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Review: Losing our minds in P.A. Rock City

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

by Scott Roos

photos by Deanna Roos

This past Friday, June 10th, Winnipeg based KISS tribute act Last Kiss gave a proper rock show to the small but enthusiastic crowd in attendance at the EA Rawlinson Centre of the Arts. With many onlookers clad in KISS t-shirts and some even sporting their heros' classic makeup, Last Kiss provided two sets of reverently prepared material that was heavy on the Paul Stanley songbook. To his credit, though, Justin Seguin's interpretation of the Starchild was pretty spot on - eerily so. Honestly, the whole show kind of made you hearken back to the early 70's when KISS was still a young, fresh, and hungry rock act. It was like watching KISS play a small club.

Last Kiss played two sets on this particular evening as they usually do. The first was meant to encapsulate KISS's Alive era with tracks chosen primarily from the self titled, Hotter Than Hell and Dressed To Kill albums. Opening with "Deuce" the band rolled through this set in pretty convincing fashion. With the Rawlinson being a "soft seater" venue, however, obviously some of the expected KISS antics could not happen. There were no massive pyro explosions and no fire breathing antics, unfortunately (but also understandable), but the band made up for it with classic KISS stage moves and banter, musical accuracy, pitch perfect costumes, and solid stage presence.

The band took a short break before returning in the costumes of the famed Love Gun/Alive II era. Songs primarily from Destroyer, Rock n' Roll Over and Love Gun were performed during this set although the band did perform mega, Dynasty album, disco hit "I Was Made For Loving You". They also cranked out non-makeup era, can't leave the building without playing, "Lick It Up" and "Heaven's On Fire".

Opening this second set with "Detroit Rock City", the band once again presented as a tight four piece. Demon apparelled Scott Kelly seemed to loosen up quite a bit during this portion of the performance. He didn't sing a huge amount of songs in either set but his "Calling Dr. Love" and "God of Thunder" were very much appreciated. Would be awesome to hear more of this kind of thing from him in the future like "Love em and Leave em", for instance. Anyways, with serpent boots upon his feet, he did the famed "crab walk" stance that Gene Simmons does and it was cool to see. Kelly also spat blood which prompted a random person to shout out "That is AWESOME!". He said what everyone was thinking.

Spaceman Garrett Laye nailed all the Frehley notes on a vintage looking sunburst Les Paul. There's a certain way that Frehley holds a guitar, and stands or rather leans, while he solos and Laye had that down. With Frehley arguably being the most beloved member of the original KISS lineup it would be nice to see him sing "Shock Me" in the second set. It's Frehley's signature song and it's almost certain that any self-respecting KISS Army member would mark hard if Laye was able to crank this one out. It's a good next step in the progression of this band to get him doing some lead vocals. But Laye is f*cking awesome at what he does to be sure.

Finally, newest member of Last Kiss, Catman drummer Paul Sinnoca handled the kit admirably. His style leaned a bit more into Eric Carr than Peter Criss, with a hard driving rhythmic style at the forefront, which was the calling card of the non-makeup era, as opposed to the jazzy, Gene Krupa-esque backbeat of the early records. Sinnoca's drum solo was pretty Catmany, though, and was met with hoots and hollers of appreciation from the crowd. As mentioned with Laye's Spaceman performance, it would be great to see/hear Sinnoca take on some lead vocal duties on a few songs. "Beth" is arguably one of the two biggest hits in the KISS songbook and the Rod Stewart vibes that Criss puts forward on "Hard Luck Woman" would be a welcome change from the sex infused swagger of a lot of the Simmons/Stanley songs.

At the end of the day, though, Last Kiss, as a tribute act, for a fraction of the cost of an actual KISS concert, is giving fans a pretty legitimate alternative to the real thing. They handle the source material with great care and have obviously studied the tapes and present like they are the actual band. And, truthfully, isn't that why people see tribute bands? Also, from their performance at the Rawlinson the other night, it should be noted that they are a helluva lot of fun. Highly recommended...

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