Kiss Alive Forever
by Curt Gooch and Jeff Suhs
Billboard Books / Watson-Guptill
Ah, the things we do for love. Gooch and Suhs have spent the last six years compiling this book — “a critical study,” as they will have it — of Kiss’ live career, chronicling the band’s 30 years and 1810 concerts over close to 300 pages. Fascinatingly nerdy, yes, but a great read as well. Kiss, obviously, is one of the greatest live touring phenomenon of Western history, on a par with The Grateful Dead, The Rolling Stones, and Bruce Springsteen. They have helped set the standard for what a live show can do as well as how one should go about doing it — and, as it is, how not to. After Mark Lewisohn’s definitive work on The Beatles’ touring history, itÃs probably fitting that Kiss should be honored with such a work of love as well. The fact that Billboard gets behind this is a testament to the band’s continued relevance in modern pop culture.
Kiss Alive Forever follows Kiss chronologically from the early years through the final show of the not actually concluded Farewell Tour. Each show is listed with date, venue and city and, where available, headlining and opening acts, figures on capacity and attendance, promoter of the gig, whether the show has been “archived” on either audio or video, and a set list. And although most TV appearances are excluded — mimed performances haven’t been taken into account — it should surprise no one that this has been a formidable task, and the six years spent researching this suddenly don’t seem like such a long time after all. In addition comes a lengthy appendix collecting stats and figures for the entire book — when and where Gene Simmons set his hair on fire, say, or which venues Kiss played most frequently.
Obviously, this doesn’t make for a great read in itself, numbers are only exciting for so long. Thankfully, the authors don’t merely present us with statistics, but are dedicated to telling the story of Kiss as well, through fascinating narratives and arresting anecdotes. Each chapter — all dedicated to one tour — has an enlightening introduction. The story of Kiss has been told many times, and as is the case with all stories, what actually went down may have been twisted around a bit over the years. The authors take no event or assumed fact at face value, and through a series of first-hand interviews and close scrutiny of the matters at hand, the book present a fresh and even often more entertaining version of what actually took place in Kiss’ world. Additionally, most concert listings come with some trivia of some incident that occurred during the show or some retelling of events surrounding it.
Not only did the authors secure interviews with a few former Kiss members, additionally they have talked to anyone who was there as the story unfolded, anyone they managed to trace and who was willing to talk about it. Crew members give us stories we’ve never had the chance to hear before, while management personnel, promoters, family and friends all chip in, and the authors impressively manage to bind it all together and to turn it into a captivating and invigorating narrative. Essentially, then, this book is as much about the band behind the scenes as it is about Kiss on stage. Kiss Alive Forever is an absolute must for Kiss fans, as well as for anyone with a passing interest in one of the defining bands of live rock n’ roll history.