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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 January 2021

Review: Why the Kiss New Year’s Eve show was the inspiration we didn’t know we needed

The legendary rockers' Dubai show was streamed to a global audience

“Well, this year has been a little inconvenient,” Kiss singer Paul Stanley muttered midway through the band’s New Year’s Eve gig at Dubai's Atlantis, The Palm.

It was the only subtle moment in a ridiculously over-the-top performance that was fun and affecting.

Bidding goodbye to what can only be described as a torrid year for many, the world-famous rockers turned the hotel into "Dubai Rock City", with a two-hour set heavy on the effects and the hits.

When bassist Gene Simmons told The National the band were arriving with $1 million dollars of pyrotechnics, he wasn’t kidding.

Not only could you see the show in all its blinding fury, the limited number of people on the ground could feel each furnace-like blast while standing more than 300 metres away from the massive stage that stood on top of the hotel’s infinity pool.

The Dubai New Year's Eve show by Kiss was nothing short of explosive. Pawan Singh / The National 
The Dubai New Year's Eve show by Kiss was nothing short of explosive. Pawan Singh / The National

It was one of many dazzling production flourishes Kiss are known for. Say what you will about their now cartoonish appeal, they spare no expense in giving you a show.

This was a rock and roll circus in every aspect of the term. The band synchronised hits with various tricks, including levitating drum sets, guitars spewing fire, smoke machines and some good old-fashioned fake blood thrown into the mix.

If that sounds familiar, that’s only because all the big rock tours we see now follow the Kiss playbook in one way or another.

And that’s not only linked to the production. Watching the band's 21-song set is akin to a sonic history lesson in rock evolution from the 1970s to the 1990s.

The killer opening combination of Detroit Rock City, Shout It Loud and Deuce traces the band’s early roots as a hard-rocking bar band.

When Simmons delivers his guttural vocals over guitarist Stanley's thick guitar riffs in War Machine and Gods of Thunder, you begin to understand why sections of the UK press touted them as the American Black Sabbath.

And when Stanley's high-pitched wail and sensual croon made sublime work of the disco stomper I Was Made for Lovin' You and Strutter, you can see where some of your favourite arena rock bands came from.

Dubai's Kiss NYE concert is one many coming to Dubai this year. Pawan Singh / The National.
Kiss singer and guitarist Paul Stanley front and centre at Atlantis, The Palm in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National.

Yet, despite all the fun and good-natured mayhem, there was no getting way from the fact that this show was being staged at the tailend of a devastating year for the live music industry.

The band performed without the Kiss Army, who usually make shows so special, and Dubai crowds had to make do with sitting far away, amid dozens of cameras, film crews and cranes, which only served to underline how difficult and challenging 2020 was for the music scene.

Then again, this is the reason why Kiss were the perfect band to end the year.

More than the hits and the chance to sing Rock and Roll All Nite at the stroke of 12, they gave us some of the reassurance a lot of us didn’t know we needed.

There was that dose of certainty, something lacking in a year where every day seemingly brought a continuous stream of unwelcome surprises.

Kiss came to Dubai to pick up where they left off. With the exception of Strutter, their set list was identical to that of their last show in the US on March 10.

And seeing them out there on stage again, in the midst of the pandemic, kindled some sense of hope.

This is admittedly a strange feeling to experience upon seeing a bunch of elderly men in high heels and make-up, singing about partying every day.

But the fact that they took the necessary safety precautions to continue doing what they love is a lesson we can all take into 2021, no matter how tragically inconvenient the past year has been.

Updated: January 1, 2021 08:34 AM

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