On Sunday I had my best concert experience ever when I attended KISS’ 40th Anniversary Tour performance in Camden, NJ. Not only was I front row for this concert, I attended a backstage meet and greet with the band, including an unmasked acoustic set and autograph session. I also did a separate guitar meet and greet with my favorite member of KISS – Paul Stanley – where I had the opportunity to interview him and leave with an autographed guitar that he’s never given away before. And lastly, I got to see Def Leppard perform too. It was an amazing night of epic proportions that may never be topped. Below is a run-through of all the night’s festivities that I took part in.
After picking up my ticket and meet and greet laminate, I, along with approximately 25 other fans, was brought to a room at the venue called The Black Box. This intimate location featured hardwood floors, a little stage with a KISS 40 backdrop, and of course, the band’s instruments. I quickly claimed a spot right up front near where Paul would be sitting and anxiously awaited the band’s arrival. Within 10 to 15 minutes, KISS entered the room wearing casual rock-star attire. At first, it was strange seeing the band make such a low-key appearance. But it was great seeing them out of character and simply being themselves. They joked in between songs, threw picks out to the crowd and performed a handful of classics, including the three below: “Comin’ Home,” “Hard Luck Woman” and “Beth.”
After KISS wrapped up its short but sweet acoustic set, the band stepped off the stage and the autograph portion of the meet and greet got underway. Trying to be as quick on my feet as possible, I got all four band members to autograph LPs of the two albums this lineup has created together so far – Sonic Boom and Monster – as well as the limited edition 40th anniversary poster that came with the meet and greet package. I was also lucky enough to get photos with Paul and Gene out of makeup.
After the meet and greet with KISS, I headed into the venue and hit up the merchandise booth where I got a great three-quarter sleeve KISS baseball shirt and an oversized tour book.
While I came to this show primarily for KISS, I’m also a fan of Def Leppard and they put on a hell of a performance. It was hit after hit – from “Love Bites” to “Animal,” they were cranking out crowd-pleasers left and right.
While I had to leave before Def Leppard finished its set so I could go backstage for the Paul Stanley guitar meet and greet, everything I saw them perform – especially the terrific acoustic set – was excellent. They are a band every rock fan should see at least once.
Going backstage to meet Paul Stanley was the highlight of the evening for me for several reasons. I was also fortunate enough to be the first person to ever receive a silver version of his Starfire Washburn guitar, which, as you can see from the photo above, is a beautiful instrument.
Another reason why my guitar meet and greet with Paul exceeded my expectations was because of how he treated my cousin’s girlfriend, Dina. Originally, I was going to bring my cousin, Chris, backstage with me to meet Paul because he’s a big KISS fan too. However, Dina’s father, who was a music producer, recently passed away and he was also a big KISS fan. He spoke to Dina of how great the band was and how he wished she and her mother would one day get the chance to see and meet the band. Knowing this, I decided to bring Dina backstage with me instead of Chris.
Dina was nervous and breathing quickly as we approached the dressing room where we would meet Paul. KISS’ head of security said some kind words to put her at ease. Then, a few minutes later Paul entered the room and he and Dina started talking about a variety of things. One of these topics included Dina’s father, his career in the music industry and his passion for KISS. She brought a photo of her and her father for Paul to see. He took it from her, examined it carefully and paid attention to every word she said. Paul was also kind enough to pose for multiple photos with Dina and autograph her tour book. As their conversation came to a close, he said to Dina, “I’m sure your father will be watching the show with you tonight.” This made my respect for this man multiply by an infinite amount. In addition to being a spectacular musician, he’s an incredibly kind and compassionate person.
The rest of the meet and greet consisted of me having Paul autograph his autobiography for me, and I got to fulfill a dream by interviewing him one-on-one. Of course, it was a brief interview but I was able to get in a few questions. Here’s what he had to say:
What’s your favorite drink at Starbucks?
My favorite drink at Starbucks I had to stop drinking because I’m sensitive to caffeine. So, I was drinking chai lattes and I was getting…I was drinking more and more of them and I wound up getting heart palpitations. So I stopped drinking chai lattes and now I’m drinking decaf coffee. Decaf coffee, half and half, a couple of Equals.
If you were to write a second book, what would it be about?
That’s a good question. Well, let’s see. We have Face The Music. How about Deface The Music? I don’t know. I really don’t know. I was thinking of writing a children’s book. I’m not really sure. I wouldn’t mind writing the same type of book, except for kids. Ya know, just to give kids some kind of support and let them know that being a little different is not always easy but it has its own rewards.
You spoke about recording a new solo album. Would you be open to having artists whose work you admire, like Rod Stewart, make guest appearances on songs?
I just saw Rod two days ago. Of course, of course. I just saw Rod, we live very close to each other. I saw him up at the common eating area.
What about KISS’ upcoming Las Vegas residency will differentiate it from the current tour and the KISS Kruise concerts?
It’s different because we get a chance to do a big show in a small venue. Usually a small venue means you pare down and you cut things out. This is an opportunity. Because we don’t have to tour with it, we can build something that is understandably based on what we’re doing here but with the impact of doing it in a small place and other effects.
My meet and greet with Paul lasted between 10 to 15 minutes, so both him and I were running a little late for the KISS meet and greet photo opp with fans. After leaving the dressing room, I was whisked away by a KISS road crew member through another door and we were instructed by a man in the hallway to “Go! Go! Go!” so we ran past him and I turned to my left and saw Def Leppard about to exit the stage. It was quite an exhilarating experience to go from hanging out with Paul Stanley to dodging a famous UK rock group.
In the backstage parking lot there were tour buses everywhere and a long line of fans waiting to get their photo taken with KISS. I noticed that one of them was holding an autographed Gene Simmons Axe bass. Clearly he had just participated in a guitar meet and greet with KISS’ other most famous member and he was all smiles.
As the line moved forward I realized I was literally the last person in line to get my photo taken with KISS. I was nervous that it wouldn’t turn out well because the band was probably anxious to move on to the next thing, but thankfully it turned out great.
Once I finished getting my photo taken with KISS I lined up with the other photographers to be led into the pit area between the stage and the first-row barricade to take shots of the band performing the first two songs. After the curtain dropped and was cleared away, there was a mad rush to capture the face-painted warriors in action, and I got some fantastic shots.
The setlist for the show was comprised of the KISS classics that fans have come to know and love, as well as “Hide Your Heart,” a rare gem from the band’s Hot In The Shade album. And just like any KISS concert, the crowd was treated to more pyro and fireworks than a July 4th celebration.
Gene spat blood and breathed fire. Paul flew over top the crowd and sang “Love Gun” from a mini-stage in the middle of the audience. Tommy’s guitar shot fireworks and Eric’s drum kit rose to heavenly heights. But the theatrical element that impressed me the most was the band’s spider stage that allowed them to ascend and descend above the stage. Below is a clip of “Lick It Up” that highlights this impressive stage design perfectly.
By the time the final chord of “Rock And Roll All Nite” had been struck, the crowd was in a frenzy. They’d succumbed to an all-out assault on the senses like no other. As I waded through the sea of confetti and observed the people around me, one thing was clear: everyone was happy.
I had guitar picks from all four band members, two terrific backstage meet and greet experiences in one night and I was going home with an exclusive autographed guitar from one of the greatest musicians of all time. As I exited the arena, I couldn’t do anything but smile because I realized I had just experienced the best concert of my life.