To me there is nothing more disappointing than seeing a band whose music has excited you enough to purchase a ticket to go see them live, fail to translate their recorded material into the live arena. Live is where it should be all about, where musicians should excel, where all those hours writing, recording, rehearsing should come together to blow the minds of the crowd, whether it be in a pub, club, theatre or stadium. There is absolutely no excuse for selling yourself, or your audience, short on stage, either as an up-and-coming band or as established artists. No-one necessarily expects perfection every time you step on stage and any musician will tell you, the least expected is the most likely to happen on stage but the bands who draw me back to their latest offering time and time again are the bands that have blown my mind live, have taken my breath away with their intensity or their vision or have simply brought a lump to my throat while standing in a field full of thousands of like-minded people.
Universally these bands have at some point in their history put out a live album that I consider iconic, perhaps even the pinnacle of their recorded catalogue. In every instance, the live albums detailed in the forthcoming series of posts epitomise why I hold those bands up as yardsticks to any other band espoused as a brilliant live act.
And to start this series…..
YOU WANTED THE BEST, YOU GOT THE BEST…… THE HOTTEST BAND IN THE WORLD………
Kiss Alive II to be precise.
Kiss Alive II was released in 1977 and it hit me at a time when, as a 14 year old I was gripped by the whole live experience of ROCK AND ROLL, particularly the huge, over the top spectacle epitomised by Kiss.
I was fortunate to have the trust of grandparents at a young age who happily waved me off with a bunch of school mates to go watch the latest bands to tread the boards in Liverpool or Manchester. Motorhead at the ABC cinema in Chester had been my first real live experience, an aural onslaught that in its deafening brutality, experienced from the front row, literally with my head in a PA bass bin, awoke in me an addiction to music. Live music in particular. That addiction lives with me to this day, albeit slightly more restrained due to the necessities of responsibility and general adulthood!
By the time of the release of Kiss Alive II I had been fortunate enough to have seen AC/DC, Rush, Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Status Qu0, Judas Priest, Scorpions and a host of support bands who would go on to make varying impacts on the rock scene but none had delivered the sheer visual explosion that opening the gatefold double album sleeve of Alive II promised. I’d read articles in the music papers of the day, Sounds and Melody Maker but nothing, NOTHING came close to the excitememt I felt looking at the rock circus presented before me. Wow, I had to experience THAT!!
Who wouldn’t want to experience that?!!! To be honest Kiss became a bit of an obsession over the following years. I bought their whole outpourings, including the solo albums, imports, rarities, bootlegs, picture discs, all funded by a BT apprenticeship. But I was a rarity amongst my friends. Most thought Kiss was just a cartoon band, devoid of any real talent, just a circus, a charade. They just didn’t get it. I didn’t get their indifference. I was still heavily into live music and getting to as many gigs as possible and had even strung a few gigs together following UFO and Judas Priest but getting to see Kiss was the holy grail and all fueled from my purchase of Kiss Alive II.
Yes the musicianship is not the best, ignoring the fourth side of the double album, which is a studio release of new material but the raw intensity and near hysteria of Kiss at arguably the peak of their ROCK credibility before world acclaim watered down their music is unmistakable. I still get this album out reglarly, spin a disc up and just look at the cover.
And yes, I got to see them live a number of times, ironically the first time was actually the worse, on the Dynasty tour, a pretty weak offering of an album but the stage show was everything I had hoped it to be and more to be honest, then followed up that by catching the Unmasked tour. UNMASKED??!!! REALLY? It definitely took away some of the spectacle, but then we were in a cowshed in Bingley, Staffordshire. How Rock and Roll circus!!
So stick this in your music system, crank it up loud and grab yourself a fistfull of imagination and put yourself in front of this band before success devoured them.
Coming up in Part 2 – Thin Lizzy: Live and Dangerous