Cultural Italy Blog: Art, Coffee & Love

KISS at the Arena di Verona

June 11th 2015

On June 11, 2015 the band Kiss will bring their 40th Anniversary Tour to the Arena in Verona, their only Italian date. This is not a novelty, as they first played in this very arena in 2008 and 2013, but this too will be another show to remember.

Just imagine the surreal encounter between the Arena, a place older than the Colosseum, which has witnessed the history of the world, hosting one of the world’s most famous living rock band. A show per se. Kiss too, have seen the history of rock unfolding.

Yes, the Beatles came first, and so did the Rolling Stones. Kiss though, showed another side of what rock ‘n roll could also be and signify, giving primary importance to the look of a band as well as their music. They therefore brought music and its related merchandising and promotional business to another level. In fact, as the band’s front man Gene Simmons puts it, KISS are rather a brand and not a band.

Among the craziest memorabilia you can imagine, you can purchase a KISS motorcycle, KISS toilet paper, KISS wine bottles, a KISS throne, and – brace yourself for this one – a KISS casket and a KISS funeral urn.

They sold over 100 million records, and were awarded with 28 gold records. But they were finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame only last year. And they still are touring. Gene Simmons, the bass player and larger than life personality reality showman, and Paul Stanley, considered the mind and the main puppeteer, are the only two original members left. They were two New York Jewish boys, extremely ambitious, but also smart enough to never fall into the rock and roll drug and alcohol fueled frenzy. They always kept a sober mind, sober and sharp enough to create an empire which keeps growing to this day.

In the early 70’s they put together a band whose theatrical face make up and costumes were so iconic that anybody, regardless of their musical interests, would immediately know and recognize: the Demon (Gene Simmons), the Star Child (Paul Stanley), the Spaceman (Ace Frehley) and the Catman (Peter Criss). The latter two though, are no longer members of the band, fired a long time ago over their erratic behaviors and drinking and drug related problems.

Their make up and powerful and catchy songs (Detroit rock city, Calling Dr. Love, I was made for loving you, to name but a few), gathered followers from every part of the globe. To this day, their loyal fans are known as the KISS Army. It all started in Indiana when a local radio station refused to play any Kiss songs in the early ‘70s. Protesting fans marched outside of the radio station and referred to themselves as the KISS Army. The name stayed.

What can we expect from this show? Amazing entertainment, with loud music, spectacular lights and fireworks. Did you know that Gene Simmons is actually one of the world’s top fire breathers? His fire-spitting is a Kiss stunt, but Simmons is actually good at it. He’s reached 15ft. Still far from the 2011 world record held by the American Antonio Restivo of 26 ft, but still very impressive, I find.

If you happen to be near Verona this summer, you should not miss this show, especially if you are a rock and roll fan. You’ll witness a quite unique show, and an experience worth being recalled:” I traveled to Italy and saw Kiss playing in a 1st century A.D. Roman Amphitheater”.

Nicoletta Lucia Paganucci