35 years ago: Kiss hit a dead end on the ‘Crazy Nights’ tour

Like the impressive comeback Kiss mounted in the 80s hovered somewhere in the middle of the Crazy Nights tour, Paul Stanley realized that some big changes were in order.

After enduring a rash of lineup changes and poorly selling albums and tours in the late ’70s and early ’80s, Kiss regained a steady career footing as MTV regulars and arena headliners thanks to hits like “Lick It Up,” “Heaven’s on Fire” and “The tears fall.” But adds Bon Jovi-style keyboards for the 1987s Crazy nights in an attempt to reach an even wider audience, it turned out to be their first major misstep since the 1981s Music from ‘The Elder.’

The Crazy Nights tour started in November. 13, 1987 in Jackson, Miss. and ended 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 declining attendances in many cities. After half a decade of establishing themselves as a new, face-paint-free band, less than a third of Kiss’ typical set list was now devoted to songs from their ’70s heyday, and even those had undergone some unwelcome changes.

“We were playing everything a million miles an hour,” Stanley recalled in his 2014 memoir Face the Music. “Gene [Simmons] equated it with excitement, but it brought a loss of groove. …We even had people on the side of the stage playing keyboard sound pads – to enhance the rhythm guitar so I could relax and jump around more, and to enhance the background vocals for the big eighties gang vocal sound. Looking back, I can see that there was no mystery why the audience fell in.”

See Kiss Perform on the Crazy Nights Tour

Stanley’s long-standing frustration with Simmons’ lack of focus also boiled over around this time, when the bassist’s moves into acting and management of other bands had forced Stanley to do more than his fair share of the work on several albums. “As far as I was concerned, he betrayed me and the band,” Stanley remembered in Face the Music.

“My film career was really starting to annoy Paul and management,” Simmons admitted in his 2002 book Kiss and make-up. “They wondered if I wanted to stay in the band or pursue an acting career. The answer was that I wanted it all. But it wasn’t entirely fair to Paul, who was committed to Kiss full-time.”

Although he gifted Stanley the Porsche 928 featured in the video “Reason to Live”. As an excuse, Simmons still failed to commit 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 bit on my own – and cut the string between me and Gene,” he explained Face the Music. In a move that heralded his main band’s imminent resurgence 26-day club trip also found Stanley digging deeper into Kiss’ ’70s catalog for songs like “I Stole Your Love” and “I Want You.”

“It was actually interesting to see Paul from the audience instead of standing next to him on stage,” Simmons recalled 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 entirely successful attempt to reconnect with their original mojo. But the accompanying tour was a revelation with Kiss reclaim their heritage by playing longer, more powerful shows with a healthy dose of previously abandoned 70s classics like “God of Thunder”, “Black Diamond” and “Shout it Out Loud”.

With the Hot in the Shade tour over, Kiss (now with a fully re-engaged 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 the time,” a content Stanley reflected in 2001’s Behind the mask“it’s not by chance that you suddenly come up with songs that are. I think a lot of it is that everyone realized how good it is to be in this band. But that there is also a great responsibility to be in this band.”

Kiss Crazy Nights Tour: Average Setlist (via SetList.fm)
1. “Love Gun” (from the 1977s Love Gun)
2. “Cold Gin” (from the 1974s Kiss)
3. “Bang Bang You” (from the 1987s Crazy nights)
4. “Fits like a glove” (from the 1983s Lick it up)
5. “Crazy Crazy Nights” (from the 1987s Crazy nights)
6. “No No No” (from the 1987s Crazy nights)
7. “War Machine” (from the 1982s Creatures of the night)
8. “Reason to Live” (from the 1987s Crazy nights)
9. “Heaven’s on Fire” (from the 1984s Animalize)
10. “I Love It Loud” (from the 1982s Creatures of the night)
11. “Lick It Up” (from the 1983s Lick it up)
12. “Rock and Roll All Nite” (from the 1975s Dressed to kill)
13. “Tears Are Falling” (from the 1985s Asylum)
14. “Detroit Rock City” (from the 1976s Destroyer)

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