Dressed To Kill
The Globe, Cardiff
Live Review by Simon Black
I’ve always been a bit divided when it comes to the whole concept of tribute bands, particularly if the original artist is actually still around, but I do make one notable exception. When I first saw Dressed To Kill at their very first show in a seedy nightclub in Loughborough, Leicestershire, 32 years ago, the idea was an incredibly sound one. For a start tribute shows had not caught on at this point, KISS were at the time a shadow of their former selves – as indeed was the whole Rock scene starting to reel under the seismic sonic barrage of Grunge. Then along came this bunch, not only cheekily playing a whole set of old KISS 70’s songs, but doing so in the full make up and some homemade (but quite nonetheless quite impressive) renditions of the outrageous KISS look from the much-missed make-up era. No-one thought we would ever see that long gone era again, and these boys went full pelt in trying to recreate it. Dressed To Kill managed to trump up some mainstream press coverage from that first gig, and consequently took off quite quickly, filling a gap in the market, all the best part of a decade before the originals decided to kiss and make-up, reform their original line-up, and effectively become their own tribute act.
The fact that thirty-two years later D2K are still going strong with half their original line-up intact, and despite there now being dozens of copy-copycats, tells you all you need to know, and it’s heartening that the turn out for this show in Cardiff was so impressive. They’ve even been endorsed by Gene Simmons – which is better than getting sued by him, which is normally what happens when it looks like anyone else is in danger of making a buck out of the brand.
With no support slot, the band had the stage to themselves (such as it is) and delivered a show that was uncannily aligned to what you would have seen in the USA in the 70’s in KISS’s club days. Without any of the props, effects, pyro or an OTT light show to work with on a stage this size, the band had to focus on two things – nailing their impressions and playing the songs well, both of which they did with uncanny efficacy.
In an age where, for many tribute acts, the most impressive thing is the wordplay on the band name, Dressed To Kill do an uncanny turn in mimicry of their heroes from stage gear, moves, inter-song banter lines and both spoken and singing voices (although I still think calling themselves “Wicked Loughborough” would have been more witty, even if only five people got the joke and none of the current members actually live in Leicestershire anymore). The set list was of full of classics of the 70’s & 80’s, but (as they did when I first saw them all those decades ago), as massive KISS fans they weren’t afraid to throw in a few rarities that don’t often get an outing from KISS, such as the underrated “Creatures of the Night” which I doubt has been played since the original album tour in 1982. Regardless, the audience loved every minute of it, and let’s face it KISS haven’t written anything decent after 1987 anyway.
When the band do drop character, it is normally for comic effect, giving them a human edge that is hugely endearing, and the band are more than capable of quipping their way through the most hostile of situations. Sadly, we did get one of those, as a couple of meatheads decided to start a punch-up in the middle of the show just as things are really peaking. And with the rather lacklustre response from venue security failing to stop the fight, it fell on Gene-a-like Gary Piears-Banton to drop character and metaphorically bang their heads together. Sadly, with the audience thinned slightly after that stupidity the band really had to work hard to pull things back, but they did so spectacularly, and by keeping things personal with the audience – adding extra songs to the set on request – they proved that they had earned their position through respecting the people there.
The only challenge I had with the show was that the sound mix was plagued with gremlins, from Danny James’ (Ace Frehley) guitar being a little too low in the mix (especially notable on the harmonised parts) and Ash Brookes’ (Paul Stanley) guitar conking out completely for the final songs. But the professionalism they exhibited to just keep going like it was all planned meant that 95% of the people there probably didn’t even notice, or care, and that’s how it should be.
These are minor quibbles, and with the band taking the time afterwards to wander round and pose for photos, the reason why these guys are still going all these years later remains as clear as it was in Loughborough 32 years ago – the fun, music and fans come first. Long may it continue.
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