Sunday, July 29, 2007

Tiger Stadium? Kiss it goodbye


Tough weekend for a couple legends.

First, the Detroit City Council finally agreed to demolish Tiger Stadium, which has been sitting neglected since the last game in 1999.

Then, Kiss co-founder Paul Stanley had what his is calling a "cardiac event" prior to a concert in California, forcing the band to play as a trio for only the second time.

Naturally, I have a story about both. I’ve spent many a night at Tiger Stadium, but the strangest had to be when Kiss kicked off its reunion tour there on June 28, 1996.

You know I’m loyal to a fault, and that extends to bands in addition to baseball teams. So I’ve been a Kiss fan since junior high school. Co-workers think this is odd.

The Journal’s music writer knew of my devotion and brought me along as a "consultant" since they throw you out of the critics club if you know too much about Kiss. That, and I might have begged for a week.

I had a feeling that things could get a little out of control. This was confirmed as we were walking across the dirt parking lot and a female concert-goer decided that would be a good place to stop walking, drop her pants and relieve herself. I think she might have been drinking.

Inside was your typical stadium concert set-up, with the stage running from centerfield into right, with the huge inflatable figures of Paul, Gene, Peter and Ace. The outfield was filled with what I thought were rather flimsy folding chairs, with the first 40 or so rows separated from the rest of the chairs on the field.

We watched opening acts Sponge and Stone Temple Pilots from the press box while Doug filed the first part of his story, then made our way to our seats: Dead center, row 27.

It seemed that security on the field was lax, and perhaps people who did not have field seats were getting onto the field. Thousands of them.

The infield started filling as it closer to show time. I looked back once and saw security guards standing arm-in-arm trying to make a human chain to keep people back, and they were already straining.

Doug, on crutches because of a softball injury, took a look at this and said he was heading back to the safety of the press box, but said I was welcome to stay. I started to go with him, then thought "I’m a big boy. What’s the worst thing that can happen? I’m not going to let a couple, well, a couple thousand, drunks ruin my chance to see the first show of the Kiss reunion tour from the 27th row."

Doug had no sooner escaped when the security line broke and waves of people rushed into the close seats toward the stage.

I looked behind me and saw a guy in a denim jacket and thigh-high Gene Simmons Destroyer-era dragon head boots, red eyes and all. I have no idea where someone can acquire such things.

I told the guy I was impressed. He made it clear that he was going to be closer to the stage, and that I was going to get out of his way. Quickly. Which I did, because you don’t mess with people wearing thigh-high Gene Simmons Destroyer-era dragon head boots, red eyes and all.

Finally, the lights went down, the curtain dropped and Kiss burst on stage playing "Deuce," then "King of the Night Time World."

I last saw the boys in full face-painted glory at my first concert, the 1979 Dynasty tour at Madison Square Garden. So this was like a rock and roll dream come true.

There was a lot of pushing and shoving, but nothing I couldn’t handle. Everyone was standing on the flimsy folding chairs, which had plastic seats and backrests. I could see heads bopping up and down, then they’d shoot down under the line of heads — after their seats broke.

These chairs were light, and somebody got the idea to throw their broken chair up in the air. Then, a lot of people seemed to think this was a good idea. You’d see chairs spinning up in their air like Frisbees, landing on hapless concert atendees several rows away.

This made me a little more concerned. But again, I was a big boy and had the advantage of not being drunk or stoned. Most of these people were too spaced to throw the chairs all that hard.

Occasionally, a person pushing through to get closer tried to camp in our row. One guy, there’s a chance he was drunk, pushed his way into the row in front of me, shoved someone off their chair, stood on it and began flailing his arms wildly, a strange response to "Firehouse" to be sure.

As you can imagine, this was ticking people off. He nearly hit me a couple times. And he was blocking my view of Ace.

Then, I did something terrible, totally out of character. I gave the guy a one-handed shove right between the shoulder blades, knocking him off his chair. He stood up in a daze — well, he had probably been in a daze since noon — and wandered off into another row.

I was terrible, stunned at my own behavior. Shoving people! I was filled with guilt and remorse. But then Ace roared into "Shock Me" and I felt better.

The historic concert finally ended in a storm of fireworks as the final power chords of "Rock and Roll All Nite" hung in the air. I made it intact.

Dodging chairs, dodging drunks...that’s rock and roll. And it’s one of the reasons I prefer going to see Christian rock bands these days. But it’s also one of the reasons I’ll be sad to see the wrecking ball taken to Tiger Stadium.

9 comments:

Bob said...

Dave, this is exactly why I do not go to stadium shows any longer. The last was the Dead in Foxboro in 1989. That was not such a bad scene, but I tired of it.

In 1999 I adopted a new policy, I will only attend a show if I can sit within the first 10 rows. That's worked well, save CSN&Y in Philly. I had a guy push me hard because I wouldn't let him in front of me. I had paid $225 for the seat. I thought I was justified.

lifl said...

I saw Tiger Stadium three years ago when I was in Detroit. What a sad sight. It was just rusting away on the side of the road. the driver of our van said the city did not have the money to tear it down.

Having worked in some of the WORST parts of NYC I can honestly say that Detroit is a barren wasteland. Comerica and Ford Field were the only highlights.

Kathy and I are going to see the Police on Sunday at Giants Stadium. We have great seats one level up off the floor to the right of the stage.

It will be fun..


Mike

MGIF said...

Dave, I remember Kiss in Madison Sqare Garden very well. Entering in with the Nagra tape recorder secretly hid on my body and my Nikon with the 200mm lens over my shoulder. I did not really know what to expect. WOW, people waking around if full makeup and costumes.
Mass quantities of marijuana and hash being consumed and standing precariously on folding seats. During the concert I remember passing the camera down the row so other concert goers could get a close look and wondering, "Will it come back?" Beth Rock and Roll All Night and the Firehouse were great.

The next day when I handed the Nagra to the sound tech to download it he came to my office and asked,'Where were you last night?'

I had a great time and still have fond memories and remain a Kiss fan to this day.

G-Fafif said...

Without makeup. St. Petersburg's Bayfront Center (across from Al Lang) early 1985. Free tickets. Krokus opened. I was 22 and felt like the oldest one there. I was also up higher on my chair for "Rock And Roll All Nite" than anyone else.

And I'm not even a KISS fan.

Josh Casper said...

this is a comment re an old post of yours, vis-a-vis Hojo as a coach (was searching for a pic of hornsby in a met uni, and yuor blog hit on the keywords) -

there are actually 6 (soon 7 w/ Rickey) Coaches who were Hall of Famers.... you forgot Red Ruffing.

Mets Guy in Michigan said...

Josh -- good catch!

Anonymous said...

I've seen TV News video of Kiss's opening night of their '96 reunion tour @ Tiger Stadium and thought it was odd to see chairs flying mid-air while Paul was singing "Deuce". All I remember reading is some rich fux paying up to $7,000 apiece for front row tix . $7,000 to get hit with flying chairs? Kiss purposely picked Detroit as a starting point of the tour. While I enjoyed seeing Kiss three of the four historic nights @ Madison Square Garden later that tour, they really should have played 2 nights at Shea Stadium to match the Beatles when they had the chance. Now KISS couldn't sell out my backyard on Long Island!

Anonymous said...

Hey Mr. Speed,
I was at that concert, too, and you have a couple facts wrong. Alice in Chains was the second act (not Stone Temple Pilots), and the stage was across left field.

Mets Guy in Michigan said...

You are right about Alice in Chains, a late replacement for STP. But the stage most definitely went from center field to right.