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Image for KISS, Mötley Crüe @ Allphones Arena, Sydney (9/3/2013)

KISS, Mötley Crüe @Allphones Arena, Sydney(9/3/2013)

ADAM LEWIS ventures to Sydney’s Olympic Park to discover what happens when you put two of the world’s most decadent rock ‘n’ roll bands in a room together. Photos by DEXTER CORNELIUS.

A six-year-old Gene Simmons picks at nuggets outside the Olympic Park McDonalds. A procession of balding Paul Stanleys in polo shirts trudge from the train to the arena, several metres ahead of an attractive female Eric Singer. Inside the stadium nature has called, and a middle-aged Tommy Thayer awkwardly deconstructs his elaborate spaceman costume in the middle of the bathroom.

KISS are almost as famous for their fans as they are for their music, a fact that becomes exceedingly obvious before the Lidcombe-Olympic Park train even reaches the station. Entire families are decked out in the band’s signature makeup, and KISS shirts are everywhere. If they aren’t the most popular band in the world, a couple of hours among their fans certainly makes them feel like the biggest.

KISS are rock‘n’roll superheroes, and their personas are a big part of their longevity. Watching them onstage, you don’t see the sixty-something-year-old touring veterans, you see their characters. Their trademark makeup and costumes allow them to transcend age, particularly when they move around the stage as exuberantly as they do. As the band descend from the ceiling amid fireworks and the opening strains of ‘Detroit Rock City’, another part of their reputation is fulfilled: Their joyously ridiculous stage shows – an extravaganza more closely aligned with the decadent world of pop shows than the classic rock world that they’re associated with.

That decadence is almost outdone by Moteley Crue, though. They’re a staggeringly huge spectacle for a support act, with dancers on trapezes, pyrotechnics, and a massive steel wheel scaling the height of the arena that, at one point, sees drummer Tommy Lee’s kit loop around until he’s doing a dubstep drum solo upside down. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds – but not as ridiculous as new song ‘Sex’, which sees the song’s title chanted as the word illuminates the stage’s entire backdrop. No points for subtlety.

As far as music goes, it’s fun but unspectacular. A Mötley Crüe show is more-or-less the WWE of rock music: A big, cheesy piece of rock‘n’roll theatre that’s easy to enjoy if you resist the urge to intellectualise it.

Where KISS are outdone in decadence, they make up for in showmanship. They’re the family-friendly rock‘n’roll spectacular – flying around the arena, spitting fire and striking poses amid big riffs and jubilant choruses. With the conspicuous exception of ‘I Was Made For Loving You’, their succinct 90-minute set is dominated by their ‘70s hits; ‘Love Gun’, ‘Shout It Out Loud’, ‘Deuce’ and many more. With so many hits, they maintain a momentum that rarely lets up until they close with a celebratory ‘Rock And Roll All Night’.

For that moment, as Gene Simmons and Tommy Thayer stand atop platforms that stretch over the crowd and confetti showers the arena, KISS still feel like the hottest band in the world. It’s hard to think of a show as shamelessly enjoyable, and as the short encore wraps up and meta heads, families, nerds and hipsters all filter out of the arena together to the strains of ‘God Gave Rock & Roll To You II’, another part of KISS’ reputation rings true: We wanted the best, and we got the best.

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