TORONTO — Kiss delivered on its promise to Oshawa, Ont., on Wednesday with a supersized show that spared no flair, flames or facepaint.
Even playing to 6,134 fans within the relatively cozy confines of Oshawa’s General Motors Centre, the classic rockers seemed to manage to pull off every extravagant stunt of their reliably over-the-top show.
And they didn’t miss an opportunity to pay respect to Oshawa, the town that won the right to the concert by pouring votes into an online contest.
“We’ve been to Moncton, we’ve been to Sudbury, we’ve been to Saskatoon — we’ve never been to ’Shwa,” singer-guitarist Paul Stanley bellowed from the stage, using a popular local nickname for the town that he would repeat again and again.
“Tonight, we change all that.”
With a nearly two-hour performance, the Detroit rockers captivated a grateful crowd with a set drawn mostly from their 1970s output, with a specific focus on their 1974 double-LP breakthrough, Alive!
While the venue was significantly smaller than the arenas Kiss typically visits, the band showed no signs of having downscaled their show.
There were the rising, rotating stages, the confetti streaming from the sky and the relentless pyrotechnics, more plentiful here than the jet-black hair strewn across Stanley’s chest.
Tongue-wagging bassist Gene Simmons dribbled blood from his mouth and performed menacingly from a platform high above the heads of the audience, while Stanley used pulleys to zip over to a round platform.
The crowd roared appreciatively with each flamboyant stunt.
“Did you really believe we weren’t going to come to see you?” Stanley asked the audience.
In fact, there was a time when local fans were worried the show wasn’t going to happen. Earlier this year, Kiss asked fans to go to their website and vote for their hometown to be included in the band’s next big tour.
Oshawa finished first among all cities, but was excluded from the first list of dates for the “Kiss Alive 35” tour. After an outcry, Kiss rectified the mistake and added Oshawa to the schedule.
The perceived slight seemed like a distant memory to Wednesday’s enthusiastic audience.
“It was disappointing to think they weren’t coming after the poll — they should have been forthright from the beginning because it’s such a huge event to come to Oshawa,” said local resident Jillian Steen, who attended the show with Stanley’s trademark star painted on her face.
“But when we finally got tickets and found out they were coming, we were ecstatic. All was forgiven.”
Oshawa has been a rare destination for major touring acts because it’s only a 45-minute drive from Toronto, and because General Motors Centre is the city’s largest venue.
Longtime fan Jan Pettersson said he could scarcely believe Kiss visited his hometown.
“I never thought I’d see a big act like that in Oshawa, so I was very impressed with that,” said Pettersson, 40, who previously saw Kiss perform in Stockholm, Sweden in 1984.
“It’s unbelievable, I’m incredibly happy they came here and that I got the chance to see them. It’s definitely history having a band like that here. It’ll stick out in my mind for a long time.”
Stanley told The Canadian Press before the show that the band wasn’t planning anything extra for the show — but only because they always give everything they have.
“We don’t know the word ’extra,”’ said the 57-year-old Stanley, who looked remarkably spry as he strutted across the stage (the habitually bare-chested rocker says he keeps in shape with aerobics, hiking and by doing 70 situps before every show).
“You know, how much extra can we give? We’re Kiss!”
Yet, he did seem to make a special effort to pay respect to the fans and certainly relished every opportunity he had to say “’Shwa.”
“We love all the big cities — we love Toronto, we love Montreal, we love Vancouver,” Stanley said.
“But it’s cities like you that make it all happen.”
In fact, the show did seem a particular treat for a blue-collar auto town that has been hit hard by the global economic slump.
“When this contest was first announced, I mobilized the Kiss army in Oshawa and everyone came out, the spirit was unbelievable,” said city councillor Robert Lutczyk, who spearheaded the campaign to bring Kiss to town.
“A lot of times, it wasn’t so much about Kiss. It was about Oshawa winning a contest. So everybody came out.”
Stanley made reference to economic hard times once during the show, lamenting the “bad news” that was ruling TV, radio and newspapers. But he didn’t linger long on the topic.
“We are here tonight to escape the world,” he said to a roar from the crowd.
“We came here tonight to have a good time.”