The Rock Gods Are Still Crazy.
My Evening with KISS & Aerosmith.
December 3, 2003
Where do I begin to tell you about my absolutely amazing Wednesday night? First of all, let me just say that I still cannot hear a THING! FIRST ROW CENTER tends to do that to you! Yes, I repeat… first row center. David Leach, my friend and co-worker at Big3 Records, happens to be a very good friend of Doc McGhee, KISS’ Manager. They have known each other for years and worked together when David was head of Mercury Records and Doc managed Bon Jovi and the Scorpions. Anyway, thanks to Doc, we had amazing tickets that made for a truly amazing night. Let me tell ya about it.
We started the evening backstage with Doc and several folks from Big3 Records. The atmosphere was very relaxed and inviting. I was minding my own business just people-watching when I happened to look up and see Gene Simmons of KISS in full makeup heading toward me. He literally took my breath away. He was such an unreal character and his presence was ominous. Although my husband, Phil, and I could barely speak (Gene is one of Phil’s idols), we managed to smile and pose for a photo with him. Gene was very kind to stop for a second to take a photo that will hang on our wall FOREVER.
As we headed further backstage, I noticed Brad Whitford just about to walk by. I also saw Joey Kramer, but he appeared to be in a hurry and I didn’t want to be a bother. Brad, however, was nice enough to pose for a quick pic and then went on his way. Before I was even able to look up from the digital camera, there stood Tom Hamilton with his back to me. Silly me… I go up to Tom nonchalantly and say, “Hey, Brad… could I get a picture with you.” Yes… I called him Brad! He said, “Sure, but I’m Tom.” DUH!!! I apologized (and totally knew his name!)… I just got caught up in all the excitement of the moment, especially since I had just taken a photo with Brad. It figures… I finally get to meet these guys… they don’t know me from Adam… and I call the bass player by the wrong name. Ho hum!
As I scanned the crowd hanging out backstage, I noticed Steven Tyler of Aerosmith standing amongst a large group of people. Well, I just couldn’t wait to get a close-up pic of him so I wiggled my way into the group in a not-so-intrusive manner and waited patiently for him to finish his conversation. All I could think of was “Wow… that’s really him!” Phil and I have been HUGE Aerosmith fans for years. Steven Tyler is also one of Phil’s idols and he absolutely loves to sing Aerosmith tunes. Here we were backstage and standing there before us was Steven Tyler, Rock God Superstar. Even the air smelled different. His aura was amazing… just being in his presence was a really cool experience. Finally, Steven’s conversation came to a close and I jumped in to ask for a photograph. Steven was the nicest guy… very pleasant and very sincere. He just leaned in toward me and Phil and gave a big grin. In the photo he looked as though we were all best of friends. That was so cool of him. There I was standing next to someone who is larger than life, and he was smiling into my digital camera. He even autographed my Just Push Play CD. Pretty cool, huh?
Before heading to our seats, Doc brought me a photo pass so I would be able to take pictures of both bands during the show. Some of the photos are truly amazing. I’m sure all those years of thumbing through Circus and Hit Parader Magazine when I was a kid helped me hone in on my talent for knowing a good shot when I see one. I would absolutely love to submit these photos to the bands to see if they are interested in using the shots. I know there are a million people out there just like me that have a pipe dream of being in the music business, whether as a rock photojournalist or as a publicist, but I gotta tell ya, that pipe dream of mine has become a reality since landing a job in the Publicity Department of Big3 Records, an independent label. I’m still pinching myself… both about the job and my night at the KISS/Aerosmith show. Plus… believe it or not, I AM a published photographer thanks to my pic of Macho Man Randy Savage in the Random Notes section of the October 16, 2003 edition of Rolling Stone Magazine! Yea, baby!!
KISS hit the stage at 8:00pm. We made our way to our seats which, unbelievably enough, were in the front row. This was such a total surprise to all of us. I cannot tell you what it was like to experience KISS in full makeup from that proximity. The guys are the masters of theatrics and they put on an unbelievable show complete with fireworks and pyrotechnics. It was almost like I was the only one in the audience and I have NEVER felt that way when seeing a concert. I could even hear the back-up vocals through the monitor in front of me. Too cool! It was incredibly loud, as I’m sure you can imagine. KISS ran through a fantastic set that included favorites like Love Gun, Lick It Up, and Black Diamond.
A memorable part of the show was Gene’s bass solo. He was only about two feet from us during the solo. Talk about something totally entrancing… watching Gene during his bass solo was like witnessing a demon spawn coming to life. I kid you not. Even the whites of his eyes became fluorescent green as he teetered on his toes in a gargoyle stance. During the solo he even flew up to the rafters as blood was spewing from his mouth. This is, of course, Gene’s claim to fame and I was there to experience it once and for all.
Another highlight of KISS’ performance included Peter Criss taking his spot center-stage to sing the classic ballad, Beth. At the end of the performance, Peter brought out about 4 long-stemmed red roses and handed them to a couple of ladies in the front row. I couldn’t believe my eyes when Peter leaned down toward me and handed me a rose. That part of the live show has been a tradition for years and I was thrilled to be one of the ladies picked out of the crowd! BUT WAIT… THERE’S MORE… At the end of the song, Peter leaned down toward me again and handed me the towel draped around his neck!! Amazing! I stretched out my arm and said, “thank you” to him (although there was no way he could hear me). He must have read my lips because he said “you’re welcome” into the mic for all to hear. Wow! My head was spinning by this time! Is that too much, or what?! All of a sudden I am that person at the concert that probably EVERYONE was looking at. You know… that person you’re seeing and wondering “who is that girl?” as you view the concert through your binoculars from the nose-bleed seats (where I happened to be sitting for the last Aerosmith show!). Why, that would be ME now! Tee Hee!
After a Rock n’ Roll All Nite grand finale, complete with Peter Criss and Gene Simmons on two risers, a fireworks display, and Paul Stanley slamming his guitar to bits, KISS made their exit from the stage. Once again we made our way backstage and waited in line to meet KISS at their official meet & greet. Each person or couple in line had their picture taken with all four members of Kiss (all of whom are original members except for Tommy Thayer, guitarist stepping in for Ace Frehley. I remembered Tommy from his days with Black n’ Blue back in the ‘80s. I loved to rock out to all those cool tunes on the Black n’ Blue album. Love that guy!). Our photo turned out so cool. I’m all smiles with my Peter Criss towel and red rose while my husband does his best Gene imitation by sticking out his tongue and raising his hand in the classic “rock n’ roll” pose. The pic is definitely a keeper!
OK… so now on to Aerosmith. We made our way back to the front of the stage. It was packed! Last count I heard there were 13,000 people there to bear witness to one of the greatest rock shows of the decade. The guys had already taken to the stage and opened their show. There was such a cool vibe in the air and you could literally feel the energy flowing between the band and their eager audience. Their show was absolutely amazing! Steven Tyler was such an incredible entertainer! He was all over the stage and the catwalk that extended out into the crowd on the floor. That man gets a workout at every show, that’s for sure. At one point, Steven even swung out on a rope over the crowd, including me. I missed that shot with the camera, though. I was just too caught up in the moment!
How do I even begin to put my front row experience into a cohesive statement? Imagine Joe Perry jamming on the guitar right in front of you and you can feel the crunch-crunch of the chords vibrating through your entire being. I swear my soul was reverberating. At one point during the show, Steven literally leaned right into my face while he sang, played the harmonica, and emitted vibes of passion. You would not have believed your eyes if you experienced the show from where I was standing. I could have reached out and touched him while he was singing but instead of being the rabid, crazy, groupie (excuse me… “band aid!”) girl probably expected of me, I totally respected his space and decided to snap as many photos as I could. And the photos I took were absolutely incredible. He was singing only to me… I know it!
The guys played through a ton of my personal favorites including Toys in the Attic, Dream On, Sweet Emotion, Train Kept A Rolling, and Jaded, and also performed three new songs from their upcoming album. The crowd was on their feet air guitaring, drumming, and screaming along through the entire set. Aerosmith never sounded or performed better live. They never once missed a beat and their energy was truly infectious.
Funny enough, Henry, a Big3 Records co-worker and friend, is Godfather to Liv Tyler, Steven’s daughter. How bizarre! During the show, Steven even dedicated a song to Henry and his family. Wow! How cool is THAT? The show literally left me out of breath. The guys were truly amazing live – their stage presence was mesmerizing and their sound was so good it felt as though you had been kicked in the gut. Standing there you realize these guys are the real deal. Experiencing Aerosmith live is an event in itself. It totally brings you back to your youth. You remember once and for all why rock is in your blood and why you will always be singing along with their timeless melodies. Unbelievable!
As I come to a close, can I just tell you that Phil and I were totally blown away? We still have not recovered! Funny enough, I told Phil we were going to the concert, but I did not tell him about the backstage passes. Neither of us knew we would have front row seats so we were both incredibly surprised by that one. Understandably, we didn’t want the night to end. Phil and I were literally walking on cloud nine as we left the venue and made our way to the parking lot. We had just experienced one of the greatest moments in our lives, and even though that sounds really strange, if you consider this statement is coming from two music lovers who totally dig the music of both of these bands, I’m sure you can then put this experience into perspective and understand why this was a dream come true for us. All the way home, Phil was speechless. He was almost in a stupor. The same words kept coming out of his mouth… “Holy crap, Shar!” I think that just about sums it up, don’t you?!