Venue: Madison Square Garden (New York, NY)
Opener: New England
Label: Casablanca Records
Today is a day for me to celebrate a personal Music Milestone and while we have a section devoted to such things here on PiercingMetal.com, the overall narrative will be filed in our Event Reviews area as it’s a milestone of a concert review. You see, it was forty years ago today that I would attend my very first concert ever and it would be the second night of the return of KISS to Madison Square Garden. In 1979 I was just past my fourteenth year and after some major begging had convinced my parents to take me to the concert. It took some doing and I think by the time that I had gotten my Dad on the same page that the first night was sold out. I was fine with the second night since at that point in my young life I had no idea about how to be about a concert. This was going to be my first time seeing the Hard Rock superheroes that I had been loving on record, in comic books, on trading cards and in action figures. Now it was time for the real deal spectacle as the guys would be touring for their “Dynasty” album and doing two shows in their hometown.
The ”Dynasty” album was getting a lot of radio play on the Rock Stations of the time thanks to the signature hit “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” which as you know was also more of a Disco number. That style of music was still riding high in 1979 and pretty much inescapable for those who wished to hide from it. Fortunately, my friends and I would find solace in radio stations like WNEW and WPLJ who were all Rock all the time. Anyway, so after a journey into the city braving the subway line directions from my parents, my friend and I met up with them and I guess we had something quick to eat before the show. I don’t recall that much but considering our age and the proximity, it was very likely McDonald’s. We entered the cavernous Madison Square Garden and I remember being floored by the amount of merchandise with the bands logo and faces on them. I didn’t manage to buy anything that night but I wanted the tour book and discovered that I could order one from the KISS Shop after the show so I would do that a few weeks later.
The opening band was called New England, and I had never heard of them before. I guess they might have been new at the time but as I mentioned my overall exposure to a larger range of bands was still rather limited and most of my grammar school friends that I had just left classes from were into the Grateful Dead and New Riders Of The Purple Sage. Now as I mentioned I was a fan of traditional Rock radio, but I don’t think I ever heard a New England song before this evening and the band had a single album out at the time which was their self-titled debut release. Two of the bands most staple numbers would fall to “Hello, Hello, Hello” and “Don’t Ever Wanna Lose Ya”. The band featured members John Fannon, Jimmy Waldo, Gary Shea and Hirsh Gardner and while they were very likely solid at their craft, my overall excitement about seeing the mighty KISS in the flesh as soon as they were done found me not caring for them all that much. Sorry guys, it was nothing personal, but you were wasting my pre-KISS time at that point in my life.
The lights soon went out and smoke filled a very sparse stage setup and after the announcer yelled “All Right New York City! You Wanted The Best and You Got The Best, The Greatest Band In The World KISS!!!!” the band was there and hitting their instruments opening up with “King Of The Night Time World” from the “Destroyer” album. Though not all of the memories are as clear this many years later, I do recall wondering why it wasn’t “Detroit Rock City” since that was how it was on the “Alive II” album that I was playing to death at home. I was also a bit amazed that they were not referred to as “The Hottest Band In The World” but either title worked for sure. I also remember my father saying “Holy Shit” when the band appeared from down below the stage. One minute they were empty platforms and the next the band was standing in all their glory in the colorful “Dynasty” costumes. Next up, Gene took the spotlight with their classic “Let Me Go Rock ‘N’ Roll” from the “Hotter Than Hell” album and all around me the diehards raised their horns like he was doing and wagged their tongues.
Paul would talk a little bit before delivering a song from his solo album from 1978. This would be “Move On” and one of the more popular numbers from the album. Diehards will remember that KISS released four individual solo records back in 1978 and while some was great there was some that was just not. Gene was back for “Calling Dr. Love” and Paul donned a NYFD helmet for “Firehouse” and as was common for the time, Gene would spit fire during the closing of this song. I was on the edge of my seat for sure and pretty close to losing my voice already. Ace brought out a lighted guitar for his hit “New York Groove” and this was a song that I would learn years later was a cover of a band called Hello. I never bothered to look into it until a few weeks before penning this show report and its pretty darned close. The now radio staple of “IWMFLY” was next and found the whole room moving and shaking their groove things. We were up in the old blue section that no longer existed when they redid the Garden, so I didn’t dance as much as I stood up and shouted the song with my fellow KISS mavens.
Gene’s bass solo found him spitting up the blood which was something I had only seen before on commercials for albums and in a video from the “Destroyer” years that was broadcast on HBO from Japan. After he spit the blood, the Demon actually flew up to the rigging and then it was onto “God Of Thunder”. I love this song and especially the live version. This would lead us into the Peter Criss drum solo and his massive kit would elevate high above the stage. It was so cool to see this in person at long last since seeing it on photographs only revealed so much of the magic. The night was drawing closer to its end but inside I didn’t care as each explosion found me screaming and each bomb burst left my mouth open wide in awe of how cool it was to witness. My Rock and Roll Superheroes would deliver “Shout It Out Loud” and “Black Diamond” (which Peter would sing the majority of) before finally getting to “Detroit Rock City” and all around me the audience that was in my demographic were strapping on the air guitars. It was time to get a little air and that was when Peter came out to the front of stage to do “Beth” and during the number the lighters will held high despite the potential risk for burning one’s fingers. Yes my friends, back in this bygone time we couldn’t hold up a mobile phone screen and wave it back and forth. Carrying a lighter to a concert would become something we all did even if we didn’t smoke because they were needed to show our approval during certain parts of a show.
Now the saying goes that all good things must come to an end and we had arrived at “Rock and Roll All Nite” which is the bands usual closing number. This is the Rock and Roll anthem as they proudly exclaimed and for many, many years this was my favorite song. I think that I even had this listed in my yearbook as such and for many years I would play this number with friends bands if they asked me to come up and play a little drums but I digress. Witnessing “Rock and Roll All Nite” as a concert newbie was a mind-blowing event and one that I feel changed the way I would think about live Rock music going forward. I left the concert with no voice and yet still had the eagerness to talk about it the whole way home and then into the next day and the days that followed to any of my friends who had no yet been converted to the mighty works of KISS. I do wish that I had my ticket stub but oh well, such things were not really kept back then and I still got to go to the show thanks to my amazing parents. As a matter of fact, before I penned this little tale up I called them and scrolled back through time to remind them what day it was. Needless to say they were both pretty shocked and I thanked them again for helping me be influenced by such a band. KISS remains my very favorite band to this day and I see them whenever its possible for me to do so. They are on their on “End Of The Road” World Tour now and will be coming back to NYC in August so let’s see if I do one more show before it ends. As I close this up, I have to say that I strongly recommend that my friends with kids or younger siblings to take these individuals to a concert and maybe even their first. Who knows, maybe in 20 or 30 or even 40 years they will surprise you with the notion that you helped change their own view on music. Thanks for reading, thank you KISS and thank you Mom and Dad.
1. King of the Night Time World
2. Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll
3. Move On
4. Calling Dr. Love
6. New York Groove
7. I Was Made for Lovin’ You
8. Christine Sixteen
9. 2000 Man
10. Guitar Solo
11. Love Gun
12. Bass Solo
13. God of Thunder
14. Drum Solo
15. Shout It Out Loud
16. Black Diamond
17. Detroit Rock City
19. Rock and Roll All Nite
Discovered this clip on YouTube from the previous night of the NYC appearances. This is very, very rare stuff for sure.
I also went into Spotify and built a Public Playlist of the songs played during this show and its a fun mix of live stuff and solo albums which allowed me to get every song into the mix. Feel free to enjoy this by clicking HERE.