Kiss leads Pledge of Allegiance at Gretna Fest
Updated on October 1, 2017 at 1:45 PM Posted on October 1, 2017 at 12:34 PM
KISS performs at the 2017 Gretna Heritage Festival
By Doug MacCash
NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
The spectacular blizzard of confetti that fluttered down during "(I Wanna) Rock and Roll All Nite" had barely settled Saturday (Sept. 30) at the Gretna Heritage Festival when the Kiss concert took an unexpected turn toward the patriotic.
"It's always cool to love your country," frontman Paul Stanley told the mostly appreciative audience. Joined by Gretna politicians, the singer-guitarist congratulated Army Major Steve Roberts for his 30-plus years of military service.
"Some people believe that freedom is free," he said. But Kiss, Stanley said, appreciates military sacrifice.
In an odd visual juxtaposition of symbols, Stanley, dressed in a glittering black, midriff-exposing costume that evokes rock 'n' roll abandon, led the crowd in a respectful recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Not everyone approved. One social media commenter said the show wouldn't go on without the Pledge, and that the action defied the spirit of rock.
"KISS made everyone do the pledge of allegiance before they would do an encore," Bantam Foxes wrote. "That was the least rock and roll thing I've ever seen."
The crowd that witnessed Kiss's patriotic flourish was enormous. Thousands of fans flooded the riverside meadow in front of the Gretna Fest main stage. Thousands more clustered on the sloping levee. A big video screen showed the concert to scores of folks seated beyond the levee near the old courthouse.
Kiss disappointed no one. The two original members of the quartet, Stanley and basist Gene Simmons, are well into their 60s. There's certainly some gray lurking beneath their shocks of raven black hair, but both men played and postured with energy, passion and humor all the way from "Deuce" to "Detroit Rock City." Kiss may have been performing for 45 years, but the musicians were the opposite of blase about it.
Kiss was the absolute perfect act for the Gretna Fest scene. Gretna Fest is a very big small-town carnival, with kettle corn, prize goldfish in little plastic bags, a Ferris wheel, lots of beer and lots of red, white, and blue. Kiss's unpretentious good time vibe fit like a foot in a well broken-in six-inch chrome platform boot.
Unpretentiousness can be the key to America's heart. Stanley proudly announced that the band had been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But, he said, the truth was that the folks at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame actually hate Kiss. It was fan popularity alone that put them in the Cleveland museum, Stanley asserted victoriously.
On Saturday, Kiss left no rock 'n' roll stagecraft stone unturned. In the course of the 90-minute show the crowd witnessed the eruption of many, many fire pots, Roman candles and confetti cannons. Stanley playfully spit picks into the front row. Simmons allowed "blood" to spill grotesquely from his mouth. Stanley acrobatically held the guitar behind him and strummed between his legs. Simmons winkingly wagged his tongue ... and wagged his tongue ... and wagged his tongue. It was all lovably lurid.
Simmons' tongue is an icon. All of Kiss is iconic. Admittedly that's an overused term, but in this band's case, it applies. Kiss is more than a band; it's a Gothic, nihilistic, libertine, unpredictably patriotic Americana touchstone. The band might not be as recognizable as Santa Claus, but it would give Ronald MacDonald a run for his money.