Spending a Week on the Open Sea with KISS Fans on KISS Kruise VII (Photos)

Spending a Week on the Open Sea with KISS Fans on KISS Kruise VII (Photos)

“Home sweet mother f#$king home!,” bellows a shirtless Larry Guerin, a six-time KISS Kruise attendee as he races onto the Norwegian Pearl ship, docked in the Port of New Orleans, sporting a mile-wide smile on his face and seven KISS tattoos filling prime real estate on his back.

Guerin’s guttural rebel yell catches its share of notice among the hordes of embarking KISS fans, some hollering in unison,” Hell yes!” A native of New Roads, Louisiana, Guerin, 46, a QC supervisor of chemical plants and refineries, is one of 2300 + passengers (1528 returning cruisers and 746 first-timers) from 31 countries booked on the sold-out KISS Kruise VII, a five-day rockin’ and rollin’ excursion on the high seas with stops in Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico.

As with all past KISS Kruises, this year’s excursion is hosted by Sixthman, the premier music theme cruise company that has this seafaring adventure down to a sweet science. “Sixthman does more than just plan amazing music festivals at sea,” attests Jess Loud, the KISS Kruise “Warrior” (Community Ambassador). “We create and build communities of like-minded fans, so when someone books one of our cruises, they’re joining a family. You just can’t get that everywhere else!”

KISS
Photo: Will Byington

I broach the question to Jess, for those sitting on the fence about going on a music cruise, what would Sixthman tell them to change your mind? “This isn’t just your typical music festival and definitely not your typical cruise, for that matter. This is an all-encompassing experience that you get to have with your favorite band or genre of music plus a tribe of people who love the same things you do. You’re participating in activities with bands from the lineup, seeing some of the best music in small, intimate venues, and enjoying all that a cruise vacation has to offer at the same time.”

This year’s theme is “KISS Kruise VII: KISS World At Sea,” appropriately. Taking a gander at the colorful handmade signs hanging over the rafters on the pool deck sporting the flags of countries ranging from France to Brazil, the Netherlands to Germany, Canada to Mexico, Austria to England, it’s the perfect theme for this global convergence of the KISS Army at sea and demonstrates the dazzling multi-cultural collision of fans, proud and defiant in their declaration of fierce devotion for the hottest band in the land.

“The KISS Kruise experience is unique in that you’re interacting with KISS in a way that is not available during any other time of the year while they are touring,” relates Jess Loud. “There are only a handful of bands that can boast such a long and extensive career of 40+ years, a wildly passionate fan-base, and the type of band interaction that you get on a KISS Kruise. From live Q&A’s with KISS manager Doc McGhee to seeing each member participate in activities that relate to their personal interests, to two shows in a theater where virtually every seat feels like the best seat in the house, there is something for everyone!”

KISS fans
Photo: Will Byington

Sixthman’s motto is “live loud,” which applies perfectly to the hedonism x10 vibe on the KISS Kruise.

In terms of creating the concept/theme for this year’s KISS Kruise, what goes into the planning, Jess Loud remarks, “KISS and their team work closely with Sixthman to guide the process as we carry out their vision. Our team works year-round to plan the guest experience and bring to life each year’s concept with special shows and activities.”

Fan One-On-One

Maria Self, 47, Houston, Texas

“Our most memorable experience was getting to see KISS and all the other awesome artists in one location and getting to interact with the artists on a personal level. The Sailaway show was very memorable for my husband, Robert, and I because they played many songs they haven’t played in years.

Biggest surprise on the Kruise?

“I didn’t know Gene’s daughter Sophie was such a good singer, she really impressed me doing her own stuff and covers. I really want her to do an album!”

For a majority of the attendees onboard KISS Kruise VII, the attraction and appeal is less about KISS and the ancillary events and activities themselves and more about reconnecting with “family,” a tight bond bridging nationalities, language barriers, age and creed. It’s a family where blue collar meets white collar cross-navigating a myriad of occupations, lawyers and doctors, construction workers and automobile mechanics, graphic designers and school teachers. “I live in New Jersey, I’m not a world traveler by any means,” asserts one fan, “But taking part in the KISS Kruise each year, I‘m able to interact and forge friendships with people from all around the world. I’ve made friends this year with people I’d never have had the chance to meet from Spain, Sweden, France and Australia. It’s like a microcosm of countries and cultures and we all share the same vital connection; we love KISS!”

Adds Jess Loud, “The KISS Navy is a really tight-knit bunch. Something that we hear every year from the KISS Kruiser community is that they attended their first cruise as strangers and left with a new group of friends. Many of them began cruising together on KKI and have been friends ever since.”

Fan One-On-One

Harumi Nakajima, 55, Tokyo, Japan

How many KISS Kruises have you attended? “All seven of them.”

Most unforgettable moment on the KISS Kruise? “On the first KISS Kruise, my room was situated close to KISS’s dressing room so before and after each show the band came down the hallway, greeted fans and signed autographs.”

Favorite activity on KISS Kruise VII? “The KISS indoor live show.”

KISS indoor show
Photo: Greg Hounshell

What keeps you coming back on the KISS Kruise? “There’s always something new. They never let me down and they always top themselves.”

November 5th, 5:45PM, KISS Kruise Sail-Away Acoustic concert, Pool Deck

As the huge Norwegian Pearl slowly casts off from the Port of New Orleans on a spirited rock and roll adventure of fun, frolic and kick-ass rock and roll, the pool deck is crammed with fans on the floor and upper deck, joined together to witness a special KISS acoustic “Storytellers” show sans makeup.

With the wind sweeping off of the Mississippi River, anticipation is in the air. The band appear, finally, to a huge eruption of cheers and kick off the show with a powerful rendition of “Coming Home,” culled from their second album, 1974’s Hotter Than Hell. Loose and chatty, the band dive deep, plucking many jewels from the KISS catalog, each reconfigured in an acoustic setting. This stripped-down reworkings demonstrate the fine-tuned craftsmanship behind the songs themselves, sans their trademark walls of Marshall amps cranked to ten and spectacular theatrics, bombast and spectacle.

KISS Kruise
Photo: Will Byington

Founding members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley lead the charge and revisit their musical past, offering a multitude of stories behind many KISS classics. Next to me, it’s a family affair with a father and daughter united for this KISS experience. I watch Russell Miller from Louisville, Kentucky hoisting his five-year old daughter Leia onto his shoulders, who’s smiling and laughing, witnessing the action from her prime vantage view.

Set list

  • “Coming Home”
  • “Plaster Caster”
  • “Do You Love Me?”
  • “Christeen Sixteen” (Paul Stanley: “We’re not as young as we used to be. The song used to be called ‘Christeen Sixteen,’ now we call it Christeen 60.”)
  • “Hotter Than Hell””
  • “World Without Heroes”
  • “Got to Choose”(Paul explains how the song derived its inspiration by an unlikely source, soul singer Wilson Pickett’s “99 ½ Won’t Do.”)
  • “Hide Your Heart”
  • “Goin’ Blind” (Paul Stanley: “This song has two titles now, it’s Goin’ Blind and Goin’ Deaf.”)
  • “Beth”
  • “Love Her All I Can”
  • “Every Time I Look At You”
  • “Nothin’ To Lose”
  • “Shock Me”
  • “See You Tonigh”t (Gene Simmons 1978 self-titled solo album)
  • “Calling Dr. Love”

At the conclusion of the set, to the surprise of the rowdy audience, Gene threw his red acoustic Punisher bass into the crowd. Pandemonium ensued, feet, arms, legs flailing. Jill Clement, an Orlando, Florida native, was the lucky recipient of The Demon’s instrument. “It was a complete shock,” relates Clement. “It was so insane. I was at the bottom of a pile of large men and wrapped my body around the bass until they all let go. I’ve got cuts all over my legs and my wrist its bruised but was well worth it.”

A KISS Kruise isn’t your parents’ or grandparents’ idea of the peaceful and relaxing cruise experience of yesteryear; rather, it’s a 5-day adventure packed with as many activities and unique fan/group events as one can handle. Besides KISS, there’s an assortment of established bands/artists on hand to keep the party lit– Extreme, Derek St. Holmes (Ted Nugent) and Steel Panther. There’s also tribute groups, Hard Day’s Night (The Beatles), Led Zepagain (Led Zeppelin), and Big Rock Show (who serve as the musical backing group when Gene Simmons performs solo gigs) plus talented KISS offspring, The Dives, a power-pop outfit fronted by Paul Stanley’s son, Evan, and sultry chanteuse, Sophie Simmons, the daughter of Gene Simmons.

In terms of finalizing the lineup for each KISS Kruise, according to Jess Loud, “guest feedback about the lineup each year, paired with KISS’s direction is what drives the lineup conversations for each year so it can change from one cruise to another.”

Photo: Brad Estra

KISSworld Konfidential is a new addition to this year’s festivities, drawing together key figures in the band’s 40-year history to share candid, behind the curtain stories of the fantastic foursome. Appearing on the kruise are brothers Bruce Kulick (former KISS guitarist, 1984-1995) and Bob Kulick (original auditioned for KISS and lent his playing to Alive II, Paul Stanley’s self-titled 1978 solo LP and Killers), road manager “Big “ John Harte, Lydia Criss, ex-wife of Peter Criss and a central figure in the group’s career arc from the beginning; she was there to witness the birth of KISS and renowned producer Michael James Jackson, who manned the boards behind such KISS albums as Creatures Of The Night, Lick It Up and Animalize.

Fan One-On-One

John Buruss, 50, Los Angeles, California

How many KISS Kruises have you attended? “All of them.”

Most unforgettable moment ion the KISS Kruise? “My meet and greet experience with Paul Stanley.”

Favorite activity on KISS Kruise VII? “The KISS sailaway show.”

What keeps you coming back on KISS Kruise? “Simple answer—It’s KISS. I’ve seen this band over 100 times in concert. With the KISS Kruises, there’s always something new. They never let me down and they always top themselves.”

Paul Stanley’s ‘Dynasty’ costume. Photo: Brad Estra

Walking through the ship, in select locations there’s a virtual KISS museum with rare vintage artifacts encased inside plexiglass commemorating decades of KISStory. Artifacts drawing large numbers of fans include Paul Stanley’s 1979 Dynasty costume, boots, and Ibanez PS10 Cracked Mirror guitar, Paul’s 1975 Dressed to Kill platform boots worn when KISS visited Cadillac High School in the fall of ’75, Gene Simmons’ 2008-2009 Alive 35 costume, dragon boots and Axe guitar, Paul Stanley’s PS 2000 guitar played at the finale of the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City and Simmons’s Gibson Grabber bass replica used for the band’s performance of their classic 1975 album, Alive! on 2015’s KISS Kruise. There’s also a display which includes KISS’s original makeup registration design plaques for Paul, Gene, Ace and Peter, Gene’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame award and a collection of vintage KISS memorabilia including a toy guitar, Rub ‘N Play colorforms set, model kit, trading cards and dolls.

For Gene Simmons, the appeal of the KISS Kruise is its generational appeal to younger fans. “I appreciate fans who have been with us since the beginning and who have tattooed their bodies and name their kids after the songs; that’s always amazing. But when you see the lights go on a five-year-old’s mind and eyes is great. We point this out and we talk about it. Look, I wasn’t even born in America. When I first came to America I was one of those kids. The difference between you and anybody else, there’s no class at school that teaches you how to do that. You decided to roll up your sleeves and put in the time and the effort and the work to get where you are. That’s for me too and the Pope and the president. When you look down at the kids and look in their eyes and they’re looking at Mom and Dad and then this five-year-old little putz steps in front of their parents, usually they’ll hide behind, and put their hand out and say, “Hi! I’m Jimmy, nice to meet you.”

So you think, “There you go, there’s that first big step, that kind of, Mom and Dad gave me birth but the rest is up to me” kind of thing. So the best part of it is that the kids come on the cruise along with the grown up who can flirt and gamble and the kids have all the fun stuff, the pools and the games and all the other stuff.”

Paul Stanley agrees and adds, “I think KISS is almost a rite of passage that some people bring their children to. It’s way of saying ‘this is something that meant a lot to me, this is something that was a turning point and was pivotal in my life and maybe it will be in yours.” KISS has multi-generational appeal because KISS has an appeal that’s timeless. KISS isn’t only about music. It’s about an attitude, it’s about a way of life; it’s about a philosophy of approaching life.”

Fan One-On-One

Antonio Formica, 51, Melbourne, Australia

How many KISS Kruises have you attended? “KISS Kruise VII is my first time taking part, I’m so excited to be there.”

Most unforgettable moment on the KISS Kruise? “The KISS Q&A.”

Favorite activity on KISS Kruise VII? “The KISS indoor live show at the Stardust Theater.”

 November 6th, 12:15 PM, Gene Simmons suite

 Perched high atop the ship is a suite befitting Gene Simmons. Larger than life and vast in scope, there are a line of fans snaking through the entrance and interior of the suite. They’ve all purchased a bass from Gene’s signature line, which afforded them this intimate meet and greet/photo op experience.

Bill Hollis, 51, a Chicago native, brought a thick wallet to this year’s KISS Kruise. This is his third purchase of a Gene Simmons bass. “I shelled out $4900 for the Sailaway show package which comes with an “Ascent of Gene,” black Punisher bass and a copy of Gene’s massive new box set, The Vault. Hollis further explains: “I’m a huge Gene fan and have been following KISS since 1975. I don’t play bass very well so my main reason for ordering the bass was to have a collectible piece of KISStory. We have a KISS corner in our living room with the 1978 pinball machine and many signed KISS collectibles and that’s where I plan to mount this new bass.”

Photo: Christina Vitagliano

Gene is in a playful mood, spending quality time with each fan, taking photos, signing memorabilia and also inscribing a personal message on each bass as requested by the fan. Then there’s a break in the action. Gene tells the fans that he needs to take a few minutes to eat and welcomes the fans to join him. Before he motions for the fans to join him at a large table, he grabs a large silver platter piled high with pastries and walks around to each fan and serves them. Blackstone, Virginia resident, Martin McWilliams, 47, enthuses,”It’s not every day you get to eat lunch with ‘The God of Thunder!’”

Some fans come bearing gifts. Scott Leifer, 45, a native of Boston, Massachusetts has created a custom KISS Scrabble board to give to Gene. “I’m an expert national tournament Scrabble player—I compete in championships across the country. This is a one of a kind item that I hope Gene will enjoy.”

November 7th, 7:15PM, KISS Meet And Greet Photo

Growing up in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, the idea of a KISS fan meeting the band and posing for a photograph with them in warpaint was a remote bucket list wish likely never to be fulfilled. On the KISS Kruise, the great divide between band and fans is removed as each passenger is afforded the chance to pose for a photo with Gene, Paul, Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer. Prior to both of the band’s makeup shows, the band are real troopers, posing for several hours with their loyal legion of fans, some crying tears of joy for a dream fulfilled, others decked out in KISS ‘costumes and makeup looking like bad-ass doppelgangers posing proudly next to their heroes.

Seeing fans in tears at meeting their heroes or watching their face light up with happiness like they’re plugged into a giant Christmas is moving for the band as well as Paul Stanley explain, “When people come to you and say “You changed my life”, there’s no putting a price on the feeling that you get from that. The sense that people see KISS as pivotal in their lives or shaping who they become is not anything I’ve ever dreamed of or aspired to and maybe that’s why it was possible. For an unpopular kid from Queens, which is where I was and which in some part I’ll always be, to have accomplished what we have with KISS is amazing and deeply cool.”

Photo: Joe Pappalardo

Indeed, KISS are one of the most successful rock bands ever. When asked about the secret to KISS’s success, Gene Simmons relates that it all comes down to one simple concept, “we are one with our fans. I say to anyone who asks: ‘Listen to no one.’ The idea of not listening to anybody else is if you fail then at least you fail on your own terms. And if you win then you have nobody to thank but yourself and that’s the only way I prefer winning. I don’t want to win and turn around to somebody and say thank you. If you don’t dare you fail. If I’ve got the bat in my hand and I’m trying I can’t fail, as long as you keep trying. In other words, I’ll keep swinging with the bat. It’s a strike? I didn’t fail, I’m just getting better. If you don’t try you fail. You can’t fail. Sooner or later you’ll hit that ball.”

Beyond the meet and greet photo experiences taking place on the KISS Kruise, that wall between artist/fans is further shattered with an array of events hosted by each individual member, “Are You Smarter Than A Rock God with Gene Simmons?” where fans match wits with “The Demon of Rock,” Kruise Kitchen with Paul Stanley, a cooking class hosted by “The Starchild,” where he tests his culinary chops, “Name That Guitar Solo” with Tommy Thayer and “Drum Off With Eric.”

November 7th, 6:30PM, Gene Simmons Petting Zoo

He’s a beast on the concert stage so it’s apt that his gargantuan collection of bass guitars are available in a musical petting zoo of sorts. Fans swarm the lounge to get an up close and personal look at the various hand crafted Gene Simmons basses on display including his popular line of Axe and Punisher basses.

Fans with deep pockets who purchase a bass (which range in price from five to ten thousand dollars) also take part in a meet and greet in a private suite with Gene Simmons, a chance to spend quality time with the rock demon. And that’s the real draw for many participants. “Every fan that has interest in a Gene Simmons Bass Meet & Greet Experience asks the same question…’Can you explain the experience?,’” relates Christina Vitagliano, Gene Simmons Axe Bass Coordinator. “Though I do bullet point the experience on paper, I jokingly say… “No, not really!  Because it’s surreal. He is Gene Simmons. And if there is anything I have learned by working side by side with this man is that there is only one Gene Simmons. Your experience will not be like any other fan’s experience because you are you and Gene actually speaks to you, he identifies with you, he spends time with you. You are not a body in a line of fans with the only goal in mind, to finish. Gene’s only goal is to have his fans leave his suite, yes this all takes place in Gene’s suite on this Kruise, thinking “that was the most awesome thing I have ever done and…how do I do it again!” After all, he is Gene Simmons. Also, it’s just as much fun to watch Gene enjoy every second of this intense day. This will be my 4th Kruise with the “God of Thunder,” and honestly I have no idea how many hundreds of personal bass signings we have done but it’s like working side by side with the human combination of a 12 year-old boy and an experienced knowledgeable 67 year-old Rock God.”

November 9th, 11AM, Gene Simmons Master Class, Stardust Theater

Photo: Christina Vitagliano

Having shelled out a mighty wad of greenbacks, there’s a roomful of fans ready to make music with Gene. Groups of 15-20 fans take part in each session. Each fan is strapped with one of Gene’s exquisitely designed bass guitars and go on to collaborate with the “God of Thunder,” who teaches them about the mechanics of songwriting and with electric guitar in hand, performs with the students and helps them create their own original song. Seeing the smiles light up the room as the students work intimately with Gene is moving and proof that rock and roll dreams do come true. “We may have 50 to 100 people taking part but even if you’re watching me show somebody how to come up with their own thing, it unlocks the thing in your mind,” observes Simmons. “So at any point you may have 10 bass players and 10 guitar players and I’m gonna show them that there’s not much difference between bass or guitar.”

Paul Stanley is a multi-faceted artist, consummate songwriter, singer, performer, producer, artist. Throughout the cruise, Stanley’s beautifully rendered portraits and vibrant abstract paintings are on display and for sale in The Wentworth Galleries Showcase. Neil McCurry, 52, a Sarasota, Florida resident threw down $1825 for a Paul Stanley painting “The Road.” McCurry reveals that he initially had his heart set on a canvas Paul had painted of the four original members of the band “but the wife said, ‘do you really want to have this conversation with me?’ So it was onto plan B. Paul is a really gifted painter. I chose ‘The Road’ because I like abstract art, it matches the colors of my home and my wife went along with it,” he laughingly adds.

In commemoration of this year’s KISS Kruise, there are two exclusive guitars being offered: a black acoustic 12-string and a beautifully designed Paul Stanley Ibanez Iceman emblazoned with an exclusive eye catching design, made available in a limited edition of 30 guitars. Dominick Fejzuloski, 24, from Chicago purchased a Paul Stanley 12-string acoustic. “Ever since I was a kid into KISS, I was always pulled towards Paul. This is my 4th Paul Stanley guitar. This is the first time he has come out with a signature acoustic 12-string and I just had to have it. Paul signed the guitar with the phrase, “you got to treat yourself like number one.” Dominick’s mother, Julie, also came along on the cruise and has her own personal connection with “The Starchild.” “My connection with Paul came through my brother, David, who loved KISS; tragically, my brother had leukemia and he wanted to be Paul Stanley on Halloween in 1977 and thankfully he made it to Halloween and got his wish. He tragically passed away a few day later on November 6, 1977, so I always felt a special connection with Paul.”

Wenderson Silva flew in all the way from Brazil for KISS Kruise VII and took home “the ultimate collectible, a Paul Stanley KISS Kruise VII guitar. It’s a limited edition of only 30 guitars and I got one. I’m a crazy Brazilian fan. I have an Ace Frehley guitar and I’m thrilled to now have a Paul Stanley guitar. This Ibanez Pl20 is a beautiful guitar, the desig is incredibly striking. But I’m not gonna play it, it’s gonna hang on my wall.”

November 6th, Paul Stanley exclusive acoustic storytellers show, Spinnaker Lounge, 5PM

Photo: Joe Pappalardo

Fans who purchase Stanley’s art or his guitars gain entry into an exclusive intimate Paul Stanley acoustic “Storytellers” show.

Part Q&A, part acoustic performance, Paul held court to a packed room at the Spinnaker Lounge, fielding questions on topics ranging from if there’s any plans for a new KISS album (“if we did an album, it would have to be something different from what we’ve already done,” confirmation of a KISS world tour in 2018, if he has any interest in a return to Broadway and more. When questioned about his go-to songs, Paul responded, “A lot of Beatles, a lot of Zeppelin. I love Motown, Philly Soul. When I put on music, I listen to the Temptations, the Four Tops, the Marvelettes and Stevie Wonder. That’s as much my roots and the music I grew up on as much as English rock and roll.” He had some pointed comments when queried about the state of  the music industry relating “I’m worried about younger bands. To me, I equate file sharing to stealing. Corporations are taking all the money in 360 deals. I feel bad for the people starting out. The industry is in shambles and as I said, the ones I worry about are the new bands who deserve to be paid.” He further offers advice to bands forging ahead with a career in music, “the way to build a band is not being on a talent show, you have to take it out to the people. KISS are a people’s band and that’s what we always did.”

In recalling the musical heroes that inspired him, Paul raved about Humble Pie. “Steve Marriott was a phenomenal singer and preacher onstage. Humble Pie was a band that really inspired KISS.” When asked about his dream collaborator Paul quickly answered: “Jimmy Page. He’s Beethoven, he’s Mozart. He’s the most underrated producer. What he’s painted with Led Zeppelin is phenomenal so to do something with him would be incredible.”

For Paul’s acoustic set, he was joined by his son, Evan, who fronts the power pop combo, The Dives, and Mike Lefton, his band mate in The Dives. Opening with a spirited three-part harmony laden rendition of Eagles “Peaceful Easy Feeling” followed by a first time ever performance of “If We Ever Get Out Of This Place,” a song he wrote that was recorded by Eddie Money. Next, Paul called up a surprise guest, guitarist Bob Kulick, for a first time ever live performance of “Ain’t Quite Right, “culled from Paul’s 1978 solo album, Paul on 12-string and Bob adding rhythmic and lead guitar fills.

Closing out the set, Paul called up another friend, Derek St. Holmes, best known for fronting the Ted Nugent band and singing lead vocals on classics like “Stranglehold” and “Just What The Doctor Ordered.” They turned the clock back to 1970 and delivered a robust run through of Free’s “All Right Now,” Paul and Derek trading off soulful vocals.

November 7th, 5:45PM, KISS live show #1, Stardust Theater

Hours before the 9PM showtime, fans are lined up outside of the Stardust Theater for the first of two KISS indoor shows in full warpaint and costumes. Hands down, each year this is the most anticipated event of the KISS Kruise. Says Debbie Nale, 58, who calls Dyersburg, Tennessee her home: “Last time was saw KISS was in a big arena and we were far away from the stage. So getting the chance to see them this close is really exciting—the intimacy is really special. They’re performing for their hardcore fans.”

As with prior KISS Kruise live makeup shows, the band is freed from their normally fairly rigid set lists and able to pivot and entertain the hard cores with a smattering of deep cuts. This year is no different, with explosive renditions of nuggets purloined from their vast catalog. Opening with “Tomorrow & Tonight” from 1977’s Love Gun album, a deep cut so deep that the band has never played it live, it was followed by yet another choice album track, “Sweet Pain” from 1976’s Destroyer which also was a first timer in a live setting, each demonstrating the flexibility of set lists for the die-hard KISS Kruisers.

“Some people say we don’t play stuff we haven’t played live,” shouts Paul Stanley, “this is where we’re gonna do that.” Alongside warhorses like “Shout It Out Loud,” I Love It Loud, “ Detroit Rock City” and “Lick It Up,” the band also dusted off rarely if never played gems from Unmasked (“Is That You?”), Sonic Boom (“Hot and Cold”) and the set closer “I” from the band’s 1981 concept album, (Music From) The Elder. Performing to such an intimate crowd of diehards and being able to shake up the set list also noticeably kicks things up a notch or two for the band members themselves, who feed off the crowd’s tsunami of energy and good vibes. “You can’t help but have a good time at one of our shows when everybody is going nuts onstage,” states Gene Simmons. “That kind of a good time is infectious. You can’t fake it. You can’t fool the audience. The people will see right through you if you put on a fake smile or you’re not putting out your best. When we introduce ourselves with “You wanted the best, you got the best”, we are not only proclaiming to the fans that they’re about to get a treat but also throwing down the gauntlet for ourselves each and every time we step up on that holy stage.”

Set List

  • “Tomorrow & Tonight” (first time played live in band’s career)
  • “Sweet Pain” (first time played live)
  • “Shout It Loud”
  • “I Love It Loud”
  • “Flaming Youth”
  • “Hot and Cold” (first time played live)
  • “Say eah”
  • “War Machine”
  • “Is That You?”
  • “Cold Gin”
  • “Lick It Up”
  • “Black Diamond”
  • “Detroit Rock City”
  • “Rock & Roll All Nite”
  • “I” (not performed live since 1982)

Fan One-On-One

Romain Garrigos, 29, Lyon, France

How many KISS Kruises have you attended? “I’m excited to say this is my first KISS Kruise. I’ve had such an incredible time. While my English is limited, I was still able to make new friends with fans from Japan, France and the States.”

Most unforgettable moment on KISS Kruise? “I’m here on the KISS Kruise with my father, mother and sister celebrating my dad’s 50th birthday. He’s a big KISS fan and has been a loyal fan since he was ten years old. So having all of us together to see KISS and experience all of these cool activities on the Kruise has been very meaningful to me.”

Fan One-On-One

Nils Svensson, 49, Oslo, Norway

How many times on The KISS Kruise? 4th KISS Kruise

Highlight of KISS Kruise VII: “The Gene Simmons Vault panel. I bought a copy of The Vault and I’m so excited about it. So it was very informative to learn all about it from Gene Simmons personally and also to hear excerpts of many of the demos to be included was fascinating. It was also exciting to watch Gene play an acoustic version of “My Uncle Is A Raft,” the earliest  demos on the box set.”

What keeps him coming back? “The set lists with the deep cuts.”

It’s 8AM and the Norwegian Pearl is docked in the port of New Orleans. Passengers are milling about in the lobby, exchanging goodbyes and high fives with their friends. Kari Scott from Flagstaff, Arizona is a KISS Kruise veteran–this is her sixth. While she’s busy writing down her email for a few of the new friends she made on the ship, I ask her about this bond. “Some of my best friends in the world are on this cruise. I only see them once a year so it’s always a special occasion. Being on the ship is a like being in a whole different world, separate from your real life.”

A seven-time KISS Kruiser, Fairfield, New Jersey native Mechel Pava is one of the first to slowly depart from the ship. She’s bleary eyed and a bit teary eyed as well, exclaiming, “It’s really tough to leave. I feel like I’ve been in my own KISS universe on the ship and don’t want it to end. I’ve been on every KISS Kruise and I make at least 100 new friends. One of the main reasons I come each year is to see my KISS family—I have friends from all over the world. This has been such a blast. I think I’ve only slept one hour a night in the last few days. This year’s KISS Kruise exceeded my expectations. I’ve seen over 150 KISS show in 25 states and at least three countries but KISS Kruise ranks at the top for me. What’s next for me is catching up on a lot of sleep and saving up to come back next year. KISS Kruise VIII, here I come!”

Gene Simmons has the last word: “KISS is bigger than you and it’s bigger than me.  KISS can’t quite be defined. It is a band but as we have seen over the years, it is also a culture. And while we initially started out believing that no one could replace the original founding members of KISS, we came to learn we were wrong. KISS was always bigger than anyone in the band.”

7 Responses to "Spending a Week on the Open Sea with KISS Fans on KISS Kruise VII (Photos)"

  1. Ron Buckley   December 13, 2017 at 9:41 pm

    Great recap of KKVII Ken!

    Reply
  2. Liam   December 14, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    Love KISS! I’m there next year!

    Reply
  3. Cynthia Fields-Jalil   December 14, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    Thanks so much for this awesome read and amazing KISS Kriuse re-cap, I LOVED IT! Additionally and just so you know, it was wonderful getting to hang with you for a bit a Andy’s Howlin’ Wolf Living In Sin KISS Kriuse PreParty. It was super nice of you to autograph my merch, my mom Rosa’s merch and fiu. Having you pose pics with Amber, mo, mand I. And finally it was my sincere pleasure to chat with you here and there while on board the KISS Kruise VII. Amber and I.WILL See you on the KK8!

    Season’s Greeting To YOU & YOURS,
    Cynthia

    Reply
  4. Martin Lofgren   December 14, 2017 at 11:44 pm

    What a great article! Hope I get to be on the next Kruise.

    Reply
  5. RDJ   December 15, 2017 at 1:30 am

    “Tomorrow & Tonight” played live for the first time in bands career? That isn’t right after all that song is on Alive II so it was played at least once before?

    Reply
    • John B   December 17, 2017 at 7:17 am

      Nah. The version on Alive 2 was recorded at soundcheck so they could put it on the album with applause overdubbed.

      Reply
  6. Reyes   December 15, 2017 at 9:48 am

    My buddy and I will be attending out 3rd KK NEXT YEAR !! I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW HOW TO GET SOMA GOOD AUTOGRAPHS FROM KISS.. which way do they walk off stage to get to their changing rooms ?

    Reply

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