Kiss faithful dress the part for final fiery tour


People heading to a rock concert usually put on some jeans and a T-shirt, maybe a leather jacket. But you know they're heading to a Kiss concert if they show up in outfits they special-ordered from Europe.

That was what Trey Woods, 27, of Columbia did to prepare for the Kiss concert at the Carolina Coliseum on Tuesday night.

Woods, like many devoted Kiss fans, showed up at the Coliseum dressed head-to-toe as his favorite band member. In Woods' case, this was the band's bassist, Gene Simmons, who wears spiked shoulder pads, a bat-wing cape and monster- head platform shoes. He also wore a long curly black wig and ornate black-and-white face paint.

This might seem extreme to some music fans, but not to those who love the four-man spectacle called Kiss, who are on their farewell tour after 25 years as one of rock music's most flamboyant and successful acts.

"I found this on the Internet -- I ordered it from France," Woods said as he stood in front of the Coliseum before Tuesday's show. "And I thought what a perfect place to wear it." Then he paused to smile for a group of fans who asked if they could take his picture.

Woods wasn't the only person dressed to the nines on Tuesday. Costumed Kiss fans ranged from little girls done up with the cat-style whiskers worn by drummer Peter Criss to four men who dressed up as the entire band.

"Kiss just has this whole aura about them, more than any other band," said Woods' friend Mark Cloer, 31, also of Columbia. "It's the music and the theatrics combined."

There were plenty of both Tuesday for Kiss' last performance in Columbia.

At about 9:20 p.m., Simmons, along with guitarists Ace Frehley and Paul Stanley, descended to the stage on a floating platform, while drummer Criss' kit descended into place as well. Then flash pots went off, video screens behind the stage and on the sides came to life with images of the band, and the well-known Kiss logo made up of hundreds of white bulbs flashed on and off. As the near-sellout crowd roared, the band slammed through "Detroit Rock City," one of the best-known tunes from the 1976 album "Destroyer."

Selections from throughout the band's career followed, ranging from a very strong version of "Let Me Go, Rock 'N' Roll" off 1974's "Hotter Than Hell" to "Shock Me" off 1977's "Love Gun" and "Heaven's On Fire" from 1984's "Animalize."

Fans sang along with just about all of the lyrics, and some of the especially devoted even knew the lyrics to more obscure tunes like the appropriately titled "2000 Man," a song from the 1979 release "Dynasty."

All four band members obviously had fun with this musical journey from Kiss past to present. Simmons, Stanley and Frehley all offered up strong instrumental work, with Frehley especially pulling off some fancy solo work.

Part of what has made Kiss such a popular live act for so long is that the band members know how to combine the best of heavy metal, pop, glam, and straight ahead rock 'n' roll into a show that's both fun to watch but also not lacking in skill.

After 25 years, some lineup changes and personal ups and downs, the four original members of Kiss have managed to preserve a dynamic mix of mischief, flamboyance, comedy and good, basic rock 'n' roll musicianship.

All of the fun visual elements were there on Tuesday. Simmons spit fire, columns of fire leaped into the sky during "Heaven's On Fire," videos of the band flashed on the screens.

At one point after a montage of vintage Kiss images flashed on the screens during the tune "Do You Love Me," the simple words "We love you" came up on the screens and remained there for a few minutes while fans cheered.

It was an appropriate moment for Kiss' last visit to Columbia. Amid all of the fire, fake blood, leather and glitter, the band simply wanted to say 'thank you' to the fans who had taken the wild, costumed journey with them for so long.

It proved that the members of Kiss might dress like monsters, cats, space creatures and star-eyed romantics, but in reality they're musicians who care a lot for the people that have made them one of the biggest acts in rock history.