Monday, April 11, 2011

Kiss and tell

When I read this story about Kiss playing Grand Falls-Windsor my first reaction was to mock. Well, all right, I might have already mocked on Twitter. But that was mainly due to the absolutely ludicrous lede. I don't know if it's Ms. Colbourne's fault or if she has a desk to close to Steve Bartlett at the Telegram and suffered a temporary loss in sanity. Look, most people don't consider Kiss to be the most influential rock band in history. Virtually no one does. If you're going to have discussions about most important rock bands of all time then you mention The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin and The Ramones to start with. Kiss is a great rock band in the same way that Def Leppard and Bon Jovi are. And yes, that's meant exactly as backhanded as you think.

Now, the easy thing is to mock the band for playing Grand Falls. I've long had the theory that Newfoundland is the elephant graveyard of rock music. Bands who were big once stagger to the island, trying to desperately grasp one last burst of glory before wandering off into the Atlantic to die. Or shot out of mercy. It doesn't always work. April Wine and Trooper keep playing there despite the best efforts of some to put them out of their misery. But it's rare that a band in their prime plays in the province.

To say Kiss is past their "Best By" date would be an understatement. I'm pretty sure they haven't had a hit in 25 years. Oh, I'm sure it'll be an entertaining enough show for the devoted, but if I was in Newfoundland would I pay $70 to go and see them? Hell no. I wouldn't pay them that much if they were actually in St. John's. Paying to see them in Grand Falls? Not in this lifetime.

But an interesting thing happened on the way to this blog post, which has been brewing for a few days. I read this article from Rolling Stone the other day about Bob Seger. It's a great interview (how the hell is his stuff not up on iTunes) and talking about how he's not doing this too much longer because, well, he's 65 years old and chain smokes and playing for a couple of hours on stage kind of hurts these days. Seger probably hasn't had a hit since 'Breakdown' from the Beverly Hills Cop movie.

For that matter, Jackson Browne is on tour right now doing solo acoustic shows. I have two of the solo acoustic albums and they're fantastic. But again, no idea when he last had a hit song.

Now, I could make the point that I consider both Seger and Browne to be much better than Kiss, but of course, that's a matter of taste. And, I would argue, common sense, but anyway...

So I can't get up on my horse too high about people willing to pay to see Kiss. If that's your thing, more power to you. I'd pay good money to go see Seger in a second. I think Browne was playing in St. John's and tickets were a pretty penny. So logically, I can't really mock if you're willing to drive all the way to Grand Falls and stand outside for hours to watch Kiss play a set.

But understand, I really, really want to.

Last Five
1. American Idiot - Cast of American Idiot
2. The fixer - Pearl Jam
3. Blackbird - Neil Diamond
4. The masterplan - Oasis
5. Take this waltz (live) - Leonard Cohen*


Hallett said...

Methinks you are seeing this a bit through 1995 eyes.

The economics of the music business are not what they were.

There is now zero, repeat, zero money in recorded music. (Itunes sells iPods, not music, really).

In orer to sustain their income bands of all stripes are touring a lot more. A Canadian dollar that is at par with the US dollar has made our country a lot more attractive then it used to be. Canada also has a better tax regieme for touring musicians, which makes any Canadian date very viable. If the expenses even out, Grand Falls is as attractive a date as Toronto.

Gene SImmons also produces a very popular TV show, which they have been trying to bring to Newfoundland for years, as his wife and co-star can make hay with her local roots.

All in all, there is mroe going on here then yet another faded band on a graveyard tour.

Clare said...

So when did having a "hit" have to do with having great music? Its nice when it does. I own Jackson Browne's last album because of you and your damn Rolling Stone's list. It was on last years top 30 albums list.

I've had a BoDean's song running through my head for the last several days because it is just such a damned evocative song. I'd go see them in a heart beat despite their never having a hit (the WhoDeans?)

But your "rock bands in the hinterlands" theme has me now wanting to right a True Crime post on the Trooper murders. Must get at that.

Anonymous said...

Check out this video interview with Billy Joe Armstrong and the director of American Idiot on music, the Broadway show, etc: "Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong with Michael Mayer" (

Adam Snider said...

Not to shit all over Grand Falls (my girlfriend is from their, after all), but they don't even have 14,000 people living there. I know that the town is relatively large by Newfoundland standards, but 14,000 seems like an incredibly small town even for a relatively washed-up band like Kiss.

It seems like too small a place for the costs to be worthwhile for a band like Kiss who, while not exactly in the prime of their career, are still fairly popular and can probably sellout arenas in much larger cities.

Adam Snider said...

Oops...I didn't realize that they're playing Salmon Fest. I assume that there will be people driving in from other parts of the island, then, so maybe my comment about "a mere 14,000 people" doesn't hold-up.

Hallett said...

The way the live music business works at that level, a band like Kiss would be paid a flat fee for their appearance, plus another fee to cover all their travel and production expenses.

Before Kiss even show up, the town of Grand Falls-Windsor, though their proxies, will have to pay Kiss the full fee up front. Whether five people or 50,000 show up is neither here nor there to Gene and Paul. They get the same money whether they play in LA or Timbuctu.

Steph said...

I just got back from my first trip back home since 2003 and heard Def Leppard on the radio for the first time since then.

Anonymous said...

Rock is timeless. Have you seen any of the stuff from Deep Purple lately? Check them out on youtube. I will take stuff over the contemporary crap any day