How Bruce and Bob Kulick Teamed Up for Their First-Ever Kiss-Themed Concert
In what he calls "a gig I'll never forget," former Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick recently teamed up with his brother Bob Kulick for a first-ever concert celebrating their respective contributions to the group's history.
The younger of the two guitar-playing brothers, Bruce played with Kiss from 1984 to 1996, while his older brother Bob co-wrote or secretly played on several songs by the group in the late '70s and early '80s. They joined forces to perform a full set equally drawn from those two eras on this year's edition of the Kiss Kruise.
"There was one Kiss expo where we did a few songs, and that's the only time we've played together. This was much bigger," Bruce tells Ultimate Classic Rock. "The fans would always ask, 'When will you be on the cruise?' My answer was, 'When they ask me.' It's not like I control the situation. I know I was requested many times."
At first, the brothers were originally slated to only be a part of a Q&A panel. "I was poking around, asking, well, wouldn’t they want me to play?" Kulick recalls. "And they’d say, 'Yeah we’ll figure that out. Are you available?'
Luckily, when the green light did arrive, the elder Kulick had a band ready. "The phone lines were burning between my brother and I," explains Kulick. "He just finished putting out his first solo album ever, Skeletons in the Closet. He had two talented guys from Las Vegas, where he lives, on that album -- Brent Fritz from [Bruce's post-Kiss band] Union, who is currently Slash’s drummer, and Todd Kerns, Slash’s bassist and backup vocalist, who’s a solo artist as well. Bob was hammering those guys. I said, 'If you can get Todd and Brent and the cruise people to commit to us playing together, I’ll be very happy.'"
Making up a set list was fairly easy. "The choice of songs was pretty obvious to Bob and I," notes Kulick. With five studio albums, "I could do an entire set of Kiss songs, Bob probably almost could -- there are other songs he co-wrote that he didn’t play on. The band currently doesn't do a lot of songs from my era, or a lot of the stuff Bob played on. So we just went back and forth -- 'Wouldn't You Like to Know Me' into 'Domino,' that kind of thing -- it was just a celebration of what he and I have contributed to Kiss."
There was some sibling headbutting along the way -- to be expected, says Kulick. "We’re brothers, I’m not going to deny we get into it sometimes," he says. "But we both handled it well." When Bob initially resisted including "Who Wants to Be Lonely" in the set, Bruce quickly set him straight: "Are you kidding me? Trust me on this one, the fans are going to go crazy."
Even more complicated material, such as the Bob Ezrin-produced Revenge track "Tough Love," came together fairly easily thanks to the duo's natural chemistry, says Kulick. "He said to me, 'You need to show me some of that stuff.' I said, 'Damn right I will, and you’re gonna pick it up quick.' Still, I couldn't believe how fast he picked it up. In the end, he owned it. That what was fun about working with him in this way -- there was a lot of back and forth, making it right and always being very respectful with the material."
Finding time in their collective schedules to rehearse was a little harder. "I flew to Vegas for two rehearsals a month ago," Kulick explains. "Our schedules are all crazy -- those guys are staying very busy, and I’ve had the biggest year in 17 years of being the guitarist for Grand Funk Railroad. I don’t know why Grand Funk is working more than ever, but it’s a good thing. We recently did a show with Bob Seger that went over great -- before he got hurt we were offered more shows, but we already had conflicting shows booked."
Kulick also admits to being nervous about how the brothers' Kiss Kruise show would go down. "It’s a challenge to play poolside in the middle of the gulf of Mexico," he says. "There’s wind blowing pretty intensely, the floor is always moving, it’s not like your usual indoor arena, you’re on a moving vessel. It’s damp, it’s windy, the elements are kinda weird, but that’s the thrill of it. We toughed it out."
Kerns, a "huge" Kiss fan, handled the lead vocals. "You gotta give a lot of credit to Todd," marvels Kulick. "The people that knew of him weren’t shocked. The people that hadn’t seen him before are not going to forget his name now. The guy is a super talented singer. He does a song or two with Slash, even though Myles Kennedy is there. He’s got that front man voice, and I knew I could rely on him to do the job."
As anybody who follows a serious Kiss fan on social media probably already knows, the show was very well received. "The reaction has been tremendous," Kulick says. "It couldn't have been a better opportunity to perform those songs -- on that night, on that ship, with that crowd, it’s a gig I’ll never forget."
When asked if there could be more shows with his brother in the future, Kulick is careful to balance his enthusiasm for the idea with a clear-eyed look at the realities of the schedules involved. "It’s not that easy," he notes. "I’m in a band, and those guys [Bob, Fitz, Kerns] have a lot of things going on. I have a brother, and I realize what we can do, but what the future holds, I can’t promise and I can’t speculate on anything.”
"It meant a lot to both my brother and I, the fact that we pulled it off so well and that it was so well received," he says. "I'm not saying that I don’t want it to happen again, but if it never could happen again like that, I’m okay because I did something super special. I’d hate to make promises [about future shows], I don’t know how feasible it is. Most importantly, I want to stay in the glow of that gig. It's a good feeling. The love from the Kiss fans, it’s been a huge shot in the arm for my brother both professionally and emotionally."
Besides, it was a chance to make their 93-year-old mother extra proud of her sons. "I saw her on Wednesday, and I showed her some of the photos and videos," Kulick says. "She was very happy!"
The Kulick Brothers Set List, Kiss Kruise, 11/5/17
1. "All American Man"
2. "Hide Your Heart"
3. "Wouldn’t You Like To Know Me"
5. "Larger Than Life"
6. "Tears Are Falling"
7. "Nowhere To Run"
8. "Tough Love"
9. "Tonight You Belong To Me"
10. "Who Wants To Be Lonely"
11. "Crazy Crazy Nights"
12. "Turn On The Night"
The Kulick Brothers Perform "All American Man"
The Kulick Brothers Perform "Tough Love"
The Kulick Brothers Perform "Who Wants to Be Lonely?"
The Kulick Brothers Perform "Turn on the Night"