From The Pit To The Crowd: KISS with Garabaldi – Amalie Arena – Tampa FL – April 11, 2019

Photo by Talon Kane Photography

Every great story has a captivating beginning, a dramatic middle, and an ending to bring closure to the story. And while not the ending may be good to everyone’s perception, for the characters involved it brings them satisfaction and peace of mind. And this is how I believe KISS feels on saying goodbye to the KISS Army and fans around the world. On a Wednesday night, September 19, 2018, KISS performed on NBC’s America’s Got Talent to start off the show’s 13th season finale. After their performance of “Detroit Rock City”, the band announced they would be hanging up their costumes and boots for good with one final tour. That tour would be known as “The End of the Road Tour”. And there’s no doubt this was the biggest production the band put on stage ever.

On April 11, 2019 KISS performed at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL. Outside, members of the KISS Army were dressed up as their favorite band member having drinks, taking photos with friends, and buying merchandise. When show time got closer, those thousands of fans poured into the arena filling up the seats excited to see their favorite band one last time. Before KISS took the stage for their final performance, the crowd was treated to a spectacular performance by a painter who goes by the name Garabaldi. Full name David Garbaldi is from Los Angeles, CA and has a stage act known as “Rhythm and Hue” where he paints on stage live to music. He appeared on the seventh season of Amerca’s Got Talent. He made it to the finale and ended up placing 4th. He also toured with Blue Man Group. During these performances, he’s known to paint music artists and he did not disappoint the crowd that evening. His first painting was one of Ozzy Osbourne, his second was Steven Tyler, and the third was the symbols of all the KISS members. Doing this freehand with rapid strokes in vibrant colors captivated the crowd and the media. You can see more of his work at his website at https://garibaldiarts.com/.

The band that started back in January 1973 is wrapping up a beyond successful 45-year career. The band produced 44 albums and sold over 100 million albums worldwide. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They received the ASCAP Founders Award. They are the Top American Gold Record earning band of all time. The band made appearances at the Super Bowl, the Winter Olympics, and multiple appearances on TV shows including American Idol and America’s Got Talent. The even have their own cruise known as the KISS Kruise. And they have the most passionate fans in the world known as the KISS Army. KISS has done it all. And tonight, they would perform one last time for the Tampa crowd.

With a black drape with “KISS” standing in front of the stage and monitors that stated “KISS Army” hanging, the lights went out, the curtain dropped, and the chords of “Detroit Rock City” rang out in the arena, “The Star” Paul Stanley (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), “The Demon” Gene Simmons (bass, lead vocals), “The Spaceman” Tommy Thayer (lead guitar, backing vocals), came down from the rafters on platforms with lights everywhere. “The Catman” Eric Singer (drums, piano, lead vocals) was on his drum platform in the center of the stage playing. A huge monitor stood behind the stage that displayed different images including their logo or sometimes the members on stage performing. And pryo. The most pryo I have ever seen from any artist at any time. The production was amazing…and that was just song 1. They followed up with “Shout It Out Loud” and then “Deuce”. The band promised the fans would hear some of their greatest hits and fan favorites that night and so far they were nailing it.

As the band made their way through the set fans were singing along at the top of their lungs or recording on their cell phones, preserving something they could re-watch over and over again. KISS performed “Heaven’s on Fire” with such passion and energy and the crowd was right there with them. “War Machine” brought out “The Demon” where Gene breathed fire once more for the fans. It was an amazing sight and everyone was on their feet. As we made it through to the middle of the set, KISS pulled out some of the best songs including “Lick It Up” and “Calling Dr. Love”. During “100,000 years” Eric performed a spectacular drum solo where he was thumping away on the double bass drums to his own beat with a video camera zooming him to see how fast he was pumping the pedals. And with a light show to support him, Eric’s drumming was lightning quick and the crowd cheered wholeheartedly at the end of the solo. During “Cold Gin” Tommy provided a power metal guitar solo the likes no one has seen. The Spaceman was on fire ripping through the chords making his guitar scream. But, the highlight solo was Gene playing his bass in this eerie green light and then the blood starting to ooze from his mouth. The crowd roared upon seeing it and then took his solo straight into “God of Thunder” (of my personal favorites) while being lifted high above the crowd on a platform.

Paul decided to do something different. He told the crowd he wanted to play for them out there in the middle of the crowd. But, they would need to invite him out there and he asked them to say his name. The crowd roared “PAUL!”, but it wasn’t good enough. A second time they roared “PAUL!”, but still not good enough. The third time was the charm as the arena reverberated with “PAUL!” and he replied, “That’s what I was waiting for.” Tommy started playing the beginning of “Love Gun” as Paul got himself on a hook and floated his way through the crowd to the back of the arena on a platform behind the soundboard. The fans on the floor were loving it and facing Paul, their back to the stage. I had goosebumps watching the performance. Paul stayed out there for one more song performing “I Was Made for Lovin’ You”. The band wrapped it up with “Black Diamond” before thanking the Tampa crowd and walking off stage.

Of course, we all knew that wasn’t the end. The encore was coming and it was bigger than anything I’ve ever seen. First, a piano appeared on the stage and Eric sat behind it to perform “Beth”, one of the most well-known ballads ever. It sounded beautiful and when he finished the rest of the band came out to show their appreciation to him. Next was “Do You Love Me”. And finally, the last song KISS said goodbye to their KISS Army and the fans had to be “Rock and Roll All Nite”. Probably KISS’ most popular song from their 1975 album Dressed To Kill had the fans on their feet as pounds of confetti blew out of cannons from the stage. Tommy and Gene got on platforms that brought them out over the crowd as they played. And when everyone finally returned to the stage, Paul teased breaking his guitar with pyro shooting out every time he did. On the third swing, the guitar smashed into pieces, pyro exploded from the stage, and streamers fell from the ceiling. Paul thanked the crowd and said goodnight to Tampa one final time and mentioned without the fans KISS wouldn’t be where they are today and thanked the fans. You can visit their site for more tour dates and merchandise at https://www.kissonline.com. Their full setlist for that night:

  1. Detroit Rock City
  2. Shout It Out Loud
  3. Deuce
  4. Say Yeah
  5. I Love It Loud
  6. Heaven’s on Fire
  7. War Machine
  8. Lick It Up
  9. Calling Dr. Love
  10. 100,000 Years
  11. Cold Gin
  12. God of Thunder
  13. Psycho Circus
  14. Let Me Go, Rock N’ Roll
  15. Love Gun
  16. I Was Made for Lovin’ You
  17. Black Diamond

Encore:

  1. Beth
  2. Do You Love Me
  3. Rock and Roll All Nite

It was by far one of the most exciting concerts I’ve attended ever while at the same time one of the saddest moments. It’s not easy saying goodbye to the things we cherish. I cherish the wonderful music KISS provided. I cherish the stage performances and productions. I cherish the multiple options of merchandise they offer fans. I cherish the multiple opportunities I had to photograph them. And most of all, I cherish the memory of that night. Thank you KISS. You will be missed.