Dragon boots, blood and flames
The ultimate Kiss tribute band brings out the theatrics at LaSalles
I’d be less than honest if I didn’t admit up front that I had mixed emotions when my editor asked if I wanted to review Larger Than Life, the Kiss tribute band that played LaSalles last Friday night. You see, despite devoting about three and a half decades to being a very dedicated rock music fan and collector, I have never knowingly—or voluntarily—listened to a Kiss album. It’s a band whose marketing genius I’ve respected for ages, but have known only through interviews, an inescapable visual image and a song or two recognized from the radio.
But I figured any band that can maintain a massive enough fan base to generate an audience for a band pretending to be it is worthy of inspection, even if it is of the second-hand sort. And besides, Sacramento’s The Brodys were also on the bill for the evening, and it seemed like an odd enough pairing to prove some sort of interesting and/or humorous collision of worlds.
It was actually like going to two different shows at adjoining bars, since The Brodys were set up in the back patio area, while Larger Than Life had their equipment shrouded in black on the main stage inside.
The Brodys are pretty savvy in their own right and came out decked in vintage Kiss concert T-shirts to present their humor-heavy brand of ‘80s-flavored party rock. Lead singer Tony Brody kicked off the set in cowboy regalia for “Weekend Alcoholic,” a rowdy honky-tonk romp that warmed up the crowd like a chilled shot of Tennessee whiskey. The crowd built throughout their set, and each wave of newcomers added a layer of enthusiastic applause at the ends of such songs as “Unexamined Life.” But the audience didn’t get really crazy till The Brodys went full-tilt ‘80s with a medley that swerved from Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf” to Madonna’s “Material Girl,” with guitarist Ace, bassist Bryce and drummer Dave Brody shadowing Tony’s whim-fueled shifts from one song to another.
If there was anyone in the audience who didn’t love them after that, they were converted by a Kiss medley highlighted by “I Was Made for Lovin’ You.” The finale of “I Wanna Be a Beer Truck Driver” steered a really-ready-to-party crowd toward the bar for the main event.
And what an event!
The thick patio crowd melted smoothly into a just-as-thick indoor crowd, the lights went down, the band came on, and we were off to rock ‘n’ roll Valhalla via a pile of really big amplifiers, some corny black-leather and silver outfits and four black-and-white grease-painted faces. I needn’t have worried about my unfamiliarity with the source material; these guys were playin’ big bad rock like they meant every note. They had synchronized lights to boot. And the Paul Stanley clone played good guitar, had a great voice and was even prettier than the real Paul Stanley; I’m sure he could make a good living imitating Prince if the Kiss thing ever plays out.
But the true icon of Kiss is Gene Simmons, the serpentine-tongued demon in metal dragon boots who spews blood and fire and creates general chaos and lasciviousness—the id slipped loose from its tether. And this version of Simmons didn’t disappoint. To get the shot you see above, our intrepid photographer braved a shower of tequila, beer and lighter fluid, and that was when the guy was just getting warmed up.
The huge, thoroughly mixed crowd, which included college students, blue-collar workers, bar-owning hipsters, and at least one financial officer for a local daily paper, was united in good-humored communion with the spirit of rock, and I wasn’t the only one who decided to “Shout It Out Loud” when the time came to do so. Weird fun, but definitely fun.
Gene Simmons would have been proud.