KISS has been coming to Scranton a lot over the past few years, but the foursome hailed as “the hottest band in the world” made sure it brought along some extra firepower for its 40th anniversary celebration on Saturday night.
In August 2010, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons brought the “Hottest Show On Earth” to Montage Mountain, and in September 2012, the band was in town for “The Tour” with Motley Crue. This time, they brought along co-headliner Def Leppard for nearly three hours of one rock anthem after another.
Def Leppard was up first, hitting the stage at The Pavilion at Montage Mountain at 8 p.m. full throttle with “Let It Go” from 1981’s “High ‘n’ Dry” and “Animal” from 1987’s “Hysteria.”
The British quintet of Joe Elliott (lead vocals), Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell (guitars), Rick Savage (bass) and Rick Allen (drums) then kept up its early attack with “Foolin’” and “Love Bites.”
While most of the huge crowd sported KISS t-shirts and face paint (one guy near the front was decked out in a full Ace Frehley-inspired ensemble), it stood and sang along heartily for Def Leppard’s entire 75-minute set.
“Hey Scranton, do you want to get rocked?” Elliott needlessly asked before the group’s 1992 smash “Let’s Get Rocked.” He then picked up an acoustic guitar for a nicely stripped down version of “Two Steps Behind.”
“Bringing on the Heartbreak” started as an acoustic sing along before the rest of the band kicked in, then it was on to an extended instrumental jam with each band member getting a turn in the spotlight.
In a classy touch, Elliott added two lines of the KISS classic “Beth” at the finish of “Hysteria,” then the band headed toward the finish line with “Rocket,” “Armageddon It” and “Pour Some Sugar On Me.”
After a brief retreat from the stage, the band encored with revved-up renditions of “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph.”
On any other night on any other tour, that blistering 75-minute performance would have been enough to send the crowd home happy, but Saturday night’s spectacle was just getting started.
As an arsenal of pyrotechnics was unleashed and white streamers showered the crowd, KISS took the stage about 9:40 p.m. with the Starchild Stanley leading the crowd through “Psycho Circus,” the title track of the band’s 1998 album. Simmons then went all the way back to the band’s 1974 self-titled debut for “Deuce.”
“It’s Saturday night, right?” Stanley inquired after the second song. “How about we have a rock-‘n’-roll party?
“You’re looking at a band tonight that’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” he continued to a thunderous ovation. “You made it happen, people! They couldn’t stop you!”
The foursome now consisting of Stanley, Simmons, guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer then bombarded the crowd with more pyro and the tunes “Shout It Out Loud” and “War Machine.”
Simmons breathed fire at the finish of “Hotter Than Hell,” then the band carried on with “I Love It Loud” and its one foray into its forgotten 1980s catalog with “Lick It Up.”
Simmons did his usual spitting blood and flying routine before ending up at the top of the lighting rig, looking like the center of a gigantic spider for “God of Thunder.”
Stanley did his usual flying out to the satellite stage for “Love Gun,” before returning to the main stage for “Black Diamond” with lead vocals by Singer.
“That would have been the end of the show and we would have gone over there and waited for you to call us back out, every band does it,” Stanley said after “Black Diamond.” “Problem with that is there’s a curfew and if we’re over there, we can’t be here playing for you.”
The show then came to a spectacular conclusion with the one-two punch of “Detroit Rock City” and “Rock and Roll All Nite” as a massive amount of confetti littered the entire amphitheater and the crew set off enough fireworks to put some Fourth of July displays to shame.
As the video screen displayed, “KISS Loves You Scranton” and the recorded version of “God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You II” filled the air, the KISS Army was already planning for the band’s next invasion of Scranton.