Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Can the Setlist Ever Change?

KISS is on tour.
That may seem a little silly to mention for most of you reading.  You probably already know that and I might as well be saying, “KISS is wearing makeup and there’s pyro effects at the shows!”  Thanks for the obvious there, Dale-O.
Still, here we are with KISS finally on another tour.  Not just a one-night-stand here and there like we’ve seen sometimes, but a full traveling-around-the-country tour, this time with Motley Crue in a co-headliners show.  (At least this time KISS managed to get the closing spot for the tour, unlike that earlier Aerosmith/KISS tour where KISS was always opening … but perhaps that’s a touchy subject for another time.)
As you can expect from the KISS Army, there’s been some speculation as to what songs would be included in the setlist.  As usual, fans couldn’t help but hope to hear some obscure favorites pop up, even though the band has made it quite clear in recent years that the setlist really is not one to change much between tours these days.  “People come to hear the classic songs,” as the band would say, “so there’s no point in disappointing them for a handful of fans that feel they HAVE to hear something else.”  Thus, we have another tour where the band pulls out the old chestnuts: “Detroit Rock City,” “Love Gun,” “God of Thunder,” “Black Diamond,” “Rock and Roll All Nite,” and several others.  One new song made it into the show at least; the new song off the forthcoming album, Monster, “Hell or Hallelujah”; but nothing else that seems uniquely different.
While newer fans always seem surprised, older fans take it the norm.  The band made it clear with previous tours over the past 15 years that things were not going to change, so another tour just like the others was not a shock.  Besides, this tour is a summer one that is in support of … nothing really.  As mentioned, the new album isn’t out until October (after the tour is over) and they’re already promoting the only thing there is to promote, the new single, so there’s no reason to go nuts with the setlist.  It is more of a “let’s have fun” concert tour rather than “let’s push that new album down their throats” one.
Yet, could they have changed things a bit?  Sure – people are buying tickets for the one-two punch of seeing KISS with Crue, so the band really could have been a bit more playful with the list and inserted some unusual older songs into the list.  Certainly, the list seems very heavy on the anthems this time around; perhaps a few alternatives could have made their way in replacement of stuff like “I Love It Loud” or “Shout It Out Loud.”  How’s about a couple of older songs that were concert standards like “I Still Love You” or “Tears Are Falling” in there to spice things up a bit instead of anthem, anthem, anthem?
Some fans also wonder why the band seems determined to have Tommy Thayer go through the motions of being Ace #2 again by having him do “Shock Me.”  Why even do there?  Why not highlight him with a song from … okay, there’s not much signature Thayer music in the band, but that’s not his fault, he just hasn’t been around to contribute much in the way of new music for the band.  However, he did co-write the third single off the Sonic Boom album, “Never Enough.”  It would have been a nice way to incorporate that album in the setlist and not make it feel like the throwaway it now seems (can’t even be bothered with “Modern Day Delilah” anymore?).  All right, obviously they want Tommy to take center-stage for a song and maybe “Never Enough” doesn’t do the job, but why not give him something to make him stand out more as himself instead of “Ace-clone”?  Heck, give him “Miss Mystery” from his Black ‘N Blue days – now THAT would have been something of his own, something out of the ordinary, and also something that was a big enough hit fans in the audience would probably remember it.
Ah, but we know the score.  We’re getting away from the familiar that KISS feels ticket-buyers want when they walk into the arena.  Besides, heaven forbid we remind people Thayer had a career before KISS; it may cause a riot of confusion in the audience. 
The bottom line is people are STILL buying tickets to see those same songs again, so it is not as if the band has a reason to back-up and say, “Oh, okay, you want a different list!”  The fans that wish there would be some type of shake-up can only shrug and watch the same motions to the same songs once again.  It’s fun – like watching a favorite episode of your favorite TV show – but not quite as much fun as discovering a new show for the first time.
Saying that, however, many fans for years have held out hope that KISS would suddenly decide to go in a new direction and shake up the setlist.  We still do it today, even though it’s just as obvious as my saying the band wears makeup and has pyro on-stage that things are not going to change.  With the majority happy in comfort, it probably never will.

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