There’s no straight shot from Huntsville to Atlanta, so it’s not a particularly enjoyable trip (about 3:15 one way if you hustle and traffic is favorable). Six and a half hours in the car for a club show is a substantial time and effort investment, so it better be worth it. We last pulled this trip in March 1998 for Saxon’s Unleash the Beast tour, and that was worth it. I’m pleased to report that Paul Stanley’s first Live to Win date last night was also worth it.
The venue was the Tabernacle, a converted church in north central Atlanta, near Georgia Tech and CNN Center. There are a lot of stairs, but the decor, acoustics, and staff are all exemplary. Further, it’s across the street from Ted Turner’s bison restaurant, which is recommended.
After 30 minutes of a Buckcherryish opening act called Rockets to Ruin, it was almost an hour before Paul. Whether he’s descending from a flamepot-laden riser in seven-inch platform heels, or casually kicking about in jeans as he was last night, Paul owns a crowd from the moment he appears.
The 90-minute set was thoughtfully considered, providing generous dollops of new material, 1978 solo album material, Kiss staples, and Kiss album cuts:
Live to Win (new)
Hide Your Heart
A Million to One
Got To Choose
Tonight You Belong To Me
Lick It Up
Wouldn’t You Like To Know Me
I Still Love You
Every Time I See You Around (new)
Do You Love Me
I Want You
Detroit Rock City
Paul is backed on this short club jaunt by the house band from the television show Rock Star: Supernova, and they were essentially perfect: complementing without overpowering, and highly precise. Obviously enjoying himself, Paul laid it all down with that inimitable balance of charm and gracious humility. With rock ‘n’ roll (or anything else), it’s not time to quit until it’s stupid, and Paul has again established that it’s not yet anywhere near stupid, this time at 54 years old.
And the man’s pipes remain right out of 1973. Everybody’s voice but Paul Stanley’s worsens with age. My personal highlights included “Hide Your Heart,” a longtime favorite which punched me in the stomach with its mere presence in the set; and “Got to Choose,” which has always been one of my all-time Kiss favorites and which has become rather liked by my soon-to-be-5-year-old.
And who is that clapping and nodding his head, over there in the balcony above stage left? None other than Gene Simmons himself! Gene was 100% a fan last night, there for no other purpose than to see his partner and friend kick off his first solo tour in 17 years.
This has been the first Kiss-related project since 2000 that I could really get excited about. I didn’t care much for Gene’s record, and I’m finding Kiss Inc. a little grating these days. My tolerance was strained when the farewell tour lost any semblance of an end date, and then I finally had enough when Kiss became Paul, Gene, and whoever they could coax into the makeup that day.
So a new solo record from the soul of the band is welcome. The new material is right in Paul’s sweet spot: equal parts power pop and hard rock, with big choruses and crunchy melodies. The album Live to Win is available Tuesday, October 24.
And do catch a show if you can, but be quick; there aren’t many dates at all. Get the latest on PaulStanley.com.