MUSIC: A classic hard rock weekend at The Palms

    The dude in the face paint uttered what had to be considered total sacrilege, although he did it with the Pentecostal zeal of some hot-under-the-collar holy roller who considers spandex a sacrament and who’s fond of wagging his butt at your date.   
    “Size does not matter!” Paul Stanley wailed from the stage at the Pearl on Friday night, his loud, righteous exhortations practically doing back flips out of his brightly-colored maw.  
    Come again?
    Seriously, Stanley and his cohorts, larger-than-life hard rock icons/cartoon characters Kiss, have made a career out of arguing that not only does size matter, it’s just about the only thing that matters.
    And that’s what’s made Kiss a steady arena-filler for over three decades now: they mix sex and spectacle like few others and everything they do is outsized in one way or the other.  
    At the Pearl, Kiss diehards – a fun, rowdy bunch with lots of grown men in greasepaint – got to see the band in relatively cozy confines for a band that usually plays big halls and amphitheaters. 
    “This is intimate,” Stanley noted at one point, and he wasn’t just talking about the size of the room.
    Kiss shows are pretty randy affairs, with a bare-chested Stanley bending over with his back to the crowd so that everyone can admire his gyrating caboose while towering bassist Gene Simmons flicks his tongue at the ladies and thrusts his pelvis at the audience, his mid-section covered in a giant codpiece that juts from his crotch like the hull of a battleship. 
    Even porn star Ron Jeremy was in the house, bobbing along in approval.
    Together, Simmons and Stanley are like the Masters and Johnson of hard rock, a couple of oversexed Lotharios in platform boots whose extensive back catalog reads like one big collegiate panty raid. 
    “If you want opinions about current events, you came to the wrong [expletive] place,” Stanley howled at one point, and he wasn’t lyin’: this show was all about guitars that shot sparks into the air, enough pyro to rival a battle sequence in some overblown Michael Bay flick and of course, a flaming broadsword or two.
    Mining heavily from their celebrated “Alive” concert set that first made them households names, Kiss bashed out the hits with the requisite aplomb, rendering a show-opening “Deuce” a sweat-spackled stomper and “Parasite” an even meatier buffet of riffs and testosterone.
    Kiss detoured briefly into their non-make-up years (“Lick It Up”) and aired their most polarizing song, the disco-indebted “I Was Made for Loving You,” which still remains their most hummable tune, no matter how divisive a song it may have been once upon a time.
    But none of that matters these days: Kiss shows are all about viewing the past through rose-colored beer goggles. They celebrate hard rock’s most excessive, wide-eyed impulses like kids gorging on Halloween candy.
    In many ways, they’re the Gordon Gekko of classic rock: a band that so steadfastly believes in the glories of over-indulgence and conspicuous consumption, they’re a study in instant gratification.    
    “Can you get enough of me?” Stanley asked at one point.
    Who knew that “enough” was even in this band’s vocabulary? 
    The old school, leather-coated heavy metal ostentation continued at The Pearl on Monday, when veteran ragers Judas Priest lit up the place like one of the giant pillars of fire that burst from the stage during Kiss’ set a few days earlier.          
    “Welcome to my ritual,” frontman Rob Halford sang during “Death,” one of the few new songs the band played from their latest album, the two-disc “Nostradamus.”
    Of course, Halford uttered that line while seated in a big golden throne adored with skulls with glowing red eyes.
    He was wielding a scepter.
    But still, his words rang true: Judas Priest shows, and metal concerts in general, are a ritualistic experience, with certain mores to follow (careful about shoving the old guys in the pit, they don’t even know what a pit is) and a very specific set of guidelines as to what does and what doesn’t qualify as heavy metal (note: emo haircuts and sobriety are not very high on the list). 
    Like Kiss, Priest is fond of excess, though it’s not just visual: the band indulges in an elaborate musicianship that manifests itself in long-winded solos from the ace guitar tandem of Glen Tipton and K.K. Downing and operatic, upper-register wailing from the steel-lunged Halford.
    Seriously, watching Downing shred through ‘70s chestnut “Sinner,” it’s a wonder that the bones have yet to protrude from his overworked digits.  
    At the Pearl, the band aired a few lesser known fan favorites that they hadn’t played in awhile (“Rock Hard Ride Free,” “Eat Me Alive,” “Between the Hammer and the Anvil”) as well as classic rock radio staples like “Breaking the Law” and a show-ending “You Got Another Thing Comin.’”
    Halford took the stage in a mammoth shiny silver robe, his features hidden beneath a big hood as he leaned on a staff for support. He put on a new leather coat for virtually every song, going through enough wardrobe changes to put Beyonce to shame.
    And yeah, he rode out on stage for the band’s encore on a Harley, as has long been tradition at Priest gigs.
    “Tradition.”
    That’s a word that heavy metal was born against, but over the years, the genre has come to embrace the concept as a panacea for such odious ills as trendy nü metal and the cruel realities of advancing age. 
    No, Priest isn’t quite as popular as they used to be two decades ago, and the overstuffed “Nostradamus” is not on par with the band’s classic works.
    But then again, critiquing this bunch for being overblown is kind of like dismissing a drag queen’s gaudy lipstick for being on the tacky side.
    That’s kind of the point.  
    Sometimes, too much is never enough.     

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