Hell yeah, Kiss have started releasing official bootlegs. Proving that they “get” the concept, the first in what we hope will be a long series, is a lineup never before heard on any official Kiss release. After the lengthy reunion and Psycho Circus tours, Kiss embarked on a “Farewell Tour” that really wasn’t. It was just the farewell to the original lineup, and specifically Peter Criss. Ace Frehley stayed on board for the time being and Eric Singer was brought in as the new Catman. This lineup lasted until Frehley left and Criss came back for the Kiss Symphony, but was never documented in any official capacity.
Confusing? Just know three things:
- This is really valuable to fans.
- ACE FREHLEY, LEAD GUITAR!
- Paul Stanley was still in great voice back in 2001.
Alright, Tokyo. You wanted the best, you got the best. Let’s have a listen.
An electrifying “Detroit Rock City” opens, and immediately you can hear the pitter-patter of the new Catman making itself evident. Stanley is in fine form, high energy. And the sound is damn decent. Sure, you could wish the vocals were mixed louder and the bass a little lower, but the “official bootleg” is a more honest experience than a polished-up Alive album. And Paul really nails it.
“Deuce” has plenty of those Frehley solos and fills that we miss so much today. Gene is fully engaged and frankly, you don’t miss Peter. Paul says a quick hello in Japanese, and teases the crowd in expert frontman fashion. Then it’s “Shout It Out Loud”, a pretty standard version. Frehley’s “Talk To Me” from Unmasked is the real treat. It is not the first live version released (there was an earlier live take on The Box Set with Eric Carr) but it is rarely heard.
Paul always asks the crowd “How we doin’ so far,” and the pace is slowed down for “I Love It Loud”. This version has particularly good backing vocals in comparison with others. Then Paul needs to know if the crowd is having a good time, just before he pulls off some impressive soulful bellowing. It’s time to call the “Firehouse”, another solid version. Eric Singer’s drumming is noticeably more regimented but the fills are big and bold. It’s just great to have Ace on lead guitar.
Kiss setlists are often safe, and a steady stream of Kiss standbys roll out: “Do You Love Me”, “Dr. Love”, “Heaven’s On Fire” and “Let Me Go, Rock ‘n’ Roll”. It’s a Kiss concert; none of these songs vary much from night to night. None of them suck; Kiss were sounding good and Eric Singer helps beef up the vocals. The extended intro to “Heaven’s On Fire” really highlights what a truly exceptional singer Paul Stanley was. Gene on the other hand is pretty ragged on “Let Me Go, Rock ‘n’ Roll”, not being able to decide what voice he’s singing in. Great to hear Ace take a long solo on it though, all the while Eric Singer filling the backdrop with snares n’ toms.
Frehley takes the spotlight once more on “Shock Me” with his feature solo. Gimme a Frehley version of “Shock Me” any day over a Tommy version. Ace does a weird “Shock Me-ee-ee” thing on the chorus. After telling the crowd that “Tokyo rocks,” he blasts through the fanfare of “Also sprach Zarathustra” on his Gibson. It was indeed the year 2001! Frehley’s solo (almost 10 minutes of it) is a CD highlight for those who miss the Spaceman.
Ending the first disc, “Psycho Circus” was the only track from the most recent Kiss album left in the set. It is always reliable, sounding like classic Kiss, even more so when Ace plays the lead solo (which he didn’t on the album). Continuing on disc two, “Lick It Up” makes its appearance. This is a track that that rules completely with Ace Frehley. “Lick It Up” has always been, let’s face it, a bland song. When you add Ace soloing on it, it’s got some flavour. Could be that the Tokyo Dome version of “Lick It Up” is the best available take out there.
Gene’s bass break is boring without the visuals, but “God of Thunder” is pretty hot, Ace throwing in some squeals that remind you why the real thing was special. This track also includes Eric’s drum solo. Momentum is built on “Cold Gin”, and the monolithic “100,000 Years”. Raw and heavy Kiss with vintage Frehley? Again, outside of Kiss Alive itself, these are probably the best versions you will hear. Paul’s usual sing-a-long in “100,000 Years” is part of the party. “Do you feel alriii-iii-iight!” Nothing is edited out, even when Paul is busy handing out T-shirts and all you have is Eric keeping the beat. Fans appreciate that authenticity.
There’s still plenty of heavy tonnage rock left to go. “Love Gun” can’t be left out, fireworks blasting as Paul flies out over the crowd (which is why the song has an extended intro without vocals). Once Paul’s on his platform in the middle of the arena it’s off to the races. No place for hiding indeed!
The surprise is “I Still Love You” from Creatures of the Night. The only ballad, and a track that was rarely played after the reunion. It has always been a big Paul moment, and this is performed solo without Simmons, Frehley or Singer as part of the intro to “Black Diamond”. Speaking of which, “Black Diamond” is also an album highlight; a version with Eric Singer on lead vocals and Ace Frehley on lead guitar!
Besides the couple rarely played songs, the cool thing about this Tokyo setlist is the pacing. It starts with a bang, and it never really lets go. Even the solo breaks are really just big intros or outros that amplify the moments around them. Then the whole show manages to even pick up the excitement at the end with stellar performances of “Love Gun” and “Black Diamond”. It is also encouraging that Kiss are realizing the value of past lineups, and official bootlegs. As long as they remain willing to highlight songs and band members from nooks and crannies in the band’s history, then the Kiss Off the Soundboard series is a promising one.