September 14, 2003
Hi-Fi Buys Amphitheatre - Atlanta



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This is quite possibly the biggest and baddest rock and roll tour in years. The co-headlining KISS / Aerosmith jaunt has called both bands to the mat to defend their legendary status and compete for the title of America’s greatest rock band. In Atlanta, there was no clear winner.


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KISS pulled out all the stops for the duration of their 70-minute set. From the first concussion bombs of “Detroit Rock City” as the fully made up foursome descended on a riser from the lighting rig, they made it clear that they weren’t going to let their “opener” status stop them from delivering the spectacle that made them a love ‘em or hate ‘em household name a quarter of a century ago.

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Front man Paul Stanley pouted and preened, working out his well-preserved body and voice as bassist/vocalist/multi-media mogul Gene Simmons prowled his side of the stage growling out “Deuce” and “I Love It Loud.” Peter Criss seemed to be having a good time but (for the first few songs anyway) seemed to drag behind and keep the songs from reaching full fist-pumping potential.

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New kid Tommy Thayer stood in for Ace Frehley in the “spaceman” costume. Thayer did an incredible job for someone in such a delicate situation. It’s doubtful that the majority of the audience knew there was someone else underneath the grease paint and he certainly nailed all of Frehley’s leads.

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By the time Gene Simmons did his blood-vomiting shtick and “flew” up into the rafters for “God Of Thunder,” the diehards were completely entranced with rock and roll madness.

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A pyrotechnic “100,000 Years” was followed by a colossal “Black Diamond” replete with dozens of explosions, fiery pinwheels and hydraulic lifts. A solo version of Peter Criss’ “Beth” was a brief diversion before the fire and brimstone of  “Love Gun” which was followed quickly by the firestorm of “Rock And Roll All Nite” It was clear when Stanley announced, “even with all the bad news in the world, you’ve got to have a good time” that he and his band were on a mission to provide just that. KISS was almost impossible to follow…almost.

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Aerosmith stepped up to the plate with “Mama Kin” and knocked the ball out of the park on the first pitch. Without the glitz and literal bombast of KISS, all hopes were pinned on human fireball Steven Tyler.

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He didn’t disappoint. Whether it was with aerial pike-splits, somersaults or simply attempting to mate with a stage fan, Tyler kept the momentum high (even if he and his band mates no longer are). “Same Old Song And Dance” and “Last Child” blended nicely with the recent MTV material like “Jaded” and “Pink.”

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Guitarist Joe Perry worked his instrument with the assurance and swagger of the blues as opposed to blues’ bastard offspring, rock and roll. Perry, often shirtless, was buff and stood in stark contrast to the wasted image Aerosmith once represented. The rest of the band remained in the background, but never did they play anything less than stellar.

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A few audience members seemed to get restless during the little-too-long honky tonk set that culminated in a killer cover of “Baby Please Don’t Go” which is to be featured on their upcoming back to basics album. Then it was back to the delirium of the staples.

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“Dream On” and “Walk This Way” found the audience re-hyped and re-energized. A closing double shot of “Sweet Emotion” and “Toys In The Attic” was capped with a massive confetti snowstorm that really made it look like Minneapolis in Atlanta. As the crowd walked out, “snow” continued falling outside of the partially enclosed venue.

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This tour showed Aerosmith and KISS at their best. KISS are still the greatest American showmen. There’s no way around that. They haven’t released any vital music in ages (the newest song tonight was of legal drinking age), but the band still has the energy and audacity to destroy all comers…except for the one playing with them tonight. Aerosmith is aging like their blues heroes. They keep getting better. The playing has matured even if the gloriously decadent attitude has not. Seeing Aerosmith now doesn’t leave any longing to have seen them in the “glory days” because this has got to be better. KISS aims for the gut and Aerosmith aims for the crotch. They’re both the best at what they do.

Chris McKay /