30 Years Ago: Kiss Learn What ‘Hotter Than Hell’ Really Means at NYC Club Shows
Before embarking on a big European festival tour in August 1988, Kiss decided to shake off some stage rust with two club shows in their hometown of New York City.
Cool idea, except for two problems: The city was in the midst of its fifth-worst heat wave ever, and the venue's air conditioning system broke down.
"Those gigs, if you see any pictures or anything, it was brutal," guitarist Bruce Kulick remembers. "The air conditioning was broken. I don't even know how we got through that. I'm sure we had some air fans onstage, but it was a drip-fest, it was unbelievable. It was way too hot, but we plowed through it."
According to Setlist.fm, Kiss played identical 23-song sets on both the 12th and 13th at the 2,500-capacity venue, five more tracks than they typically played on the arena leg of the Crazy Nights tour. Along with that extra time came a shift away from the tour's 50/50 blend of '70s and '80s hits in favor of a heavier focus on earlier tracks such as "Firehouse," "Dr. Love" and "Strutter."
"They were memorable gigs in that way," says Kulick of the shows, one of which was the source of a live radio broadcast. "The fact that we were in a club was weird too. I have the bootlegs for the Ritz, it's even out on vinyl, a beautiful double-album gatefold. As a warm-up for the European tour, this was a great way for us to get in shape on our home turf. I was very proud of those shows, and the tapes back that up."
He also says the change in setting didn't affect his approach to live performance very much. "My goal with the band was always to play well," he explains. "I can't compete with Gene [Simmons] and Paul [Stanley] in terms of running around and play well. There were a lot of liberties with Paul performing and singing, he had a lot of fun being an incredible showman. That means, to me, that we're a trio, and I better be playing my shit right, which means I'm not going to be running around the stage, my hands are going to be more tethered to my guitar."
Watch Kiss Play 'Deuce' at the Ritz in 1988
The next time Kiss hit the arena circuit in support of a new album -- 1989's Hot in the Shade -- they followed in the footsteps of the Ritz performances, with longer set lists and a clearer focus on their '70s catalog, in what Kulick terms a successful attempt to "reinvigorate" the band's live show.
An 11-song portion of the second night of Kiss' 1988 Ritz visit was released as a bonus disc on 2007's Kissology Volume 2: 1978-1991. Four years later, they embarked on a bigger version of the same idea, with a 13-date promotional club tour leading up to the release of 1992's Revenge album.
Kulick, who served as Kiss' lead guitarist from 1984 to 1996, will perform on the band's eighth annual Kiss Kruize, which leaves from Miami on Halloween.
Watch Kiss Perform' Firehouse' at the Ritz, 1988