35 Years Ago: Kiss Hits a Dead End on the ‘Crazy Nights’ Tour
As the impressive comeback Kiss mounted in the '80s fizzled somewhere in the midst of the Crazy Nights tour, Paul Stanley realized some major changes were in order.
After enduring a rash of lineup changes and poor-selling albums and tours in the late '70s and early '80s, Kiss regained steady career footing as MTV regulars and arena headliners thanks to hits such as "Lick It Up," "Heaven's on Fire" and "Tears Are Falling." But adding Bon Jovi-style keyboards to 1987's Crazy Nights in an attempt to reach an even wider audience proved to be their first major misstep since 1981's Music From 'The Elder.'
The Crazy Nights tour kicked off Nov. 13, 1987 in Jackson, Miss. and concluded 11 months later in Belfast, Northern Ireland after 129 shows. Neither the album nor the tour performed nearly as well as the band had hoped, with shows suffering from diminished attendance in many cities. After a half-decade of establishing themselves as a new, face paint-free band, less than one-third of Kiss' typical set list was now devoted to songs from their '70s heyday, and even those had undergone some unwelcome changes.
"We played everything a million miles an hour," Stanley recalled in his 2014 memoir Face the Music. "Gene [Simmons] equated that with excitement, but it caused a loss of groove. ...We'd even had people on the side of the stage playing keyboard sound pads - to enhance the rhythm guitar so I could slack off and jump around more, and to fortify the background vocals for the big eighties 'gang' vocal sound. Looking back, I can see there was no mystery why the audience dwindled."
Watch Kiss Perform on the Crazy Nights Tour
Stanley's long-simmering frustration with Simmons' lack of focus also boiled over around this time, as the bassist's forays into acting and managing other bands had forced Stanley to do more than his fair share of work on several albums. "As far as I was concerned he betrayed me and the band," Stanley recalled in Face the Music.
"My film career was really starting to irritate Paul and management," Simmons admitted in his 2002 book Kiss and Make-Up. "They wondered if I wanted to stay in the band or go for an acting career. The answer was that I wanted it all. But that wasn't entirely fair to Paul, who was committed to Kiss full time."
Although he gifted Stanley the Porsche 928 featured in the "Reason to Live" video as an apology, Simmons still failed to recommit to the group at a level that satisfied his longtime bandmate.
Stanley decided to blow off some steam - and send a pointed message - by embarking on a solo tour in 1989. "I was fed up with the situation in Kiss and decided to flex my muscles a little on my own - and cut the cord between me and Gene," he explained in Face the Music. In a move that foreshadowed his main band's imminent reawakening, the 26-date club tour also found Stanley digging deeper into Kiss' '70s catalog for songs such as "I Stole Your Love" and "I Want You."
"It was interesting, actually, watching Paul from the audience instead of standing next to him onstage," Simmons remembered in Kiss and Make-Up. Stanley's warning message also seems to have been heeded: "At the end of [his] tour, the two of us turned our attention back to Kiss," Simmons recalled.
Their next album, 1989's Hot in the Shade, was an admirable if not completely successful attempt to reconnect with their original mojo. But the accompanying tour was a revelation, with Kiss reclaiming their legacy by playing longer, more powerful shows featuring a healthy dose of previously abandoned '70s classics such as "God of Thunder," "Black Diamond" and "Shout it Out Loud."
When the Hot in the Shade tour was over Kiss (now featuring a fully reengaged Simmons) completed their second major comeback by reuniting with Destroyer producer Bob Ezrin to record their best album in a decade, 1992's Revenge.
"When you stop wasting time on things that aren't really worth your while," a content Stanley reflected in 2001's Behind the Mask, "it's no coincidence that you suddenly come up with songs that are. I think a lot of it is that everybody realized how good it is to be in this band. But that there's also a big responsibility to being in this band."
Kiss Crazy Nights Tour: Average Set List (via SetList.fm)
1. "Love Gun" (from 1977's Love Gun)
2. "Cold Gin" (from 1974's Kiss)
3. "Bang Bang You" (from 1987's Crazy Nights)
4. "Fits Like a Glove" (from 1983's Lick It Up)
5. "Crazy Crazy Nights" (from 1987's Crazy Nights)
6. "No No No" (from 1987's Crazy Nights)
7. "War Machine" (from 1982's Creatures of the Night)
8. "Reason to Live" (from 1987's Crazy Nights)
9. "Heaven's on Fire" (from 1984's Animalize)
10. "I Love It Loud" (from 1982's Creatures of the Night)
11. "Lick It Up" (from 1983's Lick It Up)
12. "Rock and Roll All Nite" (from 1975's Dressed to Kill)
13. "Tears Are Falling" (from 1985's Asylum)
14. "Detroit Rock City" (from 1976's Destroyer)