Kiss Symphony (The DVD)

I admit it, when I received Kiss Symphony (The DVD) I had some trepidation

I admit it, when I received Kiss Symphony (The DVD) I had some trepidation. I was never a fan of the group; my musical tastes were formed well before they came on the scene. I grew up with Joplin, Hendrix, the Dead, the Airplane and Cream. So I popped in the disc, sat back not really knowing what to expect. I knew from culture osmosis that a Kiss concert was a wild even.

Kiss Symphony (The DVD) provided a vicarious means of attendance. Kiss never plays by the rules formed by others and this is reflected in the way the DVDs are presented in the box. With every other DVD I have ever seen the supplementary is on the second disc of a two disc set, not so here. The extras are on disc one, the concert on disc two. There was actually a reason for this seeming madness, the documentary chronicled what went into making the concern, the behind the scenes look at all the work required before the performers even step foot on the stage. The stage in this case was the Melbourne, Australia’s largest venue. Getting a four man rock group, used to their own ways to work with a professional symphony orchestra was something to witness. I was impressed by the amount of give and take on both sides during this endeavor. Each side had their own set up crews, their own procedures and yet they all seemed determined to make this project work. A far cry from most of the behind the scenes documentaries contained on DVDs this was a little film that could stand on its own. By the time you get to the actual concert you have the feeling that you have been through the preparation, placing this documentary first permits the audience to be invested in the work before the first note is played.

The group itself is by now, after thirty years together, well known. Gene Simons on bass, the Demon, Ace Frehley, Space Ace, Paul Stanley the Star Child and on drums Peter Criss, the Cat Man. The outrageous makeup is a cultural icon, known in some of the most remote parts of he world. Simons is best known for his un-naturally long tongue, a physical attribute he displays often much to the delight of his fans. They are still powerhouses on stage. The amount of energy they produce could have averted the recent blackout here in New York City. Sure the spandex costumes bulge a little in the typical mid-life places, the platform shoes just a little anachronistic but these men can rock and audience. I can understand why the fans are so devoted to this group, they where one of the first to deliver a complete audio and visual experience. The fans respond in kind. I was very impressed by the diversity exhibited by these people. The ages ranged from those of my age to children a few years old, painted in full Kiss makeup, sitting on the shoulders of their fathers. Many in the audience accurately reproduced the outrageous makeup of their idols. Demons, Cats, Space people and Stars adorn people throughout the audience. Everyone knew the music presented, thousands of lips moved in unison mouthing every lyric. Girls barely dressed jumped up and down with the same abandon as the house wives next to them. Little girls no more than ten where dressed in full makeup and costumes rocked on next to men in middle age casual attire. Over the last thirty years the fan base just seems to have grown, taking each generation in turn.

The song list for Kiss Symphony (The DVD) was some twenty one songs divided into three distinct acts. The first act was the band on their own just the four of them before the throngs of fans. Your television transports you there; thanks to the modern wonders of DVD you get the next best thing to being there. There is an excitement that translates from Kiss Symphony (The DVD) more so than most concert DVDs I have seen. In part this is due to the group putting on their best, in part the audience appreciative for the effort given to them. The second act is billed as an acoustic set although semi-acoustic would be a better term. The famous strange shaped instruments are swapped out by roadies for the softer sounds of hollow bodies. Behind the group is the Melbourne Symphony dressed as usual in evening attire but each musician and the conductor sporting full Kiss makeup. A Cat woman blows the flute, a Star Child violinist takes up her bow and the audience is given a softer side of one of the hardest rocking group around. The power ballads are transformed into a semi-classic mood. With act three the first two acts merge, the power instruments return, the group stands up once more and the hard biting rock is now backed with the incredibly enthusiastic orchestra. This was the longest of the three acts and one song melds into the next in a seamless grand spectacle. The more familiar tracks were replaced here with rarely heard songs much to the obvious delight of those in attendance. Even though I started as one who was not a fan I found myself caught up with the show in a fashion I didn’t think was possible.

Kiss Symphony (The DVD) itself is nearly flawless. The box is in the style of a formal invitation, a slip case that opens to hold the two discs and colorful booklet. The audio is in both Dolby 5.1 and a powerful DTS mix. The rear channels where mostly sounds from the audience, clapping, and shouting and almost ever present screams. Little of the reverberation of the group is heard in these rear speakers. The sub woofer was a bit under used. As a former bass player I would have enjoyed more of Simmons bass lines coming out in earth shaking sub woofer tracks. The sound stage was crisp enough so that you can pick out most members of the sixty piece ensemble. Every power chord burst from your speakers and fills the room albeit mostly directed to the front of the room. The video was full screen; the color palette was well balanced and vibrant. There were no discernable compression artifacts, graining or edge problems. Whether you are a long time fan or just someone interested in the synthesis of rock and classical music Kiss Symphony (The DVD) is a buy.

Review by Doug MacLean of

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