KISS, Def Leppard - Ak-Chin Pavilion - 7/9/2014

Jim Louvau KISS. Full slideshow here.

The surroundings of a KISS and Def Leppard concert are one of the most entertaining parts about it, aside from the legends performing on stage.

Wednesday's concert contained a huge range of age groups, but the most amusing of them is what I like to call the "dad-rock" group. Dad-rock isn't a negative phrase and will surely be the genre I enjoy in in the decades to come. Here, I'm using the term to refer to those who grew up with the metal and rock icons onstage last night.

These are the men and women ("mom-rock" could be used here as well), two to three times my age, singing along and rocking out that night to the tunes that were playing through their radio before I was even born.

The night kicked off with a set by Kobra and The Lotus, who played to a smaller audience of people that were just getting to the venue. They managed to capture my attention instantly. Kobra Paige, the band's singer, has a powerful voice that suited the band's power-metal meets modern metalcore feel. Highlights included a pretty badass cover of Heart's "Barracuda."

As the setup began for Def Leppard, the audience began to fill the empty seats. It's at this point where the energy picked up, as two huge names in music took the stage.

Def Leppard took the stage playing to a snippet of The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" as their banner swept behind them and revealed each member. Cheers from the crowd were deafening as the group kicked off the first song.

The band played hits like "Animal" and "Hysteria" that had the audience going nuts. At one point during the set, I looked over to my left and saw a woman on the aisle across from my seat dancing and pelvic-thrusting her way through a song. She eventually made her way to dancing with the woman in front of me and even complimented the guys two rows ahead of me on their dancing and air guitar moves.

The great thing about seeing Def Leppard was watching drummer Rick Allen tear through each song. Allen lost his left arm in a car accident in the '80s, but he famously never let that stop him from drumming. These days, his kit is almost entirely electronic. He has numerous foot pedals that duplicate kick drums, toms, and snares, and the combination of his feet and his remaining arm allows him to stand on even ground with any two-armed drummer. That's easier said than done. Watching him actually do his thing live, was something else. It was the embodiment of the perseverance of the human spirit, aided by technology.

When the cameras projected the concert on the screens to the side of the stage, it was hard to ignore Allen.

Predictably, "Pour Some Sugar On Me" ended the band's set. Def Leppard returned for an encore, playing "Rock of Ages" and "Photograph," priming the amped-up crowd for KISS.

There's a lot that could be said about how fun KISS was to watch. By this point, the people were losing it. The four middle aged guys in front of me were throwing up their horns and air guitar-ing with beers in hand while the glammed-up rockers performed. People danced in the middle of the aisles until security told them to get back into their seats, but it felt like one giant party. The band even started it off with some stage fireworks and streamers that fell from the rafters.

Gene Simmons at Ak-Chin Pavilion Breathing Fire from Voice Media Group on Vimeo.

I also realized at this point that I was 100 feet away from Gene Simmons. I was close enough to see the saliva dripping from his tongue. Simmons made things even more interesting by spitting fire during "Hotter Than Hell" and later on playing a dark bass line as blood dripped out of his mouth. As the blood stopped dripping, the crowd chanted "Gene!" until the next song started. Simply put: It was pretty metal.

Paul Stanley Flies from Voice Media Group on Vimeo.

The band played through a number of hits as the crowd sang along, and you could occasionally feel a blast of heat from the on-stage pyrotechnics. Before KISS started "Love Gun," Paul Stanley announced that he wanted to get out into the crowd and play with them. From there, he walked over to the side of the stage and stepped onto a metal ring suspended from the rafters by a cable, which was attached to a motorized track. The cable then flew directly over the audience onto a platform in the middle of the seating area. The platform had a mic on it and rotated throughout the song, then he flew back. Shortly after, KISS closed the show with "Detroit Rock City" and "Rock And Roll All Nite".

Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.

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