KISS, with TED NUGENT, at the Air Canada Centre, June 23. Tickets: $39.50-$89.50. Attendance: 16,000 (sold out). Rating: NNN
T hough I've long suspected it, it turns out KISS really are possessed of special powers. I know this because their (alleged) farewell performance at the Air Canada Centre prompted words I never thought I'd say: I'm glad I got there early enough to see opener Ted Nugent.
The mystically preserved caveman might have been an unapologetic knot of obscenities, rants, hatred and homophobia, but at least he was real, just like the fluffy fur tail pinned to his ass.
By contrast, the only genuine sentiment that came from the headliner was the contempt Ace Frehley puked all over Paul Stanley when, after the butt-shaking Starchild introduced him for a number, Frehley -- so ghastly thin he looked like angel hair pasta in claymation -- leaned into the mike and deadpanned, "Thank you, Mr. Wonderful."
To his credit, Nuge is an equal-opportunity hate-monger, and he spreads it around with spectacular panache. And who knew he was so up on his current events?
Assuring the crowd that "faggots would be eating pussy" before slamming through Cat Scratch Fever, Nuge cleverly acknowledged the anything-goes ethos of Pride weekend. He then declared that "anyone who doesn't speak English should get the fuck out of Canada" with the conviction of a card-carrying Reform party member.
Oh, but there was more. Much more. Janet Reno, Jesse Jackson, the IRS, "Canadian Revenue," the prime minister and an eclectic assortment of others were invited to alternately kiss his ass and suck his dick. Yum. Shooting fish in a barrel was never so much fun. Still, that was nothing compared to what our man had banked for the encore.
Returning to the stage in full tribal headdress and a frock apparently made from a Confederate flag, Nuge -- legendary hunter of sentient, apolitical but otherwise helpless creatures guilty of residing in the Michigan woods -- suspended his guitar in the air on a hook, bent down and, with bow and flaming arrow, torched the thing with a single strike. Mad. Offensive. Vile. Genius.
Knowing this was the last chance to hoover the wallets of the faithful -- and perhaps spooked by the shrunken Gene Simmons head-on-a-stick some dude up front held aloft -- KISS played neither games nor much material from the supremely shitty Psycho Circus CD. Instead, they pounded us with hits, newsreel-type footage of their career (which was cool), Japanimation, video pans of the crowd and the usual solo shenanigans while Stanley ceaselessly wailed "Torontooo!!!!" lest we think we were in Cleveland.
Alas, when the most potentially interesting aspect of a KISS performance is waiting to see which cues the wobbly, dour Frehley will miss -- or whether he'll fall flat and, weighing less than his boots, not be able to rise unassisted, as he did a few years back in Hamilton -- you know the road has come to an end. We wanted the best, we got KISS. Thanks from the mammaries.