Peter Criss –
The Cutting Room, New York City, New York, USA, June 17th, 2017
Set List: Can’t Stop The Rain/Hooked On R-N-R/Strange Ways/Strutter/Don’t Let Me Down/You Matter To Me/Hooligan/Nothing To Lose/Words/Hard Luck Woman/Beth/Rock ‘N’ Roll All Nite/Sing, Sing, Sing.
Original KISS member, drummer, vocalist, songwriter, author, and cancer survivor- these all describe the legendary Peter Criss. This night, Peter performed his last live show after a long musical journey that spanned over forty years. Criss’s unique jazz influenced rock style and raw raspy vocals were what created Peter Criss’s distinctive sound. Criss is, also, only a handful of drummers who also has singing abilities.
Criss is a much loved individual, which was exemplified by chants of “We Love You” throughout the performance. For many of us, the evening was bittersweet. It was a beautiful night of songs that graced our lives; yet it was a realization that a person who was a huge part of our childhood was taking his final bow. It was an end of an era.
It had been many years since I have watched Criss in action, the first time was in 1979 I attended my first concert at Madison Square Garden. My friends and I saved our allowance and babysitting money for a KISS concert ticket and something from the merchandise table.
A year ago, my parents notified me they were selling my childhood home and came across some boxes belonging to me. Did I want them or should they throw them away? Packed in one of the boxes was something I believed to be long gone; the original Dynasty tour book I purchased in July of 1979.
The first person I asked to sign, my newly found gem, was Ace Frehley. Ace obliged after smiling and stating, “boy, is this old.” The next candidate was Peter Criss. He was so enamored that I still had the book. He flipped through the pages and spoke to me about what it meant to the band to play to their home crowd.
A week before his Cutting Room show, I visited Criss at the NY KISS expo to have him sign something for a close friend. Criss was feeling under the weather but that did not stop him from meeting every one of his fans who waiting hours on line to meet him. I only had a few moments but I was honored to tell him how much us KISS Army Kids will always cherish him.
So, now it is June 17, I changed my travel plans in order to return in time for Peter Criss’s show. This was a once in a lifetime event and I did not want to miss it. The line was already forming outside of the cutting room and the excitement was building.
Once everyone was seated and fed, the lights dimmed. Peter Criss took the stage opening with ‘Can’t Stop The Rain’, a track from his 1978 self titled solo album. A slight hint of his cold that had plagued him all week was present but it quickly vanished as the show progressed.
Taking his rightful place behind the drum kit, he continued with his endless history treating the enamored fans to classic KISS songs as well as choices from his solo career. The highlight, for me, was ‘Strange Ways’ from the KISS album, ‘Hotter Than Hell’; a song written by Ace Frehley and perfected by Peter Criss. There could not be a more perfect song for Criss’s vocal proficiency. Criss took what he calls his “comfortable” spot behind his drum kit and he let loose.
When I chatted with Criss after the show, I told him how ecstatic I was to hear this song tonight. Peter stated that it was recently added and he wasn’t sure it would work. Not only did ‘Strange Ways’ work, it was phenomenal! (FYI There is only one other person who does this song justice; that gentleman is Chris Wyse of the Ace Frehley band.)
The evening progressed with wonderful music and tender moments. Criss told stories, shared memories, and honored his long time supporters. While each fan had their own favorite song, ‘Beth’ was that one masterpiece all had been waiting for. The track made its appearance on KISS’s popular album ‘Destroyer’. While the album is often referred to as KISS’s ‘Sgnt. Pepper’, ‘Beth’ a ballad, helped put the band on the map. As the string ensemble tuned up, Criss took center stage. He stated that he was about to perform his most noteworthy song, the way he intended it to sound.
Criss offered a heartfelt apology for the band not performing after the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction; an issue that upset many loyal KISS followers. Criss went on to thank his former band members, his wife, and his fans. He remarked how happy he was that his parents were able to see him play the famous Madison Square Garden and how grateful he was for everyone attending the show this evening. The familiar piano notes of ‘Beth’ commenced, midway through the song Criss’s emotions were apparent and by the song’s end there was not a dry eye in the room.
The show ended with ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’, a tribute to Gene Krupa, who Criss proclaimed as a principal influences on his music career. Criss’s drum performance was seamless. He had travelled full circle ending where he began. He was at ease behind his familiar drum kit, where we knew he belonged.
Tonight, Peter Criss retired his well earned whiskers. Many of us watched him rise from the beginning while others grew up listening to his music on the radio, or records spinning in our bedrooms. is Peter Criss, drummer extraordinaire; but for his adoring fans he will always be the Cat Man.
By Dawn Belotti