Windsor became party central on Friday night as KISS founder Gene Simmons rolled into The Colosseum with a solo band for a special birthday bash that drew fans from as far away as Toronto and the outer reaches of Michigan to celebrate the bass player’s 68th birthday.
Gene brought the energy and excitement of an intimate KISS Kruise performance to the massive casino stage and the majority of the 5,000 in attendance loved it. The set was filled with KISS classics, songs that haven’t been played in years and several rarities, including a few nuggets never performed live until this tour.
Not wearing the outrageous face paint and demon costume he’s known for, Simmons was relaxed and casual for the 90-plus minute performance and he graciously thanked his family, fans and band members for multiple outbursts of Happy Birthday, including a moment where his wife Shannon Tweed-Simmons and daughter Sophie Simmons rolled out a giant birthday cake.
With Shannon and Sophie in tow, it felt like a family event, giving the show an extremely intimate feel. Fans were invited on stage to sing numerous times and Raj Mangipudi, from Michigan KISS tribute band Detroit Rock City, was even invited on stage to sing a killer rendition of Parasite in Gene’s place. Raj and his band would be a great one to see in concert should the band play Windsor in the future.
Gene has been playing slightly different setlists at each show on the tour and Windsor was no different. Loaded with KISS hits like Shout It Out Loud, Rock And Roll All Nite and Calling Dr. Love, the Windsor show was also enhanced with rare tracks like Charisma from the 1979 album Dynasty, a pair of Love Gun album cuts Got Love For Sale and Plaster Caster, and a Beatles cover You’re Going To Lose That Girl. Diehard fans also relished in a powerful version of Radioactive from Gene’s 1978 KISS solo album.
If this was a KISS Kruise performance there would have been a lot more rare and obscure tracks, but for a public show at a venue like The Colosseum, the balance between hits and rarities was impressive and kept both diehards and casual fans interested throughout. But it was Gene himself who was the attraction – his “charisma” and personality shined as he treated the show like a conversation with 5,000 of his closest friends.
He briefly mentioned the first KISS tour which started in Edmonton and recalled how shocked the audience was to see their first glimpse of the early KISS. He also proudly talked about his wife and children, who are all Canadian/US dual citizens. Canada means a lot to Gene and has been an important part of his life since that first tour in 1974 and Windsor had a rare chance to see that.
The Gene Simmons Band was one of the tightest backup bands to hit the casino stage in a while. The talented unit included guitarists Ryan Cook (Skid Row), Jeremy Asbrock (John Corabi) and Philip Shouse (John Corabi, Bo Bice), along with Canadian drummer Brent Fitz (Slash, Alice Cooper, Vince Neil) – Simmons joined the band on bass. Songs like Got Love For Sale and Wall of Sound were as good as or better than the original recordings and an improvised blues jam was also fairly enjoyable, as each band member had a moment to solo.
This was a unique and special concert for Windsor. KISS performed at The Colosseum in both 2009 and 2011, but the idea of Gene Simmons playing more than just the KISS classics was thrilling and intriguing – and the fact that Windsor got the show instead of Detroit was utterly shocking. The only disappointment was that there was no encore.
It was a Birthday Bash fans will be talking about for a while.
Shout It Out Loud
I Love It Loud
You’re Going to Lose That Girl
Got Love for Sale
Do You Love Me
Wall of Sound
Parasite (Raj Mangipudi vocals)
Calling Dr. Love
Rock and Roll All Nite
Photos by Sean Westlake courtesy of Caesars Windsor on Facebook.