Saturday, September 11, 2010

Birthday KISSes

I spent my 46th birthday doing something I would never have imagined in any previous year of life: I went to a KISS concert.

I had a fabulous time.

Perhaps I needed to wait until I was in my 40s for such an experience. Perhaps I simply wasn’t ready for the wonder that is glam rock when I was a teen.

As I recall my life in the 70s and 80s, songs were one thing – bands another. For instance, I remember singing along to every cut on Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell whenever someone played that cassette on a boom box, usually on a bus ride to something like a field trip, a speech competition, a music contest or a softball game. Every song on that album was (is) incredible. I found (and continue to find) the lyrical imagery of songs like Paradise by the Dashboard Lights and You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth inspirational - poetically, metaphorically, and theatrically.

Seriously. For those who have ears to hear, rock has a heart. Heck, rock even has soul.

Still I could not bring myself to buy that revolutionary Meatloaf album so many years ago. A good girl like me simply could not own an album with such a hellish title. But what an awesome, awesome album. So awesome, in fact, that I finally broke down and bought it during my third decade of life. By then I didn’t even need to fool myself into believing that I only wanted it for workouts. I knew I just wanted to own it. Finally. For myself.

So imagine my adolescent conflict over a band that could make your heart ache with a ballad like Beth but was tagged with the demonic descriptor “Knights in Satan’s Service.” Instinct told me the erroneous moniker for KISS was overrated. Yet I remained cautious of being negatively affected by a band that was fronted by a gregarious “starchild” and a diabolical bass player who breathed fire and spit blood from a mouth that contained an extraordinarily long tongue.

I could never have owned one of their albums (as much as I would have loved to) let alone go to one of their concerts. Heavens! What would people have thought? What might have happened to me?

Evidently this year, at 46 years of age, I no longer cared, for I was ready to kiss caution a fond farewell and welcome the wonder of KISS. Credit for this lies squarely with my oldest son, Stross, a card-carrying member of the KISS Army who began lobbying for a KISS birthday celebration in my honor as soon as he learned the band would appear at the Minnesota State Fair –“on your birthday, Mom!” That pronouncement occurred shortly after Memorial Day; my birthday occurred on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. I gave in to Stross’ suggestion just after Independence Day and then spent a few days musing over what I had done. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for me to understand that I was poised for one of my most magical birthdays ever. I was not wrong.

While I simply could not have gone to a KISS concert back when KISS first began reshaping the way music was made, somehow I could go to a concert of theirs as a grown, middle-aged woman in the company of her sons and her rocker-at-heart husband. I believe I became caught – once again – by Stross’ joy for the stuff of life. Such a gift. A wonderful birthday gift.

I cannot adequately convey how, as a teen, I was ill equipped to take in the multi-sensory sensationalism of a stadium filled with people who were ready to rock and roll all night and then party every day. Yet now I long for those kind of days, grateful that I can still introduce my children to the kinesthetic phenomenon that is KISS – a band no longer marked as Knights in Satan’s Service but, instead, revered as a group of 60-something super seniors (well, at least Paul and Gene) who are still able to capture the imaginations of everyone in a stadium while prancing across the stage in 40-pound glam costumes that feature 7” platform shoes and dramatic full-face make-up. And it must also be noted that they are still fully capable of flying into their light riggings to play soaring riffs that remind everyone that God really did give rock and roll for the pleasure of everyone.

That night, when the stadium lights went dark and the announcer requested that we all get ready for “the hottest band in the world,” I did not get goose bumps. However, when the stage lights came up and the music swelled, my eyes locked onto the lighted KISS backdrop – still a classic – and I involuntarily smiled the entire time a hydraulic lift slowly moved the band down to the stage amid thunderous applause and cheering. I was at a KISS concert. Me. Thank you, Stross.

That beautifully cool evening, one of summer’s last, was just right for an outdoor concert. A time to kiss things of the past goodbye while welcoming a new year of life – the 46th year of my birth. Of my life.

Had it been a hot summer night, I might even have been ready to offer my “throat to the wolf with the red roses.” But it wasn’t a night for Meatloaf. It was a night for KISSing. More specifically, for collecting birthday kisses – from my husband, my youngest son, my oldest son; and yes, ladies and gentleman, even – metaphorically – from “the hottest band in the world: KISS!”
Who knows what the coming year will bring for me? Most likely, something I would never have been able to do when a young woman. And isn't that simply wonderful? Isn't that the way it should be?

Rock and roll, baby. I say, "Bring it on!"