KISS In Oklahoma City: A Look Back

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Legendary rockers KISS are bringing their End of the Road Tour to Oklahoma City on Tuesday, February 26 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. The tour purports to be a three-year-long finale to their landmark five-decade career and the band has really upped their game for the last hurrah with a massive new stage and production that will be the envy of the industry. Tickets and VIP packages can be ordered here.

KISS’s strength has always been their live performances. Never ones to view concerts as music recitals, from their 1974 get-go they have assaulted both stage and audience alike with sheer energy, flash, flames, bombs and blood. What seemed surreal and even frightening to their early crowds is now standard fare and is indeed KISS’s enduring legacy to the rock world; a simple glance at concert performances across myriad genres, from Metallica to Lady Gaga to 21 Pilots, bears the band’s pyrotechnic fingerprints.

To celebrate their final Oklahoma City performance, let’s look back at KISS’s 43-year concert history in the Metro.

March 4, 1976
Oklahoma City, OK
Civic Center Music Hall
Opening Act: Mountain Smoke
Attendance / Capacity: 3,200 / 3,200
Tour: Alive!
Setlist: Deuce; Strutter; C’mon and Love Me; Hotter Than Hell; Firehouse; She; Ace Frehley Guitar Solo; Parasite; Nothin’ to Lose; Shout It Out Loud; Gene Simmons Bass Solo; 100,000 Years; Peter Criss Drum Solo – reprise; Black Diamond; Cold Gin; Rock and Roll All Nite; Let Me Go, Rock ‘n Roll

After jetting in from Honolulu on March 2, KISS’s first Oklahoma appearance got off to a rocky start at the hands of Vince Gill. Yes, that Vince Gill. Really. The gig’s original opening act, whose identity seems lost to the mists of time, showed up at the Civic Center, took one look at the crowd and promptly canceled only two hours before show time, leaving promoter Cornucopia Productions scrambling for a replacement. They hired local bluegrass act Mountain Smoke featuring a then 17-year old Vince Gill.

Mountain Smoke’s bassist Hal Clifford recalled: “The promoter called me after 6 PM and said if we could be ready to play by 8 PM he’d get us $5,000. When we walked out on stage the crowd quickly went from subdued amazement to boos. They booed and booed and booed. We made light of it and laughed our way through it. We told the crowd to be sure to have Mom and Dad’s car back by 10 PM. That just made things worse. They were throwing things at us by that point. Vince Gill shot them the bird as we all walked off stage.”

January 7, 1977
Norman, OK
The Lloyd Noble Center
Opening Act: Uriah Heep
Attendance/Capacity: Sold Out
Tour: Rock and Roll Over
Setlist: Detroit Rock City; Take Me; Let Me Go, Rock ‘n Roll; Ladies Room; Firehouse; Makin’ Love; I Want You; Cold Gin; Ace Frehley Guitar Solo; Do You Love Me; Nothin’ to Lose; Gene Simmons Bass Solo; God of Thunder; Peter Criss Drum Solo-reprise; Rock and Roll All Nite; Shout It Out Loud; Beth; Black Diamond

Riding high off the success of their massive crossover hit “Beth,” and their network primetime debut on The Paul Lynde Halloween Special, KISS made their first Norman appearance amid a slew of 63 sold-out shows.

November 15, 1977
Oklahoma City, OK
Myriad Convention Center
Opening Act: Detective
Attendance/Capacity: 14,965/14,965
Tour: Alive II
Setlist: I Stole Your Love; King of the Night Time World; Ladies Room; Firehouse; Love Gun; Let Me Go, Rock ‘n Roll; Makin’ Love; Christine Sixteen; Shock Me; Ace Frehley Guitar Solo; I Want You; Calling Dr. Love; Shout It Out Loud; Gene Simmons Bass Solo; God of Thunder; Peter Criss Drum Solo – reprise; Rock and Roll All Nite; Detroit Rock City; Beth; Black Diamond
The old Myriad was the site of the opening night of KISS’s Alive II Tour, arguably the band’s 1970s peak in popularity. If there’s an image in your mind of classic KISS, this is probably it: the hydraulic lifts, the long lighted twin staircases; a drum riser ascending to the ceiling on the shoulders of two golden cats; and columns of flame knifing 30 feet into the air. 1970s KISS was never bigger and never better.
October 17, 1979
Norman, OK
The Lloyd Noble Center
Opening Act: Breathless
Attendance/Capacity: 10,500/10,500
Tour: Dynasty
Setlist: King of the Night Time World; Let Me Go, Rock ‘n Roll; Move On; Calling Dr. Love; Firehouse; New York Groove; I Was Made for Lovin’ You; Christine Sixteen; 2,000 Man; Ace Frehley Guitar Solo; Love Gun; Gene Simmons Bass Solo; God of Thunder; Peter Criss Drum Solo-reprise; Shout It Out Loud; Black Diamond; Detroit Rock City; Beth; Rock and Roll All Nite

By this time, KISS had dipped their toes in the execrable, if then hugely popular, disco pool. The band had abandoned their monochromatic black and white for a Disneyesque panoply of color. Included in the evening’s production was an enormous disco ball suspended above the crowd which was to split in half at concert’s end and rain down upon the crowd thousands of small circular sponges emblazoned with the KISS logo. The disco ball malfunctioned and the sold-out crowd was effectively told that Norman wasn’t sponge-worthy.

Local concert promoter Max Baker recalls one not-yet-famous Stillwater resident showing up to the gig. “Back then, I was selling tickets to a lot of the concerts in town. And I sold tickets to Garth Brooks for this show.” Brooks, who openly lists KISS as a huge influence on his own performances, would go on to sing “Hard Luck Woman” on the 1995 KISS My A** tribute album.

To protect their faces from being seen by the public, the band stayed over 30 miles away at the old Hilton hotel off May on Northwest Expressway.

March 21, 1983
Norman, OK
The Lloyd Noble Center
Opening Act: Plasmatics
Attendance/Capacity: 3,699 / 12,260
Tour: Creatures of the Night
Setlist: Creatures of the Night; Detroit Rock City; Cold Gin; Calling Dr. Love; Firehouse; Paul Stanley Guitar Solo; I Want You; Vinnie Vincent Guitar Solo – reprise; I Love It Loud; Eric Carr Drum Solo; War Machine; Love Gun; Gene Simmons Bass Solo; God of Thunder; I Still Love You; Black Diamond; Strutter; Rock and Roll All Nite

This was the first time Oklahoma got to see KISS with new members Eric Carr and Vinnie Vincent. Marketed as the band’s 10th anniversary tour, the Creatures of the Night production and album were a return to form in both image and sound, but unfortunately without the attendant popularity. The band’s American fanbase had rapidly eroded as the seventies gave way to the eighties and they played a deafening and brilliant set (featuring a stage that was a Sherman tank come to life complete with a cannon turret drum riser) to a largely empty Lloyd Noble Center. One of the marketing tags for the tour was “If it’s too loud, you’re too old”, a philosophy the band felt compelled to support with every last decibel it could muster. Local promoter Max Baker recalls the gig, “That was the loudest concert I have ever attended. I can remember them shaking the venue’s ceiling tiles loose.”

February 21, 1986
Norman, OK
The Lloyd Noble Center
Opening Act: W.A.S.P.
Attendance/Capacity: 6,116/6,116
Tour: Asylum
Setlist: Detroit Rock City; Fits Like a Glove; Uh! All Night; Cold Gin; Bruce Kulick Guitar Solo; Strutter; Gene Simmons Bass Solo; I Love It Loud; Eric Carr Drum Solo; War Machine; Paul Stanley Guitar Solo; Heaven’s On Fire; I Still Love You; Love Gun; Rock and Roll All Nite; Oh Susannah; Tears Are Falling; Won’t Get Fooled Again; Lick It Up

KISS abandoned their iconic makeup in September 1983, but Oklahoma would have to wait until 1986 to see the band unmasked during their overly flamboyant Asylum tour which included then new guitarist Bruce Kulick.

November 25, 1987
Norman, OK
The Lloyd Noble Center
Opening Act: White Lion
Attendance/Capacity: 3,788/4,000
Tour: Crazy Nights
Setlist: Love Gun; Cold Gin; Bang Bang You; Fits Like a Glove; Crazy Crazy Nights; Eric Carr Drum Solo; Bruce Kulick Guitar solo; No, No, No; War Machine; Reason to Live; Heaven’s On Fire; Gene Simmons Bass Solo; I Love It Loud; Lick It Up; Rock and Roll All Nite; Tears Are Falling; Detroit Rock City

Dressing in the dressing room. That’s turkey dressing, mind you. At this show, local radio station the KATT held a contest where the winner would eat Thanksgiving eve dinner backstage with the band.

Local resident Mike Moon was the lucky winner. “The KATT called me to let me know I’d won. So the day of the concert I ditched school after lunch to start preparing. Once we got there, there were only maybe three other people backstage with us. Gene was the first to come in and he was very friendly to everyone. And then Bruce and Eric…I recall them being very warm and interested in what we were saying. The food was all just craft services so no one ended up sitting down and eating.”

August 25, 1990
Oklahoma City, OK
Myriad Convention Center
Opening Act: Winger, Slaughter
Attendance/Capacity: 5,560/9,600
Tour: Hot In The Shade
Setlist: I Stole Your Love; Deuce; Heaven’s On Fire; Crazy Crazy Nights; Black Diamond; Shout It Out Loud; Strutter; Calling Dr. Love; I Was Made for Lovin’ You; Rise to It; Fits Like a Glove; Hide Your Heart; Lick It Up; God of Thunder; Eric Carr Drum Solo – reprise; Forever; Cold Gin; Tears Are Falling; I Love It Loud; Love Gun; Detroit Rock City; I Want You; Rock and Roll All Nite

The band’s massive Hot in the Shade production rolled into OKC on Gene Simmons’s birthday and several females were seen with special black passes that granted the holder access to the after-show party that took place in the backstage hot tub room. Earlier in the year, KISS had their first Top 10 hit since 1976 with a power ballad named, “Forever.”

September 11, 1996
Oklahoma City, OK
Myriad Convention Center
Opening Act: The Hunger
Attendance/Capacity: 9,423/10,343
Tour: Alive/Worldwide
Setlist: Deuce; King of the Night Time World; Do You Love Me; Calling Dr. Love; Cold Gin; Watchin’ You; Firehouse; I Stole Your Love; Shock Me; Ace Frehley Guitar Solo; Let Me Go, Rock ‘n Roll; Shout It Out Loud; Strutter; Gene Simmons Bass Solo; God of Thunder; Peter Criss Drum Solo – reprise; New York Groove; Love Gun; 100,000 Years; Black Diamond; Detroit Rock City; Beth; Rock and Roll All Nite

In 1996, KISS’s Alive/Worldwide reunion tour, with its near-instant sellouts of multiple major city concerts (four at Madison Square Garden alone) became the zenith of the band’s career. With original members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss back in the band for the first time in 17 years, KISS were in the midst of a massive 192-show international tour when they returned to Oklahoma City; the conquering heroes. They didn’t disappoint. With classic Love Gun-era KISS costumes, staging, and setlist, KISS played to its largest OKC crowd since 1979.

While in town the band filmed an anti-drug PSA that ran for years on local television.

April 4, 2000
Oklahoma City, OK
Myriad Arena
Opening Acts: Ted Nugent, Skid Row
Attendance/Capacity: 12,533/12,533
Tour: The Farewell Tour
Setlist: Detroit Rock City; Deuce; Shout It Out Loud; I Love It Loud; Shock Me; Firehouse; Do You Love Me; Calling Dr. Love; Psycho Circus; Heaven’s On Fire; Let Me Go, Rock ‘n Roll; 2,000 Man Ace Frehley Guitar Solo/Medley: Parasite – New York Groove – Ozone – Snowblind – Hard Times; Lick It Up; Gene Simmons Bass Solo; God of Thunder; Cold Gin; 100,000 Years; Peter Criss Drum Solo – reprise; Love Gun; Black Diamond; Beth; Rock and Roll All Nite

The tour, despite the title and marketing angle, wasn’t remotely its true farewell, as 19 (and counting) years of additional touring will attest. But it was a farewell of the reformed original lineup. Ted Nugent, who’d been sharing the stage with KISS since their respective halcyon days in the mid-1970s, helped rile up the sold-out crowd

December 14, 2003
Oklahoma City, OK
Ford Center
Co-Headline Act: Aerosmith
Opening Act: Porch Ghouls
Attendance/Capacity: 11,259/19,459
Tour: World Domination Tour
Setlist: Detroit Rock City; Deuce; Shout It Out Loud; Let Me Go, Rock ‘n Roll; Lick It Up; Firehouse; I Love It Loud; I Want You; Gene Simmons Bass Solo; God of Thunder; 100,000 Years; Black Diamond; Beth; Strutter; Rock and Roll All Nite

The final KISS tour with original drummer Peter Criss, the band’s setlist was shortened as they were sharing the bill with long-time contemporaries Aerosmith. Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry, donning a set of Paul Stanley’s platform boots, surprised everyone when he appeared on stage with KISS to perform “Strutter”.

This would be KISS’s final performance in the Metro for over 15 years.

February 26, 2019
Oklahoma City, OK
Chesapeake Energy Arena
Tour: End Of The Road

Spoiler Alert! Likely Setlist: Detroit Rock City; Shout It Out Loud; Deuce; Say Yeah; Heaven’s On Fire; War Machine; Lick It Up; 100,000 Years; Eric Singer drum solo-reprise; Gene Simmons Bass Solo; God of Thunder; Cold Gin; Tommy Thayer Guitar Solo; Psycho Circus; I Love It Loud; Hide Your Heart; Let Me Go, Rock ‘n Roll; Love Gun; I Was Made for Lovin’ You; Black Diamond; Beth; Do You Love Me; Rock and Roll All Nite

The band’s longest-running line-up of Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Eric Singer, and Tommy Thayer will bring with them a newly-recreated Sam the Serpent (if you don’t know, don’t ask), a grand piano arrangement of “Beth,” and a musical tour de force that will impress even the most jaded of die-hard music fans. The first song alone has nearly 50 pyro cues on this tour.

Article written by Curt Gooch and Jeff Suhs

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