With their arsenal of blood, thunder and pyro becoming too predictable one year into a 2½-year farewell tour — a formula that arguably got old even on their previous farewell tour (2000-2001) — face-painted metal gods Kiss needed to give Minnesota fans more bang for their buck Monday at Xcel Energy Center.
Their solution? They wheeled out maybe the only guy with as big a presence among Halloween costumes, keg parties and Chevette car stereos in the late 1970s as Kiss had, original Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth.
While Kiss already came around last year on their End of the Road Tour and numerous other times in the 2010s, ol’ Diamond Dave had not been seen in town since the last Van Halen trek in 2012. It looked as if he had been missed, too.
A good chunk of the far-from-sold-out crowd showed up in time to catch the outspoken, outlandish and outdatedly un-P.C. singer’s 40-minute opening set with a new band. Still a hyperactive personality — when he wasn’t singing, he was usually muttering a wise crack or shaking a body part — Roth took a similarly nonstop approach to the set list.
He and his five-piece band swiftly tore through 11 songs, ranging from ones off Van Halen’s 1978 debut (“Runnin’ With the Devil,” “Jamie’s Crying,” “Ain’t Talking About Love”) to singles from his late-’80s solo career (“Tobacco Road,” “Just Like Paradise,” “Just a Gigolo”). Every time a new song started, Roth flashed a sly vandal’s grin like he was about to punk the crowd.
He certainly played a few tricks to cover his long-faded voice. He scatted the melodies more than he sang them. His hired-gun band members greatly pitched in, too, earning double their likely modest pay with their voluminous backup vocals (which maybe also included some, um, outside help). Guitarist Al Estrada of the tribute band Eruption also did an admirable job filling in for the incomparable Eddie Van Halen.
At least Estrada didn’t dress up like Eddie. Kiss’ replacement members Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer have done that for almost two decades as stand-ins for drummer Peter Criss and guitarist Ace Frehley, while co-founders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley stay busy counting their bigger pieces of the pie.
That was one of the many tired elements of Monday’s show. So was the set list, which featured only two songs not played at Target Center last winter, “Tears Are Falling” and “Parasite” — the former a dated, mushy one from the band’s makeup-less mid-’80s era, and the latter a classic Frehley composition.
Hey Kiss: Why not just go ahead and bring back Ace already, even as a third guitarist? And why not trade out tired post-heyday tunes such as “War Machine,” “Say Yeah” and “Psycho Circus” for more classic stuff not yet played?
Maybe think about hiring someone to come up with new between-song banter for the Starchild, too. Surely we can find alternatives to the illness-invoking set-ups to “Doctor Love” and “Cold Gin.”
Still, demand for the second stop on the second Kiss farewell tour dwindled enough for floor seats to slip to $36, which in turn probably brought out what looked like a lot of first-timers. There were a lot of dads bringing their just slightly scarred-looking kids this time.
At least those uninitiated fans and the most uncynical old-timers got their money’s worth. The pyro and levitating stages in opening song “Detroit Rock City” alone was more production than most rock tours offer in 90 minutes.
The antics continued with Simmons spewing blood and flying high in “God of Thunder,” Stanley zip-lining over the 10,000 fans in “I Was Made for Loving You,” Thayer literally blowing sparks for his guitar solo, and confetti and pyro blowing all through “Rock and Roll All Nite.”
And hey, let’s not forget the old firepower Kiss had in its music. That still shined through the flashy production a few times Monday, including in “Deuce,” “Do You Love Me?” and “Black Diamond” — albeit with Stanley’s voice sounding as shaky as Diamond Dave’s dancing butt. But that, too, is commonplace now.
If you plan on coming around one more time on this tour, Kiss — and we know you’re thinking about it! — we don’t necessarily want the best anymore. We just want better, or different.
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658