Chicago Gets Explosive KISS Goodbye

KISS says goodbye to their Chicago fans at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Tinley Park, IL on 10/16/2021. Photo Credit: © Ian Bardecki 2021

Chicago, IL – On April 19th, 1974, KISS arrived at a not quite half full 5,000 seat Aragon Ballroom to play their first ever Chicago show in support of their newly released debut album of the same name. The crude makeup, the home-sewn costumes and their obnoxiously loud music, set themselves apart that evening from the lineup of Flying Saucer, Les Variations, and San Francisco psychedelic rock headliners, Quicksilver Messenger Service. At the time, local Chicago area rock critic Lynn Van Matre, who was one of the very first to review the bands live performance, wrote, “KISS is probably one of the loudest groups in existence, carrying on at a decibel level that could blow Black Sabbath or Blue Oyster Cult off any given stage. When they rock, they rock, and the audience rolls along on the tidal wave of crash-and-burn charisma. Give the group a little time for word to get around, and nobody’s going to KISS ’em off.”

Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of KISS performing at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Tinley Park, IL on 10/16/2021. Photo Credit: © Ian Bardecki 2021

Forty-seven years after that concert review and their first-ever Chicago performance at the Aragon Ballroom, KISS walked out onto the stage at the 28,000 seat Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Tinley Park to give a heartfelt goodbye to the crowd of fans young and old, many of whom were dressed as their favorite member, and thank Chicago for their support and memories of their early days at the Aragon from when they were starting out as young kids. Gene Simmons, now 72, and Paul Stanley, 69, are the last of the remaining original lineup that started their incredible journey in 1973 with former members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley, who have since been replaced by drummer Eric Singer donning the Cat makeup, and lead guitarist Tommy Thayer wearing the Spaceman makeup, that both Criss and Frehley made famous, respectively. With over 75 million albums sold around the world, 30 Gold albums (including the band’s four 1978 solo albums), 14 Platinum albums, with three albums being multi-Platinum, KISS has billed these dates as their final tour ever, and the band is going out with a bang – complete with fireworks, smoke machines, sparklers, flames, fake blood, and fire breathing.

Tommy Thayer of KISS performing at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Tinley Park, IL on 10/16/2021. Photo Credit: © Ian Bardecki 2021

Opening the night with the infamous and unmistakable, “You wanted the best, you got the best! The hottest band in the world…KISS!” the giant curtain filling the entire front of the stage with the silver KISS logo emblazoned across it dropped. Explosions, fireworks, and flames went off as the band began their two hour, 19 song set covering their existence in every decade. Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer and Paul Stanley descended from above the stage on their respective platforms, starting the night off with “Detroit Rock City,” and “Shout It Out Loud,” both from their 1976 album Destroyer, that instantly brought the fans to their feet. Performing such songs like “Deuce” from their 1974 debut album, KISS, “Tears Are Falling,” from their 1985 album, Asylum, “Psycho Circus” from the 1998 album of the same name, and “Say Yeah” from their 2009 album entitled, Sonic Boom, the fans were also treated to their radio-friendly hits such as “Lick It Up,” and “Calling Dr. Love,” as well as “I Love It Loud”, which was followed up by bassist Gene Simmons’ famous fire breathing act.

Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer, and Paul Stanley of KISS performing at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Tinley Park, IL on 10/16/2021. Photo Credit: © Ian Bardecki 2021

Each member is given their moment in the limelight. From Tommy Thayer shooting rockets from his Gibson guitar that seemed to ricochet off of the lights and speakers above the stage, to Eric Singer’s immense solo on a 30 foot drum riser, and Gene Simmons’ bass solo while immersed in a green light and spitting blood, that lead into “God of Thunder.” About three quarters through their set, rhythm guitarist and lead singer Paul Stanley exited the main stage by taking a zip-line to the back of the seated audience, landing on a platform between those who were in the seats and those who were seated in the lawn. Once there, the band performed “Love Gun” and “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” up close and personal for those furthest from the stage. The band wrapped up their main set with “Black Diamond”, where Stanley lead the crowd on how to do a three part harmony before Eric Singer took over on lead vocals.

Gene Simmons of KISS performing at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Tinley Park, IL on 10/16/2021. Photo Credit: © Ian Bardecki 2021

With fans chanting, “We want KISS! We want KISS!” the band returned to the stage for their encore. After Eric Singer performing “Beth” at the piano, the band wrapped things up nicely with Paul Stanley customarily smashing his guitar on stage after “Rock and Roll All Nite”. Cannons of confetti went off all over the arena and completely covered those in the audience, while large white KISS balloons, complete with the band logo and face paint on them, were released from the rafters. Stanley asked the audience in attendance, “Did you have a good time? Did you get what you came for?” The obvious answer, was YES!

Eric Singer of KISS performing at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Tinley Park, IL on 10/16/2021. Photo Credit: © Ian Bardecki 2021

It’s been a long time since that cold Chicago day in April 1974. Love them or hate them, KISS has proven many of their harshest critics wrong throughout their career – when they were told they should “KISS off”. There have been peaks and valleys, with band member relationships forged and broken, but KISS and their loyal Army of fans have continued their march onward. KISS music has been passed from one generation to the next, standing the test of time. The makeup and stage spectacle isn’t there to cover up faults in musical ability. Their songs were never meant to be overly complex or as intricate as a band like Rush. Simple chords and lyrics coupled with catchy hooks were all they ever needed; feel good music to just simply rock too. Several artists and bands have come and gone over the last several decades, trying to emulate what KISS captured and projected from the early ’70s. But in the end, nobody has ever been able to come close to what this band has done for nearly 50 years. If this is indeed the end of the line for KISS, there is no better way to go out than with an explosive “Thank you!” and “Goodnight!”

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1. Detroit Rock City
2. Shout It Out Loud
3. Deuce
4. War Machine
5. Heaven’s On Fire
6. I Love It Loud
7. Say Yeah
8. Cold Gin
9. Lick It Up
10. Calling Dr. Love
11. Tears Are Falling
12. Psycho Circus
13. God of Thunder
14. Love Gun
15. I Was Made For Loving You
16. Black Diamond

17. Beth
18. Do You Love Me
19. Rock And Roll All Nite

Show Date: 10/16/2021

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Born in Scotland, raised in the United States, based in Chicago. Ian Bardecki is a professional photographer, avid motorcyclist, reader, IT geek, gaming and comic book nerd, who was bathed in music at a young age by his mother who constantly played classical piano in their home. While she also introduced him to the Beatles and Elvis, his father forced on him Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, the local paper boy had him listening to Alice Cooper, his uncle then turned him onto KISS and his first 8 track tape, while his friends turned him onto punk music. Today, his music library ranges from Amadeus Mozart to ZZ Ward and everything in between. Hesitantly agreeing to fill in one night to photograph a concert at a local venue in San Francisco for a friend, was where the accidental love and passion for concert photography was born and hasn’t stopped growing since. As a freelance photographer, Ian has had the honor of working with various artists like, John 5, Sick Puppies, Scott Stapp, Drowning Pool, Anti-Flag and Art of Dying, just to name a few. Ian can be found on Instagram and Facebook under Center Stage Pictures.