Kiss: Unplugged

Kiss: Unplugged (1996)
Polygram Home Video

When Kiss took the stage at the Sony Music Studios in August of 1995 to play their unplugged session for MTV audiences, viewers around the world were allowed to witness something spectacular. The dream of every Kiss fan around the globe came true that night when during the set, Paul Stanley announced that Ace Frehley and Peter Criss would join the band to play a few tunes. The crowd went crazy, and this memorable concert was clearly the milestone that lead way to the big Kiss reunion which should follow only months after this concert. Now Polygram Home Video have blessed us with a DVD release of this concert, allowing everyone to relive the moments when Kiss were playing together in their original line-up for the first time in 15 years.

Although often underrated and misunderstood, Kiss have been claiming a certain part of the rock music industry their own, ever since they started out from a New York suburb in 1973. With plans to conquer the rock’n roll world, they built their own identity and reputation. Putting on Kabuki-like make-up and blowing away audiences with their performances, Kiss soon proved that there can be more to rock music than just sound. The band spiced up their concerts with theatrical pyrotechnics, spectacular light shows and special effects, a fire-breathing, tongue-wiggling and blood spitting Gene Simmons and created an image every parent feared at least mine did! In no time Kiss where literally the hottest band in the world and their shows were as much about experiencing the band, as it was to hear the music. Although Kiss hardly revolutionized the rock music with their rather traditional compositions and arrangements, it was the tremendous mystery that surrounded the band that made icons out of each one of the band members. Still, the music itself holds up quite well despite the age, and although simplistic sounding at times, their work has certainly influenced more people over the years than a great many other bands. Especially within rock musician circles there are many devoted fans of Ace Frehley who admit of having picked up the guitar after seeing and hearing him working his axe on stage.

MTV used to have rather narrow boundaries for their "Unplugged" sessions, insisting that the participating bands strictly used acoustic instruments. Especially for rock bands this can be a major dilemma and the disturbing unplugged performances of bands like Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots and others proved that not every band and every song lends itself to such delicate performances. Kiss on the other hand have had quite a bit of experience with this approach, since the band was playing bits and pieces from their repertoire during Kiss conventions all over the country in the past years. This by the way is also a notable side of Kiss, and shows us a band that despite its considerable success for over 25 years has never lost touch with its loyal fan base. While semi-unplugged, these small gigs allowed the band to get used to the intimate atmosphere of a club and the limited usage of technology to bring their message across. This experience clearly paid off when Kiss took center stage for their MTV Unplugged night. Not only is the band is top shape, also the song selection is superb. Starting with "Comin’ Home" from the "Hotter Than Hell" album, the band immediately proves that strong songs work in any environment. Even some of their powerhouse songs, like "Rock Bottom" or "Do You Love Me" come across as heavy as ever despite the spartan, purely acoustic instrumentation. When they eventually intonate some of their ballads like "World Without Heroes" or "Every Time I Look At You" Kiss have their fans eating out of their hands. These are by far the most beautiful renditions of these romantic songs ever heard. But nothing could prepare the fans for what was to come. Three quarters through the set, Paul Stanley finally announces Ace and Peter’s participation and when the two former band members enter the stage the audience is ecstatic. Going through some of their classic material, we finally get to see the old and the new Kiss play together on the same stage playing their very own hymn "Rock And Roll All Nite". If anyone asks me, this is just as good as it can get!

The image quality of the disc is very good. Recorded on video, the image is sharp with very strong colors and an incredible depth of field. The compression is perfect without any signs of artifacts. Color reproduction is very well during the show, although the introduction footage is quite poor in quality. It is probably taken with a simple camcorder, so the quality deficit hardly comes as a surprise.
Overall color reproduction is very good with vibrant hues and high color saturation. <$chroma,Chroma noise> is minimal and I have been unable to detect any color bleeding. The show has been recorded with high-end equipment and is well transferred to this DVD.

Unfortunately there’s only Dolby Stereo mix available on the disc. I am sure a <$5.1,5.1 channel> mix would have intensified the atmosphere in the small venue even more. Nevertheless the mix is solid and crystal clear. It creates a bustling atmosphere and makes good use of the sonic and spatial spectrum with its excellent stereo mix. On a different end however, I noticed that the packaging lists 19 chapter stops while that disc actually contains only 18.

The DVD Polygram has released here is superb. Starting out with a 12 minute long behind-the-scenes look of the concert’s preparation, we learn how everything came about. How the band members started calling each other up to see if they could actually get together for this one show. As it turned out, this one show would turn into hundreds, as Kiss officially reformed in their original line-up during the Grammy Awards a few months after this session, and would successfully tour the world with their Reunion tour in full warpaint. There can be no question that this disc is a must-have for every Kiss fan and a must-see for all rock fans. Seeing and hearing a hard rock band of old, like Kiss, giving a rock solid acoustic performance like the one we get to see on this DVD is something every rock fan should have experienced. It makes many of today’s wanna-be stars look very pale by comparison and it also proves how good rock tunes can work in any environment.