Even using only a portion of their typical stage setup, Kiss delivered a dazzling concert to a packed crowd at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H. last night.

The band is taking a break from recording their next studio album to play a relatively brief series of concerts in smaller towns, the kind of places they haven't played in several years, in what they're dubbing the "Lost Cities" tour.

Their full arsenal of ramps, lights and flying rigs won't fit in these venues, so the band had to rely a bit more on their music to entertain the crowd. Accordingly, Paul Stanley and company chose an 18-song set list heavy on classic rockers from their '70s heyday, which they performed in a faithful, muscular and energetic manner.

Many fans criticize Stanley and co-founder Gene Simmons for hiring Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer to wear the makeup made famous by original guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss while filling their roles in the band.

But, it was pretty clear from the 2000 farewell tour that the original lineup's chemistry was no longer intact. The energy and precision the new guys bring to the table seems to have re-invigorated the old guard, especially Stanley, who's added a bit more of a knowing wink to his delivery of wonderfully adolescent songs like 'Love Gun.'

A couple of recently absent Kiss classics made their return to the show for this tour, with Simmons once again spitting up blood before the Godzilla-like crawl of 'God of Thunder,' and the band's oft-hidden Beatles love shining through in the surprisingly melodic instrumental coda of 'Do You Love Me?'

The show proved that the music is, jokes aside, the most important factor in Kiss' nearly forty-year career. That said, when we say it was a stripped-down show, of course that's a relative term. The band still soared above the crowd on big hydraulic lifts, and set off more fireworks than my hometown did on the 4th of July. At one point Singer even blew up part of the stage with a bazooka.

In short, even at a small town show, Kiss delivered big for their audience.


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