An Evening with Gene Simmons!! (actually a full weekend 😆)
The much anticipated “Evening with Gene Simmons” was a huge success for Gene and the fans. Personally it was incredibly enjoyable for me to become a special part of it.
When the event was announced, I had a Grand Funk show commitment which suddenly changed. When Gene invited me to join the band to play, or dinner, or both, “up to you” I gladly said a simple, “I’ll be there”.
Friday was the start of his event for those that had tickets for “Friday Sat”. I showed up at the Rio and Gene met me at the door to escort me into the room where the band would rehearse for the Saturday performance. He was gracious and we both exchanged our stories of how fortunate we are. Gene said he was the luckiest man in the world. Since I was lead guitar in KISS for 12 years, that tenure has been a part of every day of my life moving past 1996. I expressed to Gene how amazing that is personally to me. It’s all because of the fans.
He then insisted that Lisa bring pancakes, as he was aware of the cooking website. I explained, she made you cookies, but are you sure you want pancakes? We later found out when Lisa saw him at dinner, he was very serious!
Rehearsal was a bit surreal, since he told me play whatever songs I want to. I said “three guitar players?” He said sure!! So along with Todd Kerns on vocals and guitar, Brent Woods on lead guitar, Brent Fitz on drums, we started to go through the set list. Brent Woods whom I have jammed many times before (KISS Kruise etc) would be the perfect companion on leads for me. He learned the vintage songs well, and we complement each other with our vibrato and guitar approach.
Gene told stories at length of each song we rehearsed, explaining what were his influences were. Todd was fascinated, as well as Brent Woods. I think Fitz heard some of these stories since he has performed before in the Gene Simmons band, and with my years in KISS, I had also heard most of them before. It was a real treat for him to share all of that, and Gene’s vibe the entire weekend was very open and reflective in sharing his love of the music and legacy he helped create.
Rehearsal was almost 3 hours long, and went very quickly in my mind. I got to take photos of some of the items he offered in the “pop up store” as well as some photos of the bass cases filled with his personal items that each attendee received. Gene was very proud of that form of “gift basket” and the first one he opened to show me even had a Revenge T-Shirt included!
The band and any other guests, were given a table off to the side, and I was able to take a photo of the custom plate that was printed for the ticketed people. The date did say May 7th, but it was May 5th! Gene never got around to ordering plates for the extra dinner he booked. Sort of a time machine dinner LOL!
Gene spent quality time with each table, and I honestly am so impressed with his willingness to socialize with the fans in the most sincere manner. Fans never forget that interaction, especially when it is from the heart.
Lisa and I did get to say hello as well to the fans. Friday’s attendance was not huge, compared to what we experience on Sunday. We enjoyed our food, the company, and the chocolate cake made for a great photo, since it was so huge!
Saturday was the big performance day, and Lisa and I arrived a bit earlier so I could rehearse with Brent Woods, and we could go over some particulars with the set list. Gerry MacCambridge a good friend of Eric Singer and I, opened the show. He is a famous Mentalist with a hit show in Las Vegas on the strip. He also is the creator of the TV show “The Mentalist”.
Lisa brought the pancakes as promised, in a Tupperware container, and when Gene came into the large dressing room he enjoyed his fresh blueberry pancakes treat. He posed with the Kulick’s Pancake Recipes apron, and the chat about the recipes and copyrights (Gene always thinking business) was quite funny!
It was time to hit the stage and I would join along with Eric Singer on the third song. I know the crowd was thrilled to see Gene and the band up close in such a stripped down environment, and Gene spoke to the fans, again with that reflective sincerity.
Domino was amazing, and it was funny that Eric stepped on my ending. Gene gave him a look, and Eric responded with something funny, but I am not sure what he said. Eric stayed on stage for two more songs, singing “Nothing To Lose” and then we did “Goin’ Blind”. I shared some harmony guitar parts with Brent and everything was moving along fantastic. Next we went into “Watchin’ You” into Deuce. Doing the KISS moves at the end of Deuce was surreal!!
The crowd went wild.
Gene said to me why don’t you introduce the next song. I was a bit shocked but I just said here’s a great Gene song from his solo LP, that I never played before called “Radioactive”. That was a real treat for the fans.
Next was a surprising idea Gene had at rehearsal. He wanted fans to join on stage and sing. So he chose “I Was Made for Lovin’ You”. Most fans know it wasn’t Gene’s favorite song of the catalog, but with Todd Kerns able to sing it great, and the catchy melody of the chorus the woman that came up to join us were shy at first, but in time on stage, they had the time of their lives. We did the Alive III version and I played a blue ESP “traditional” Stratocaster, that has an interesting story and KISS connection. But I started the set using one of my limited edition ESP LTD Multi-Swirl guitars. It was the first time I played live with one of those models. A replica of my well known Asylum era tour guitar. We tuned down a whole step similar to how KISS has performed for many years now, so if you see me checking my guitar tuning often in any videos, you know why!
Christine Sixteen was next and I once again shared harmony guitars with Brent. It was KISS MTV Unplugged the last time I played that song with Gene.
The big last number was “Let Me Go Rock n Roll” and I let Brent take the leads. I thought I never played it before with KISS. Not true! In September of 1993, it was performed at the Foundation Forum show, in Los Angeles, and I played a vintage 1956 Black Les Paul Custom!
The only variation from the set list was “Unholy” and we only played a short section of it. I have performed it many times in my post KISS years, but not Gene!
The crowd witnessed an amazing casual performance from musicians all connected to each other, with naturally the Gene, Eric, BK element most obvious. Having three members of a KISS era together on stage is always epic!
I gave Gene a shout out on the microphone and in typical GS humor he peeled a ten dollar bill off of a roll of some cash he had on him, and handed it to me. It seemed like it was a planned moment on stage, and I can assure you, nothing was scripted.
I signed items, and took photos with the fans, and the joy and excitement was electric for all. Gene would soon be giving his special case of goodies to fans, and the pop up shop was getting quite low in stock at that point!
Gene and the band took some photos backstage, and we all agreed to have dinner with the fans and Gene on Sunday night.
The dinner on Sunday was packed. The entire restaurant was closed for a private event. Tommy Thayer came, and he sat with Eric and I along with the band and our wives. Video Bob Moseley another good friend of Eric Singer and I were there, and everyone was just in a super happy joyous mood. Gene worked the room and the fans were all thrilled with his kindness.
Lisa and I visited the guests, since this was the majority of the attendees, the sold out Sunday night dinner. It’s great to meet in person many of the fans that I have known about in the past years, especially with all the connections Lisa and I made during the pandemic.
Many photos were taken, and then suddenly Chris Jericho arrives with PJ Farley, as his band Fozzy was in town that night. That’s a nice treat for the fans and everyone who know his career.
Lisa and I also spent time with the “Shout it Out Loudcast” hosts Tom and Zeus. That was quite hilarious as they have learned how to do an imitation of “Bruce Kulick speaking”. I was very impressed as well as amused!
It was just a fantastic way to end the weekend, with all the good vibes and fun connections made between the amazing KISS fans and the musicians and friends in our lives.
It was time to say good night to Gene, and I thanked him for the invitation and told him we should do this again. He was smiling, knowing he did something special for the fans, and I was able to join him in this event, in a much bigger way than expected.
KISS fans are special. KISS is like a drug. Lisa and I were beaming with all the conversations from everyone, as they expressed how much they enjoy getting to know us from social media etc, and now this interaction of an in person event makes it even more complete.
Like the discussion I had with Gene when he greeted me at the Rio door, I am blessed to be a part of this incredible band. And it’s something I never forget.
Special thanks to Christina and Patrick and staff, who work for Gene and own the KISS Mini Golf for helping Gene create this event. They are amazing people who are a big part of the success.
More photos below: