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Kiss; Smashing Pumpkins

Size does matter. At least that's what the members of Kiss would like you to believe. The veteran quartet hammered out a two-hour show at Dodger Stadium that was epic in terms of special effects and gimmickry, though not terribly rewarding in terms of musical impact and scope.

With:
Band, Kiss: Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, Peter Criss; Smashing Pumpkins: Billy Corgan, James Iha, D'arcy.

Size does matter. At least that’s what the members of Kiss would like you to believe. The veteran quartet hammered out a two-hour show at Dodger Stadium that was epic in terms of special effects and gimmickry, though not terribly rewarding in terms of musical impact and scope.

The splashy visuals offered during this very pricey production were none too subtle. Fireworks, lasers, smoke bombs, fog machines, klieg lights, elevating drum risers and band members sent flying through the air via cables, all contributed to this sensory-overload extravaganza.

The current Kiss tour is also being marketed as a 3-D affair. Special glasses dispersed at the door allowed fans to intermittently experience the band members on the giant video screens in the third dimension. These mostly pre-recorded video sequences — which were interspersed with shots of the band performing live — often found Kiss lamely thrusting guitars and drumsticks toward the audience to maximize the experience. No big deal to say the least, though the first glimpse of Gene Simmons’ trademark distended tongue coming at you in 3-D did offer a fleeting cheap thrill.

Musically, Kiss proved as bombastic as ever as it heavily mined its ’70s song catalog. Except for the Peter Criss ballad “Beth,” which the drummer sang at the lip of the stage to a pre-recorded piano and orchestral track, every tune featured the band’s lumbering hard rock rhythms. The group did offer good escapist fun when it latched onto a tune with a choice melodic or instrumental hook, as it did with “Black Diamond,” “Detroit Rock City” and “Psycho Circus,” the title track of its new album. But most Kiss rockers tend to take on a numbing, monochromatic quality when they’re played back-to-back over an extended stretch.

With its penchant for elaborate makeup, costumes and special effects, Kiss might appear to be the perfect Halloween night rock band. But even Simmons spewing fake blood out of his mouth, as he did at Dodger Stadium, couldn’t help unseat the Smashing Pumpkins as the evening’s most chilling and thrilling entry. Unlike Kiss, the Chicago band delivered a diverse and gripping set that moved convincingly from grungy pop to darkly hued mood pieces to orchestral sounding rock.

To his credit, head Pumpkin Billy Corgan wasn’t afraid to reinterpret some of his better known songs. The ballad “Today” was given a slightly jazzier touch thanks in part to a soothing piano arrangement.

Hilariously, both Corgan and James Iha entered the stage dressed as members of the Beatles, circa 1965. The former, who has been sporting a shaven head look for many months, even gamely donned a mop-top wig for a few songs.

Kiss; Smashing Pumpkins

Dodger Stadium, 55,000 seats; $55

Production: Presented by Avalon. Reviewed: Oct. 31, 1998.

Cast: Band, Kiss: Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, Peter Criss; Smashing Pumpkins: Billy Corgan, James Iha, D'arcy.

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