Live Review: KISS – Utilita Arena, Newcastle 06/06/23

It’s finally time for the End of the Road Tour to make its way through the UK, following the KISS announcement that their last ever live stage performance will take place at Madison Square Gardens this year in New York after 50 years in the industry. So, with only a handful of UK dates on the EU leg of the tour, one of the early stops is at Utilita Arena Newcastle.

Opening up the night is British band The Wild Things and frontwoman Sydney Rae White is a ball of energy, oozing that quintessential punky, rock n roll vibe and has the vocals that back up the performance factor. They are definitely one to watch and with their latest album Afterglow being produced by the legendary Pete Townshend, it’s clear this band are going places.

The main support slot goes to Newport based Skindred who have seen their stock rise ten-fold this year. As a metal/rock band that incorporates ragga, it’s a somewhat odd mix to consider as it’s difficult to understand how the different genres can blend, but once they take to the stage any minor concerns are long forgotten. Lead singer Benji Webbe is a phenomenal performer and has the crowd eating out of his hand after only two songs. There are singalongs aplenty, crowd participation and the infamous Newport helicopter sets the place alight. After a performance like this, it’s easy to see how they have risen to the top this year and with a headline tour in October, it’s certain to be a sell-out if tonight’s crowd are anything to go by.

Following an outstanding set by Skindred, the juggernauts of glam rock are ready to take to the stage. Anyone who has seen a KISS performance before will be well aware of the production value that goes into one of their shows, but as the curtain drops and reveals Paul, Gene and Tommy on their raised platforms, smoke, pyro and fireworks light up the stage as the cheers echo out around the arena. Opening with Detroit Rock City, KISS are in their usual get-up – big hair, white face paint, sparkly spandex suits and gigantic platforms. 

The End of The Road Tour will have close to 250 shows when it ends so it’s no surprise that the band seamlessly play through the hits in their enigmatic rehearsed show with the backstage crew offering perfectly timed production elements. Gene breathes fire during ‘I Love it Loud’ and the laser show during ‘Lick It Up’ lights up the drum kit as it glitters and sparkles. Ploughing through their catalogue of hits, there’s a new addition in ‘Makin Love’ after which Paul declares that sometimes after making love you need to see a doctor, cue the song ‘Calling Dr. Love’.

There are quite a few guitar interludes sequenced into the set alongside a drum solo with most of the solo guitar work being by Tommy, which presumably offers some respite for the other band members but it does tend to get a little repetitive though, although each riff-off is entirely flawless. It does, however, give chance for everyone to have their own segment in the show. Gene’s set is during ‘God of Thunder’ when he raises to the roof surrounded by a green glow and spits blood from his mouth as he showcases his demonic persona as ‘The Demon’.  71-year-old Paul Stanley whizzes across the arena on a zipline without a harness in sight, to get up front and personal with the crowd from the platform in the centre of the arena where he performs ‘Love Gun’ with some impromptu dancing on the small 2nd stage, which is hugely impressive considering the size of those platform shoes! Before returning to stage, the crowd go wild as he sings arguably their most iconic song ‘I Was Made For Lovin’ You’. As final track ‘Black Diamond’ is played, drummer Eric has his own moment to shine as the drum platform rises to reveal a tiger and he is surrounded by sparklers and fireworks.

The crowd have seen this show before though and know that this is not the true end of the evening, loudly cheering for more songs. Eric this time is front and centre as he rises from centre stage behind a piano and effortlessly performs ‘Beth’ as phone torches light up the arena. ‘Do You Love Me’ sees giant balloons bounce through the crowd until they find themselves in the hands of eager fans who want to take home their memento of the last ever KISS show in Newcastle. For the ultimate finale, ‘Rock and Roll All Nite’ has Gene and Tommy rising on their platforms once again and the confetti cannons create a red and white blizzard which makes its way across half of the arena and Paul ends the song by smashing his guitar on the stage. Addressing the crowd, Paul asks “Newcastle, have you had a good time? We will never forget you! We love you! Yeah we do! Good night!” and the fireworks close a spectacular evening.

It genuinely is a production like no other and whilst the End of the Road tour may well have gone around the world quite a few times, KISS will leave a gaping hole when they retire at the end of this year. No other band has been as dedicated to touring and there are only a handful of others who can create a show quite like KISS does!

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