This CD is a bit out of order in the Kiss chronology, but since I’ve just looked at a few live Kiss albums and looked at “Atom Heart Mother,” the ultimate orchestra rock, it seemed like a good time to throw this in.
This is from a Kiss concert in Melbourne Australia. The disc (and I assume the concert) is broken into three sections: regular Kiss, Kiss with the Melbourne Symphony Ensemble and Kiss with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
The first six songs rock pretty hard. It’s an interesting collection of songs from throughout their career. “Deuce” and “Strutter” sound good. “Let Me Go, Rock n Roll” is a surprise and one that I like a lot, (although I find it weird that Peter Criss says exactly what he said at the end of the song on Alive! –it was in audible then and it is inaudible now). Of course I wish they hadn’t chosen “Lick It Up” but it is better than on Alive III (I like the way he turns the “I want you, I need you” into a simple plea “to clap your hands”). It makes me laugh that Paul is still using the “rock and roll pneumonia” schtick thirty years after I first heard it to open “Calling Dr. Love”. And then there’s the new song, “Psycho Circus,” I haven’t mentioned that album yet but it’s a new song and they play it with verve.
The one thing about the disc that is especially obnoxious is how proud of themselves they are about doing this tour with an orchestra. Paul says, ““Some people said we were crazy to attempt this Maybe we are crazy but that’s what makes us Kiss.” And yet, clearly it’s not an original idea (I mean even Metallica, the most obvious comparison did theirs three years earlier).
When the Ensemble comes out, they play 5 mellow songs. The first (and most obvious) is “Beth”. But man does it sound lousy here. Peter doesn’t seem to have any of the oomph to make it sound any good. (The orchestra sounds good though). The next obvious song is “Forever.” What I find odd about these “Ensemble” songs is that it sounds like the band is using acoustic guitars which just add a strange percussive sound (since you can barely hear the guitar over the orchestra). I understand being unplugged for the Ensemble, but it sounds weird.
The huge surprise comes with “Goin’ Blind” in which Gene sings in a quite pretty falsetto. He sounds old (for sure), but it’s a surprisingly pleasant voice. Another huge surprise is the inclusion of “Sure Know Something “ from Dynasty. And then the craziest surprise of all is “Shandi.” “Shandi” is one of those songs that I used to joke asking if Kiss played it live. I cannot believe they played it (even with an orchestra) I wonder if Australia especially liked the Dynasty/Unmasked era. Of course, I love that era as well and am thrilled to hear this song live (even if Paul sounds a little stilted singing it).
Then comes the bloat. Disc two brings in the full orchestra and the sound is…weird. The orchestra is sort of playing along with the band (mostly like added strings to pop songs and swells as needed). The big surprise is that the strings don’t play the iconic solos—which would be frankly amazing–imagine the whole string section playing the solo to “Detroit Rock City.” Rather, the sounds that we hear most from the orchestra are the horns, which make it sound kind of like a marching band playing Kiss. But the real problem is that the band seems to be fighting with the orchestra. Since the guitar and entire orchestra are playing the same thing, you can’t really hear one or the other very well. Worse yet, by the end, both Paul and Gene seem to be screaming to be heard over the orchestra, which makes them sound quite bad.
It’s not a total disaster. Some songs work just fine.
“King of the Night Time World” had orchestration on the album, but in this version, they just seem to be throwing in strings everywhere. “Do You Love Me?” works great in this setting for the exact opposite reason that I didn’t work in Unplugged—the orchestra brings up the chorus to higher levels. “Shout It Out Loud” is pretty successful with the orchestra although Gene seems really flat. The orchestra works well on “God of Thunder” probably because the music itself is so spare that the orchestra fills in the gaps nicely.
I’m always disappointed when Paul plays around with the vocal styling in popular songs—he does it a lot in “Love Gun.” I’m not saying that every song should sound just like the record, but it’s weird unsettling when he mixes things up in weird ways as he does here. The orchestra is good for this one though. And, the strings work great with “Black Diamond.”
On the other side of things, It is very creepy to have a children’s choir sing to the groupie-anthem “Great Expectations” but it does sound good—until the end when Gene doesn’t even seem to care a bout the spoken words. “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” gets less disco and a bit more rock here. And the set ends with “Rock n Roll All Nite” which is something of a throwaway here. It’s the inevitable conclusion to the show, with the orchestra being little more than accents.
So the orchestra is not really a very successful addition to the set. It may have been great to see live (the orchestra in Kiss makeup and all), but the recording leaves something to be desired. The set list, on the other hand is pretty great and I would love to have these songs in any future show that I see.
[READ: September 25, 2013] “Bad Dreams”
I’ve enjoyed most of the Tessa Hadley stories I’ve read in the New Yorker. And most of them have had similar themes. But this one is quite different.
I’ve been finding with a lot of stories lately that I really like the way a story starts out and that I kind of wish it would keep doing whatever the story is doing, but that the author has something else in mind. It’s hard to complain about that because it is the author’s story, not mine, but it still bums me out a little even if I ultimately like where the author went with the story.
So in this one, a child wakes up in the dark. We get a glimpse of the house and where she is at, but the crux of her waking up is that she had a dream about her favorite book, “Swallows and Amazons.” The really cool and spooky thing about the dream is that she dreams an epilogue to this story that she has read so many times. And the epilogue is disturbing—not horrifically, but just enough to freak out a young girl. She dreams that that one of the boys drowned, that her least favorite girl, the plainest girl went on to a long happy life, etc.
This is such an interesting idea tha I couldn’t wait to see where it went. Of course, I can’t even imagine where you could go with that, and maybe Hadley couldn’t either. Because instead we leave the girl’s room and head to her father’s study.
We learn about her father but during her visit she decides to upend all of the furniture in the room. Not out of malice, but in a dreamlike state. And then she imagines her parents’ reaction to this and thinks it will be very funny. She vows to never admit that she did it. Then she goes back to sleep.
When the girl’s mother wakes up, she is pleased to have the house to herself for a bit—everyone is soundly asleep. Her husband, as we learned earlier, is in school studying for an advanced degree and has been staying up late working on his project. She sees that he did not eat her sandwich. And then she turns the corner and is absolutely shocked by what she sees in his study. First she assumes that they have been robbed. Then when she sees how localized the trouble is, she decides that her husband freaked out and went on a rampage turning over all of his things. And she thinks that maybe he thought it would be funny to leave it like that.
She grows more and more indignant by this imagined slight. So she sets everything aright and vows that she will never say anything, says anything, believing that he will know that she knows but she’ll never admit it to him. She goes back to bed feeling like she has one up on him for any future trouble.
The final section (two paragraphs) is a weird coda that I found didn’t add anything and actually muddied things a bit. I would have liked to see more of a resolution.
So although I’m bummed we didn’t investigate the girl’s dreams more, I was very intrigued by the family drama that unfolded. I just wish there was more.