I wasn’t even meant to go originally. My husband Sean bought two tickets to the Kiss show at Hartford’s Xfinity Theater back in November of 2019 for he and our then 27-year-old son, Chris. The two joked about the over-the-top costumes, frenetic guitar stylings, and pumped-up pyro techniques promised at the iconic, four decade-old metal band’s “End of the Road World Tour.”
The tickets were $30 lawn seats. Not a huge investment if the show was lame, they reasoned.
As it turned out, Kiss was postponed twice. First, due to Covid (before vaccines), and then in September 2021 after front man Paul Stanley and bassist Gene Simmons tested positive for COVID-19.
As the fateful rescheduled day finally arrived, Chris politely begged out of going. A high school chum was heading east from Colorado. He also wanted to see his girlfriend.
“I’ll go with Dad,” I said, gallantly. Far be it from me to stand in the way of my adult children’s romances.
Besides, how bad could it be? Sean and I make a point of seeing performers from “back in the day.” Age-defying performers like Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, Gordon Lightfoot, and Weird Al Yankovic impress us with their tenacity and longevity. Kiss deserved the same homage, right?
On Saturday night, Sean and I sidestepped a sea of fellow cheap-seaters and set up our folding lawn chairs on the slope of the hill.
As we sat on the hill on an awkward angle, I noticed a twinge in my lower back. I noted to self, better stand and stretch on and off throughout the show or I could pay for it later. Peering ahead, I could just make out the dwarfed stage, rows and rows behind giant hanging screens meant for us lawn folk.
While we waited for the warmup act, we surveyed our fellow lawn mates. Most were middle aged folk, like us, greying at the temples, thick-wasted. The majority were white, tired-looking guys with beer-belly paunches emphasized in their fifty-dollar Kiss concert t-shirts. A wiry, older thin woman, a few chair rows down, gyrated to every rock song blaring over the speakers, lit ciggie in hand. She was bump-dancing with a chubby little girl we couldn’t decide was her granddaughter or a very late-in-life love child.
As it grew darker, the air around us became heavily saturated with pot smoke. In hindsight, again, maybe a contact-high would’ve helped.
The clouds above thickened. We hoped the rain would hold off until after the show.
A light mist began as the opening act, a muralist, David Garibaldi took the stage around 7:45. This was interesting. No warm up band, but a warm up artist.
He painted three very large murals, very quickly as he engaged the audience. One was of Alice Cooper, the other the Statue of Liberty, and the third, a mural of Kiss, to be signed by the band. This piece was to be raffled off on an on-line fund raiser to benefit families of fallen soldiers. Sean entered. “Wouldn’t this go great over our bed, honey?”
While Garbaldi’s art warm-up was captivating and the fund-raiser was noble, it was unfortunate he was also tasked with warming up/riling up the crowd as he painted. I kinda felt bad for him as he pointed his brush to each section in turn, to see who could make the most noise. “When Kiss asks me which section was the loudest, I can tell them!”
What? It felt like a strange grade school pep rally. The crowd (around us and especially in the closer-to-the stage, sheltered-from-rain seats) were hot for Kiss as Garbaldi left the stage at about 8:15.
Any second now, I looked at my Fitbit, the huge Kiss curtain should rise. They’d be ready to rock since they didn’t have to wait for a warmup band to dismantle. They could get right on.
Tick, tock. Drip, Drop.
Here’s where I got cranky.
15 minutes later, no Kiss. 30 minutes later, no Kiss. 45 minutes later, no Kiss. 48 minutes later, no Kiss. At 9:03 it starting to rain more-than-tolerable mist.
I turned to Sean. “Do you think they had a geriatric emergency? Or are they just arrogant as f—?”
Even though we brought our raincoats, the front of my jeans were getting damp. Because I frequently stood up to stretch my back, my butt sopped up the wetness when I sat back down. “If they’re not on by 9:15, I’m out of here.”
Sean frowned. “I want to see at least some of the show.”
He texted his co-worker who was inside the sheltered area, much closer to the stage. “45 minutes from the warmup guy is getting a little ridiculous. My wife wonders if they had a geriatric emergency.”
His friend joked that someone must’ve spiked the prune juice. He did say he could see their big boots peeking out from under the curtains, “They should start soon.”
FINALLY, the stage opened. Kiss was introduced as “THE Hottest Band in the World!”
Gads. What? There was no apology or explanation for the interminable wait? Did they even care if a good number of their suckers (I mean their Kiss Army) were out in the elements waiting a whole 48 minutes for them after their warm-up guy? I certainly got cold…and damp!
Assessing the close-ups on the mega-screens, none of the four septuagenarians looked as though they had just suffered an age-related incident that evening. Instead, thanks to the face make-up, leather, and studs, they all just looked as if they stepped off one of their 70s albums. Once or twice, though, you could see the tell-tale loose skin on their necks if you weren’t distracted by the frenetic flames and lasers. Still, they were as spry as 20 year olds! Good for them, but how was that possible? A deal with the devil, perhaps?
Sorry, I just wasn’t impressed. I was cold and wet, and peeved at their real or put-on arrogance. They cupped their hands to their ears, demanding for louder cheering, adoration. They badgered for more applause. I get that it was supposed to be their over-the-top theatrics. What I registered was lowbrow and wrestling federation tricks.
To their credit, as musicians, they played extremely well for dudes in their 70s. I’m sure die-hard fans were lit up with their stage presence, prowess, and cultish behaviors. I’m not completely above sophomoric lyrics—Lick It Up, and Doctor Love—I love the rock parody documentary Spinal Tap. It had to be inspired by Kiss!
I felt bad for Sean but was relieved when he asked if we wanted to make an early exit. We weren’t the only ones leaving before the finale. There was a small stream of others who would also miss “Beth” and “I Want to Rock and Roll All Night.” Later, as we checked the set list, we discovered we did see about 3/4s of the show.
After we got home, I began to wonder about myself. Am I getting too old to sit at on an odd-angled folding chair in wet pants waiting 48 minutes for an iconic band to grace us with their greatness? Am I a snob? Am I too impatient? Maybe we should have upgraded our lawn seats?