Kiss, Def Leppard at the Pepsi Center in Denver (photos, review) - Reverb

Kiss, Def Leppard at the Pepsi Center, 6-25-14 (photos, review)

Denver sure got a lot of shoutouts Wednesday night at the Pepsi Center when Def Leppard and Kiss co-headlined a nearly sold-out show (or Leppard opened, depending on your point of view). And the crowd loved every minute of it.

“We’ve been coming to Denver longer than some of you have been alive in Denver,” yelled Paul Stanley early in Kiss’ 90-minute set. He exhorted Denver to sing along on a couple of songs, and, even though it might have been canned, or the result of a show that was pushing close to 11 p.m., told the ecstatic crowd after “Black Diamond,” “This is the part when we would go off the stage and you would yell until we come back. But we want to play for you.”

Say what you want about Kiss’ music, the band knows how to put on a show. It also knows how to merchandise. Many fans sported “40 years of Kiss” T-shirts. Others were either in Kiss facepaint, Kiss wigs, or even full costumes. After Def Leppard’s set, the screens on either side of the stage advertised the “Hotter than Hell” Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas (“For weddings that rock!”), the Las Vegas Kiss Monster Miniature Golf Course, and the upcoming Kiss Kruise IV, where fans can take a Caribbean cruise with their heroes.

The show itself is quite the spectacle, from the arachnid-shaped lighting rig complete with evil red eyes to the pyrotechnics with every song to Gene Simmons getting lifted off the stage on wires on one song to Paul Stanley riding out to a riser near the back of the floor by sticking his boot in a ring and holding onto a pole. Kiss has always seemed to live by the motto “Bigger is better,” and for its 40th anniversary tour, the band has pulled out all the stops.

Of course, some of it was so over the top that it verged on parody, and made me wonder how the band keeps a straight face onstage. Perhaps that is what the makeup is for. When Simmons breathed fire after “War Machine” and then theatrically threw the torch point down into a stage prop such that the torch was standing, the crowd roared its approval. Later, during Simmons’ rudimentary bass solo on a bass shaped like an axe, he started his blood-spitting routine, then rode the wires to the top of the arachnid.

However, as Stanley pointed out while mocking Kiss’ selection into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Kiss has always been about the people. “Those people hate us,” said Stanley of the HOF. “But you made it so it had to happen.”

From a musical point of view, the show was curious at best. There were a few obscure songs that Stanley introduced by saying that the fans would know them by the first chorus, or be able to sing along by the second. Perhaps that was true for the die-hards, but songs like “Hide Your Heart” were probably best left forgotten in the first place.

In fact, given the brevity of the show, the songs left out were glaring. There was no “God of Thunder,” or “I Stole Your Love,” or “Firehouse,” or Cold Gin.” In their places were “Psycho Circus,” “War Machine,” and “Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll.”

Even some of the better known songs were strange. Looking around the audience in between sets, it seemed it was comprised of mostly middle-aged men and some women. There were also many young kids, such as the one in front of me who fell asleep during the show. However, the teenage audience that propelled Kiss to the top in the ’70s hasn’t been replaced by current teens. Hence, hearing Stanley and Simmons, both in their 60s, sing “Christine Sixteen” to a bunch of guys in their 50s seemed a little creepy.

Whereas Kiss delved into some more obscure songs, Def Leppard’s set was all hits, all the time. Union Jacks were everywhere, including on the drum kit, on drummer Rick Allen’s headphones, on the bandanas that guitarist Phil Collen had hanging from his belt loop, and on the bandanas draped off singer Joe Elliott’s microphone stand. The last song cranked on the PA before Leppard started was The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” As the famous combination of Pete Townsend’s crashing guitar chord and Roger Daltry’s “YEAHHH” was about to hit, the huge curtain on the stage with “Def Leppard” written on it fell away and the band played the rest of The Who’s hit, then launched into perhaps its only obscure tune of the night, “Let It Go,” a fantastic rocker from its second album.

The only other possibly obscure song to non-fans was the instrumental “Switch 625,” which like on the album was played out of the hit power ballad “Bringin’ on the Heartache.”

Elliott also gave out plenty of kudos to Denver, introducing “Foolin'” by dedicating it to “1987 and McNichols Arena, where we filmed this for ‘In Your Face, In the Round.'”

Otherwise, guitarists Collin and Vivian Campbell were in fine form, dishing solos on classics like “Animal” and “Armageddon It” like the ’80s weren’t 30 years ago. Elliott’s voice may not be able to hit the high notes anymore, but the harmonies are still there, and more often than not, Elliott recaptured the band’s heyday with his singing. During the set-closing “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” the screen behind showed images from the “Hysteria” tour, and it made me wonder whether Collen went for laser treatment on his formerly abundant chest hair or whether he waxes.

Kiss too picked up The Who theme, with guitarists Stanley and Tommy Thayer jamming on “Won’t Get Fooled Again” during “Lick it Up.” If you want to channel the greats, Townsend is a good choice.

So, when Stanley asked before the fake encore, “Have you had a good time?,” only the most cynical person couldn’t have said that the show delivered in spades.


Def Leppard
Won’t Get Fooled Again, Let It Go, Rocket, Animal, Foolin’, Love Bites, Let’s Get Rocked, Two Steps Behind (acoustic), Bringin’ on the Heartache (acoustic until final chorus) -> Switch 625, Hysteria, Armageddon It, Pour Some Sugar On Me, E: Rock of Ages, Photograph

King of the Night Time World, Deuce, Psycho Circus, War Machine (Simmons breathes fire), Shout It Out Loud, Christine Sixteen, Lick It Up (with Won’t Get Fooled Again jam), I Love It Loud (Simmons bass solo to start), Hide Your Heart, Let Me Go Rock ‘N’ Roll, Love Gun (Stanley rides into the audience), Black Diamond, E: Detroit Rock City, Rock and Roll All Nite

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Candace Horgan is a Denver freelance writer/photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. When not writing and shooting, she plays guitar and violin in Denver band Black Postcards.

John Leyba is a Denver Post photojournalist and regular contributor to Reverb.

  • Mike

    The reviewer makes it sound like mixing up of the set list a little (in KISS’s case) is a bad thing. I couldn’t disagree more. The set list in Denver was different than the opening night of the tour, (this only being the second night), with some varied songs and different order. I think that’s great, both for the band and for fans. If I’m going to hear the same songs every time a band plays, I have less inclination to want to come back. Incidentally, I had never heard “Hide Your Heart” before, but thought it worked well due to its catch chorus.

  • honestabe30

    Personally, i didn’t mind at all having God of Thunder and I Stole Your Love left out and was happy to not hear Firehouse and Cold Gin for the millionth time. (Watch the 3 KISSstory boxsets and you may get sick of Firehouse too). I thought mixing in some variety with the tried-and-trues helped keep things fresh and exciting, so I liked hearing Hide Your Heart and Psycho Circus. I also think a man in his 60’s singing Christine Sixteen to “a bunch of guys in their 50’s” is less creepy than the same man singing that to a crowd of 16 year old girls. Eeww. It was naughty when Gene was in his 20’s but pretty nasty now that he is 40 years on. So singing it to guys in their 50’s becomes more of a “hey, remember when we were young and crushing on the 16 year old girl”?

  • Mike321

    My biggest gripe is the split show…as a fan you only get to see 75 minutes (13 songs) so its a half set. It might be fine if you are a big fan of each but if not these type of shows just don’t provide the value for the $140 ticket price. If they cannot sell the full arenas on their own anymore, drop down to a smaller venue and give us a full show. I guess they get paid the same while working less going this route as so many bands are doing it this way now.

  • Jeremy

    While Kiss’ set list was a bit odd at times I found it only odd because after seeing them the past 4 or 5 times they came through town I had come to anticipate which song was opening (Detroit Rock City), which song Gene spit blood and sang from the top of the rig (God of Thunder) and what song they came back from the encore with (Beth or I Was Made for Loving You). After reading Paul Stanley’s excellent tell all biography I learned it was because during these tours with Ace and Peter in and out of the band those were the only songs they could play! The band couldn’t change the set list. Hearing old songs from the past live today was actually pretty cool! As for Def Leppard, what can I say, they rock! Their set list was all classics and to them and Kiss’ credit neither tried to slip in a new unfamiliar song to boost album sales.

  • Tood Fagan

    Funny , on the KISS boards they’re fussing cause they didn’t go obscure enough and on the Lep boards they wanting a little change up. And reports from fans that were actually there praise both bands

  • kjames

    We took our four year old daughter to see KISS last night and she was clad in her Gene Simmons tribute makeup. She did fall asleep during Def Leppard because she didn’t know any of their songs and we allowed it so she would be fresh to see KISS. We loved it, she loved it, everyone around us loved it. No one can deny that they put on a good show and that’s what makes people love them and keep coming back for more!

  • Scott Ian


  • Krytan

    Does anyone find it odd they didn’t play anything from Monster, their latest album?

  • Spacecat65

    KISS has the hits and when they play them the peeps cry they should play other songs! Def Leppard songs sound a lot alike…you’re for sure a music snob! KISS has enough hits “Forever” ” Beth” “I was made for lovin’ you” “Lick it up” “Calling Dr. Love” “Let’s put he X in sex” and you can suck your favorite dick because “Hide Your Heart” is a great song. “Heaven’s on fire” “God Gave Rockin’ Roll to you” whtf?! the guy writing this story really must be sucking Dave Marsh’ DICK!

  • Steve

    It really bugs me how so many of these writers review these concerts and make it sound like the big bands from the 80s have just taken the last 30 or so years off. Def Leppard have been touring and releasing new albums since the Hysteria days. I’ve seen them over a dozen times in the last 20 years and I have yet to see a subpar performance from them. It also says a lot when the writer comments on whether or not one of the guys shaves his chest hair, but not a word about the other incredible guitar player in the band (Viv) who just so happens to be going through chemotherapy. Def Leppard has the heart and soul of a champion and they’ve more than earned the respect they get.

    • Candace

      Yes, I know Def Leppard has been releasing albums and touring steadily these last 30 years. However, look at their setlist. Aside from Let’s Get Rocked from Adrenalize and Two Steps Behind from Retro Active, the entire setlist was their 1980s albums High ‘N’ Dry, Pyromania, and Hysteria. If the band itself isn’t really acknowledging their recent output, what does that say about it?

      And if you’ll notice, I did mention Campbell’s playing.

  • Johnny T

    If you’ve seen one KISS show you’ve seen them all. Those greedy bastards Paul and Gene have zero integrity while gouging their fans for high prices tickets. Thayer and Singer look ridiculous trying to emulate Ace and Peter. Folks, don’t let these clowns fool you when they say it is all for the fans. Gimme a break. It’s all about the Benjamins and they know it.
    The Lepps are good. High n Dry is their best album. But just watch…they will play the same 13 or 14 songs all in the same order throughout this tour because they have the laziest front man in Joe Elliot.

  • Guest32

    I’m just curious, did Paul’s voice go bad after the third song during the show like it did in Salt Lake? Gene and Eric sang along with him on every song to try and disguise that his voice was cracking. It was sad. I honestly don’t think he will be able to last through the tour unless he starts to lip-synch.

  • shawn d

    Hide your heart, live wow that was amazing, its only been played on a few tours, Paul’s 89 solo tour, 1990s Hot in the shade tour, 1992s Revenge tour, Paul’s 2006 solo tour and 2014 40th anniversary tour.

  • stove

    Who came on first Kiss or Def Leppard?