I wanna rock and roll all night…digitally!
Let's do a very short history of KISS, shall we?
1970s: KISS hits it big, they're loved by everyone (actually teens and head-bangers, but you know what I mean).
1980s: KISS takes off their make-up, loses various band members, and are considered defunct. Somewhere in Kansas, a lonely teenager feels he missed the boat.
1990s: KISS puts make-up back on and become a huge nostalgic act. Thousands of merchandise items are released, including KISS socks and colostomy bags.
2000s: KISS continues to play to mythic proportions and release a new DVD combining rock music and an Australian orchestra. The Pope regards this as a sign of the Second Coming. Mass panic ensues.
And there you have it. As any KISS fan knows, the band is comprised of four members: Paul Stanley (Star Child), Gene Simmons (The Demon), Tommy Thayer replacing original Ace Frehley (Space Ace), and Peter Criss (Cat Man). These four mysterious rockers have produced some of the most beloved music of our time. Or, if you're not comfortable with that statement, they at least gave us a reason to giggle like schoolgirls at the 1970s (albums include Spinal Tap-ish titles like "Animalize,"" Lick It Up," "Crazy Nights," and "Hot in the Shade"). After the debacle that was Detroit Rock City (did anyone like that movie?), KISS went back to their roots and in 2003 released KISS Symphony: The DVD, a two-disc set featuring the boys backed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra from a concert in February of 2003 (with over 40,000 fans in attendance). Included on this set are the following songs:
Act One (rock and roll only):
Act Two (acoustic with strings):
Act Three (full-blown symphony):
As a DVD reviewer, I've found that music DVDs are often…well, review-proof. Sure, we can talk about the quality of the video and the audio presentations. But in the end it all comes down to personal tastes. One man's Debbie Gibson is another man's Nine Inch Nails. As for me, I'm not what you'd call a rabid KISS fan. Or even a mildly interested fan. "I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night" is about the extent of my KISS enjoyment, and even that's pushing it. As you can guess, sitting through KISS Symphony: The DVD wore me out. There are only so many times I can watch Gene Simmons wag his bloodied tongue around before I long for the days of something with more depth and substance, like Peter Frampton. And get a load of those outfits! If I'm strutting around a stage at 50 in high heel boots and thighless spandex, please, for the love of all that's holy, shoot me. [Editor's Note: Duly noted.] But enough about my disdain for this group! When it gets down to the nitty gritty, KISS Symphony: The DVD will most certainly please even the most discerning of rock fans. Over 20 tracks are included here, as well as tons of footage of the band members rehearsing, getting ready for the stage show, and other events that fans normally aren't privy to. Much of the music is combined with behind-the-scenes footage (a documentary titled "The KISS Symphony Story") as the band prepares to play with the symphony. And what a band it is! If you've ever wanted to see a classical orchestra dressed in tuxes and KISS face paint, here's your chance (though I did think the face painted children's choir was slightly creepy). Actually, hearing these songs with orchestration isn't as bad as one might think—though I'm hardly a converted fan, the music went down a bit easier with some of these new arrangements (even with such trite lyrics as "I was born for lovin' you baby / and you were born for lovin' me"). Which brings me back to my original statement: music is subjective. If you're a KISS, fan this DVD will be right up your alley. If you don't like KISS…this may be the equivalent of the Chinese water torture.
So are you ready to get wild? KISS Symphony: The DVD is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. I was pleased with how this transfer turned out—often video concerts don't look great, and while KISS Symphony isn't fantastic, it does look very good. There is a small amount of contrast in the brightness, though with all the pyrotechnics its to be expected. Overall the colors and black levels all appear to be sharp and well defined. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, DTS Surround, and Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, all in English. As KISS themselves might say, "you wanted the best, you got the best": both the Dolby 5.1 and DTS sound mixes are of grand quality. All speakers are engaged throughout the length of the concert making for a very enveloping experience. This is the DVD KISS fans have been waiting for and parents have nightmares about. No alternate subtitles are included on this disc.
The extra features on this disc are fairly slim: all that's been included is an interview with an Australian TV show, a live acoustic performance (with a few selected symphony players) of the song "Should Know Something" on that same show, and a few web links to various KISS sites.
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