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Devin Dehaven
Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer, Eric Singer
Writing Credits:

In November 2014 a helicopter landed at the infamous Hard Rock Hotel as KISS invaded Las Vegas for an historic nine-show run.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English Dolby Atmos
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English LPCM Stereo 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 88 min.
Price: $26.98
Release Date: 8/26/16

• Acoustic Set
• CD Version of Concert
• Booklet


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

Kiss: Rocks Vegas [Blu-Ray] (2016)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 28, 2016)

Back in 1977, I attended my first rock concert: Kiss, with AC/DC as the opening act. Almost 40 years later, the fact I saw AC/DC with Bon Scott buys me more “street cred”, but Kiss remain a popular act who’ve maintained a good following over that long time span.

As part of their never-ending life on the road, Kiss played a nine-show stint in 2014 at the Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel, and this run becomes the basis of a new Blu-ray. Kiss Rocks Vegas gives us a look at those concerts.

The 16-song set covers various periods of Kiss’s 40-plus-year existence. 1974’s self-titled debut brings us “Deuce” and “Black Diamond”, while second album Hotter Than Hell offers “Parasite”. 1975’s Dressed to Kill delivers the classic “Rock and Roll All Nite”.

From 1976’s Destroyer, we find “Detroit Rock City”, “Do You Love Me?”, “God of Thunder” and “Shout It Out Loud”. 1977’s Love Gun boasts the title song, and we then skip ahead to 1982’s Creatures of the Night for its title track, “I Love It Loud” and “War Machine”.

1983’s comeback Lick It Up delivers another title tune, and 1985’s Asylum features “Tears Are Falling”. 1998’s Psycho Circus offers its title song, and “Hell or Hallelujah” pops off of 2012’s Monster.

Does it come as a surprise that more than half of the setlist comes from the band’s first five years of existence – and that only two songs represents the last 30 years? Not really. Kiss still scored hits through 1990, but they don’t differ from most other “legacy bands” who maintain popularity mainly due to their “classic years”.

It’s a tribute to the Kiss discography that they leave out quite a few well-known songs here and still deliver a show packed with familiar tunes. Of the band’s six US top 20 singles, only one of them – “Rock and Roll All Nite” – appears here.

One other thing that hasn’t changed much over the decades: the nature of the Kiss stage show. As a kid in 1977, I got a big, larger than life concert with all sorts of theatrics, and that trend continues unabated all these years later.

Whether or not this exists as a good thing depends on one’s POV, of course. As much fun as the band’s shows can be, their flash and pizzazz tends to distract from the music, which doesn’t seem fair. While not a groundbreaking band, Kiss made good, solid meat and potatoes rock. They’re better than their visuals-oriented reputation leads many to believe.

At least they were in their salad days – what does Kiss 40 years down the road have to offer? As seen in Vegas, the band still sounds pretty good – they may not be a creative force anymore, but they’re in “well-polished machine” mode, which means a fairly high-quality performance.

The biggest relative positive comes from Paul Stanley’s vocals. As any You Tube-using Kiss fan can attest, Stanley’s voice has encountered more than a few rocky moments in recent years, but he manages to sound pretty good in Vegas. No, Stanley doesn’t approach his prime, but he hits the notes and gives us a respectable vocal performance.

Of course, Kiss fans embrace their shows partly due to the showmanship, and that side of things hasn’t changed since I saw them almost 39 years ago. Actually, the reliance on bombast occasionally gets to be a distraction, as the use of explosions and other elements can seem like a gimmick.

That said, Kiss doesn’t use the “extreme” techniques on a constant basis, which helps. Every song features some form of visual accompaniment, but that’s true for many touring bands, and Kiss doesn’t “crank it to 11” for each tune. Some “bombast fatigue” threatens to sink in at times but the concert stays on the right side of that ledger.

I can’t say the same for the way director Devin Dehaven chooses to reproduce the concert on video, though. Vegas offers an assault on the eyes, as it mixes a hyperactive array of band shots, rapid edits and gratuitous crowd images to become far too aggressive.

Concerts are a journey, and not every song has to be treated like the show’s climactic number. Dehaven doesn’t grasp this, so Vegas becomes tough to watch – literally. The mix of techniques gave me a headache after a while.

Which is a shame, as Vegas presents a pretty good Kiss concert. Even with the annoying visual techniques, the show works well enough to become enjoyable, but I’d like it better if the director’s choices didn’t create so many annoyances.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio C-/ Bonus C-

Kiss: Rocks Vegas appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This was a generally positive presentation.

Overall sharpness seemed good. Occasional soft spots materialized, but the majority of the concert appeared pretty well-defined and concise. No issues with jaggies or edge haloes emerged, but I saw a few instances of shimmering. Source flaws remained absent.

Colors tended to be decent. Blue lighting tended to appear a bit hazy, but other hues showed stronger reproduction. Blacks were reasonably deep, and low-light shots offered fair reproduction. The transfer seemed largely appealing.

A rarity for a music program, Vegas brings us a Dolby Atmos soundtrack. Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1 on my system, this didn’t work well, as both the soundscape and the quality were problematic.

In terms of soundfield, the Atmos/TrueHD mix lacked good localization. Instruments spread across the front and rear without distinctive placement – they mushed around the room without real accuracy.

Vocals remained centered, but they often acted as the dominant element in that realm, which made them seem detached from the rest of the track. Surround usage could be too heavy, so instruments and crowd noise from the back threatened to overwhelm the rest of the mix.

Audio quality suffered as well. Vocals were plagued with excessive processing that made it sound like they were recorded in another room.

Actually, much of the mix sounded that way, as the Atmos/TrueHD track lacked directness. The audio left an impression that the listener heard the music through a wall – I got a loose, limp tone that left the songs without much punch.

Because the Blu-ray came with two other soundtracks as well, I screened them to find out if I could detect differences. For the most part, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 version seemed similar to the Atmos/TrueHD mix. The audio was a smidgen more direct and less boomy, but only a wee bit. The DTS track suffered from the same erratic localization/blending as well as too much reverb and a lack of clarity to the audio.

Of the three, the LPCM stereo track fared the best, though it came with its own drawbacks. On the positive side, the LPCM version demonstrated vastly improved definition, so vocals and instruments sounded “real” and lacked the distracting mushiness of the other two versions.

The sole negative? The LPCM edition lacked much low-end response. Whole not totally devoid of bass, this track seemed a bit on the anemic side.

Nonetheless, the LPCM track became the only listenable mix of the concert. Both the DTS-HD and Atmos/TrueHD mixes were so mushy and loose that that they detracted from the music. While the LPCM version could’ve used more bass, at least it made the music reasonably crisp and distinctive.

The Blu-ray features a bonus acoustic set (25:42). It comes with seven songs: “Coming Home”, “Plaster Caster”, “Hard Luck Woman”, “Christine Sixteen”, “Goin’ Blind”, “Love Her All I Can” and “Beth”.

Some of those songs suit the acoustic setting more than others. In particular, “Hard Luck” and “Beth” were pretty gentle songs from the start, whereas stuff like “Plaster” and “Sixteen” gave us hard rock.

Played for a small audience and out of makeup, the acoustic collection only provides LPCM stereo audio and lacks the multichannel mixes. I prefer rockin’ Kiss, but this low-key performance offers a fun experience, largely because we rarely see Kiss seem so relaxed and “off-script”.

A second disc provides a CD version of the concert. This includes the 16 songs from the main show but lacks the “acoustic” tracks. It’s a nice addition.

We also find a booklet. It contains credits as well as a mix of concert and backstage photos. The booklet adds a little value.

Legendary rockers Kiss keep on keepin’ on, and Kiss Rocks Vegas shows them in fairly good form. I could live without the program’s overly aggressive stylistic choices, but the performance works pretty well. The Blu-ray presents mostly positive picture along with flawed multichannel audio and a small set of supplements. The erratic quality of the sound disappoints but the concert still entertains.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 2
2 3:
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