Beware the Ides of March.
March 15th, 1984 was my jump to the big leagues. After three concerts (and one hypnotist) at the modest Moncton Coliseum I was finally attending my first big-time rock concert: KISS at Toronto’s storied Maple Leaf Gardens for their Lick It Up tour.
I had recently quit school and moved out of the house. Pretty far out of the house I guess you could say, having relocated from the family home in Moncton (using nothing but a highway, a thumb and a vague sense of direction) to a rented room in Richmond Hill where I was pretty excited to be barely holding down my minimum-wage job in a factory that produced lawnchair cushions.
It was a pretty cushy job (ha), my roommate and I whiled away our days listening to Q107 on a small portable radio whilst stuffing foam bits into pre-fab cushion casings.
The days that we actually went to work, that is.
One day Rick and I heard the dj squawking about an upcoming KISS concert and we decided we were in. That night he called a couple of girls he knew, they picked up tickets for us and when show night came the four of us found ourselves on the floor of the classic venue within screaming distance of the stage. We even had seats, though we would only sit in them before the show and during the setbreak. The concerts I had seen in Moncton had thus far all been general admission so this was my first time seeing seats on the floor. I was in the big city now!
The opening act was a Scorpions/AC/DC sounding act called Accept. Q107 had been pumping out the song their record company was pushing, a four minute Judas Priest-like dose of heavy metal buffoonery called Balls To The Wall that closed the set, and though the young rocker in me was champing at the bit to raise my fist and yell at the now-familiar song the anticipation of a band of true celebrity like KISS (and trying to act cool in front of the girls) kept me from expressing too much enthusiasm.
Unfortunately this was the first KISS tour without makeup, the band having recently shed their career-defining gimmick. They tried to make up for the lack of facepaint with an over-the-top stage show to accompany their radio-friendly hard-rock-lite. The drumset (for example) was set upon a large, imposing rockin’ and rollin’ military tank that could spout dry ice from eight shiny chrome tailpipes and twisted and turned during the rudimentary drum solo, shooting off blanks that coincided with pyro explosions in the roof.
Of course Gene Simmons – the most unlikely bass hero in the world – performed a solo on his ax axe that was more personality than chops, but what personality! It’s amazing what a long tongue and a cool looking instrument can do to the career of a math teacher with marginal musical skills. Simply amazing.
After what seemed like just a few dozen minutes KISS was already playing their encore, Rock & Roll All Nite (obviously). Somehow the show went by incredibly fast for me, but by this point I was undoubtedly standing on my seat – the two girls and all decorum forgotten – obediently pumping my little Pavlovian fists in the air.
I so, so wanted to Rock & Roll All Nite all night.
Spilling out onto the streets of Toronto after a concert is quite a bit different from walking out to the bland parking lot of the Moncton Coliseum. Outside of Maple Leaf Gardens people milled about chatting with friends new and old before heading off in a hundred directions to continue a thousand epic evenings. Our direction was west to Yonge Street where we got the subway north to Finch, transferred over to the Go Bus and rode it to the end of the line in Richmond Hill. A short walk later we were back in our surprisingly stately home (I should really tell you about the place sometime) formulating tomorrow’s excuse for not going to work.