock the Nation DVD release. Except for a short documentary at the beginning of the screening on the making of the show don’t expect interviews or any kind of backstage antics during the main concert film, this is strictly about the show. KISS knows what their fans want and the lineup of songs don’t stray too far away from their typical set list of their most popular songs like Detroit Rock City, Lick It Up and of course Rock N’ Roll All Nite but you do get a few fan favorites like Creatures of the Night and Parasite for good measure. Although I was little surprised they didn’t play their disco anthem I Was Made For Lovin’ You; that song was made for Vegas.

The thing about choosing Las Vegas to shoot the film is that despite the high production values of the show at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel, its still not the full scale event you’d see in arenas and stadiums in the past few years. In particular, I think the film would have benefited from having it shot on its custom “spider” stage they used recently. This is evident especially with Gene’s centerpiece song God of Thunder where he is transported up to the lighting rafters and when Paul’s moment in Love Gun where he is carried to the back of the venue to perform. These both lose its impact in a 4,000 seat hall rather than the 15,000 to 35,000 arenas they are used to playing these days. Also I found many of the close-ups of the fans mugging for the camera throughout the concert quite annoying after a while and frankly the band has aged better than many of the fans in this concert film.

These are small issues and overall the concert film is an excellent experience.

What struck me the most about what worked for this concert film was its impeccable sound quality. By shooting it in a controlled space like The Joint with its custom acoustics, it translated perfectly for this film and next to their original classic KISS Alive album you won’t hear a better live version of KISS. What also makes this concert film so strong is the band is really at its peak again as a live entity. It is no secret that the final reunion lineup (with Ace Frehley and Peter Criss) tour of 2000 was lackluster at best and bringing in their new member Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer has breathed new life into the band.  It feels strange still referring to this version of the lineup as “new lineup” considering drummer Eric Singer has been with them since 2004 (and previously back in their later non-makeup days 1991 to 1995) and guitarist Tommy Thayer has been working with the band since the late 80’s and joined the band as their guitarist in 2002.  The fact that they wear the same classic makeup has been controversial with some fans you certainly can’t deny both their musical skill and showmanship on stage and on a technical level this is by far the best version we’ve seen of this band.

There is no substitute to seeing them live but seeing them in a theatrical setting like this is the next best thing and you’ll never have anything closer to recreate the live experience of a KISS concert. KISS Rocks Vegas is a one time theatrical event playing across theaters in North America on May 25th, 2016.

Check here for a screening near you.

And since you’re here, check out our exclusive photos from the recent KISS live show in Choctaw, Oklahoma!



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