KISS – Kiss Symphony: Alive IV

KISS - Kiss Symphony: Alive IV


Kiss Records
Release date: July 22, 2003

User Review
0/10 (0 votes)

Who thought the hottest band in the world had the nerve to go symphonic with their songs? No hands up? Whatever, the band once proved that their songs work out amazingly in an acoustic setting, and good songs are good songs no matter what dress you put on them. And good songs are what Kiss always had plenty of. A friend of mine once said that Paul Stanley never ever had released a weak song, and come to think of it – he was damn right, at least before the band decided to release the Carnival Of Souls-session…

Many bands travel far out of their home territory/market when they take on an unusual task. (I remember seeing Savatage do their first acoustic set in a rather small club in Brazil, dead nervous in case the local promoter hadn’t told the fans that this was a night out of the ordinary.) So is the case with Kiss, they also flew across the globe to set this up. The last day in February this year saw Kiss play in Melbourne with a huge orchestra conducted by David Campbell. All right, all right, I have to brag a little. In case you think this seems more like a concert review and not a CD review, it’s simply because I was there.

The CD, which I think should NOT have been titled Alive IV (then the unplugged record in 1996 should have been “…IV”, and this “…V” in fact) is the Melbourne show in its entirety. All that has been moderated are the pauses between the songs, and I believe the crowd is turned up here and there. The show is spilt into three acts, the first one features a “normal” Kiss show – as normal as it can get without Ace Frehley on guitar. It’s common knowledge by now; Kiss 2003 is The Demon, The Starchild and The Catman, while The Spaceman is Tommy Thayer (Black’n Blue and long time tour manager for Kiss) painted and dressed up like Ace. Tommy has been long prepared for this task, as Mister Frehley and his habits never show up on time… Technically, Tommy does a very good job as Ace – he nails every note (he was always very good at doing that clumsy stage presence). On the other hand, Ace always had a special feel to his playing, which no-one is able to copy. So this is simply as good as it gets without him musically. (Sure it would have been better musically with Eric Singer behind the kit, but rabid fans will always prefer the fabulous four originals.)

Back to “Act One”, which I called a normal Kiss show, yes, it’s simply the band going through six of their hits to warm up themselves, the crowd, or actually; to take the edge off a bit. Myself, I had a strange feeling about the whole show, I didn’t know what to expect, so starting off like this was a wise idea.

“Act Two” is the band playing with an ensemble – Kiss with The Melbourne Symphony Ensemble. The act is five songs, all ballads, played with a small selection of the full orchestra. Because they’re all ballads, this works very well with the symphonic parts. Peter gets to start with “Beth” – finally the way the song always was intended to sound – while Gene does “Going Blind” and Paul takes us through “Forever”, “Sure Know Something” and the big Australian hit “Shandi”. In my always so humble opinion, this stuff works even better than Kiss with the full orchestra, much due to the song selection.

“Act Three”, you guessed by now, Kiss with a full orchestra. It starts off with “Detroit Rock City”, which sounds just killer with a symphony. Next is “King Of The Night Time World”, which on the other hand doesn’t fit that good. Maybe it’s the song itself, or maybe the orchestral arrangements are a little off target. “Do You Love Me” is a song I never thought the band would add a symphony to, and though it works pretty ok, much because the crowd is mixed loud, here’s the problem: Kiss is mainly doing their greatest hits along with an orchestra, they didn’t necessarily pick the songs that would fit best in this setting. No, I am not saying they should have brought out the most obscure stuff to play, but with so many hits/good songs in their catalogue, the selection could have been much better. Just my humble two cents again…
“Shout It Out Loud”, another one off the hit record Destroyer, is next, and here I think the orchestra is more on target than the last two. “God Of Thunder” (yes, more Destroyer material) is another unexpected one with a symphony, I’d say. Not sure what to think, but again, I’d say the band has other songs I am sure would fit the purpose better. The surprise of the night is indeed “Great Expectations”, with a children choir, all in Kiss makeup. Not that I can hear their makeup (this is supposed to be a CD review, for Christ’s sake!) “Black Diamond” stands out as one of the better symphonic songs, while “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” never worked good live, not with a symphony, not with just the four of them. And of course, the CD ends with “Rock’n Roll All Nite”, which was always a rocker, nothing else.

So maybe I am a bit cruel to “Act Three”. You see, at least half of it is pretty damn good and enjoyable stuff. Though I didn’t know what to expect from this, maybe I had too “great expectations” after all. Fact is, like I said, I DO believe this could have been even better. (It slays the Metallica S&M record though.) But it is a great curiosity that shows that good songs are good songs regardless of the setting they are presented in.


  • Dan Skiba

    Dan is a former partner at Metal Express Radio, and also served as a reviewer, photographer and interviewer on occasions. Based out of Indianapolis, USA he was first turned on to Hard Rock music in the mid-1970s when he purchased Deep Purple's Machine Head as his first album. He was immediately enthralled with the powerful guitar sound and pronounced drumbeat, and had to get more! His collection quickly expanded to include as many of Heavy Rock bands of the time that he could get his hands on, such as Ted Nugent, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath, to name just a few.

    View all posts

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.