Egos At The Stake 30th Anniversary Edition (The Godfather Records GR 583/584)
Wembley Arena London UK – September 9, 1980
Disc 1 (41:25) Detroit Rock City, Cold Gin, Strutter, Calling Dr Love, Is That You?, Firehouse, Talk To Me, You’re All That I Want, 2000 Man, Solo Ace Frehley
Disc 2 (65:35) I Was Made For Loving You, New York Groove, Love Gun, Solo Gene Simmons, God Of Thunder, Solo Eric Carr & God Of Thunder Reprise, Rock And Roll All Nite, Shout It Out Loud, King Of The Nightime World, Solo Paul Stanley & Black Diamond *Bonus Tracks; Interview London BBC Radio 1 September 8 1980, New York Groove Castel St Angelo Roma Italy August 29 1980, Shandi Western Springs Stadium Auckland New Zealand December 3 1980
The turbulent years of 1979 and 1980 had KISS moving in new territory, namely a more pop oriented sound begun on Dynasty and continued on Unmasked. Original drummer Peter Criss had left the band, and although he was still featured on the record covers the drums for both records were done by noted session drummer Anton Fig.
They next started the process of looking for a replacement drummer and found one Paul Charles Caravello, a Brooklyn native, who was renamed Eric Carr. His straight hard rock drumming style and youthful energy quickly re energized the band. While the Dynasty tour was strictly American dates the Unmasked tour was played entirely in Europe and Australia (not counting the first warm up date at the Palladium in NYC).
The recording featured here was the bands second date in London and has been a popular show thanks to the vinyl album Egos At Stake, a rare Japanese 2 record set that was re-released with the same title and also as Talk To Me. The liner notes state “We scanned the globe for the best source” and it shows, the recording is slightly distant and has more of the higher frequencies but is extremely clear with no crowd interference near the recorder, these kinds of recordings lend themselves easily to the equalizer to provide a fuller sound.
KISS had not played in Europe since May 1976 so there was a huge buzz around the band and it was reflected in the performance, it is full of energy and is very well played. The band opens with a trio of Klassics, Detroit Rock City, Cold Gin (interesting choice for the second number) and Strutter. It is after the opening salvo that Paul makes his introductory speech to the crowd as promises to sweat their asses of for the crowd and if someone gets rock and roll pneumonia they can call…..Dr. Love. Other than the tight playing the first thing that hits you is Eric Carr’s background vocals, not bad but different. His ability to sing while playing the drums make for an important contribution.
The first of three new songs from Unmasked is next, Is That You? the sound is much stronger and heavier live and it can be assessed that perhaps given a different producer Unmasked could have been a return to form. The Ace song Talk To Me is the same story, one of the better tracks from the record, has a catchy chorus and sounds like it could have fit on his first solo record.
You’re All That I Want is probably the most average of the new songs played but is a real rarity as it was only performed twice on this tour, so we are lucky to have it in such good quality. Its time to “Re acquaint” yourself with Space Ace, the vehicle for his solo spot is 2,000 Man. I like the KISS version of the Stones classic, Ace’s vocal rendition strangely captures the Mick Jagger vibe. His solo is well played and is a flurry of notes and explosions from his Les Paul.
The second disc starts off with the song you either love or hate, I Was Made For Loving You. Much more palatable live it has a great Paul rap about meeting a girl who was sweet sixteen. Eric Carr’s drummer gives the song a strong backbeat it needs. The only song to make the set from the solo records is Ace’s take on the 1975 Happy song New York Groove, well played and full of enthusiasm its hard to believe the end of the tour would be his last tour with the band until 1996. Another great Paul rap about coming through customs with his Love Gun is next, a great song that has a place in every KISS concert.
The Gene solo is nothing more than bass notes in a droning fashion that gives him an excuse to spit blood, I am not sure if it is a microphone malfunction of if he is somewhere else but you can here him un amplified shouting “OH YEAH” and the crowd shouting in response before they launch into God Of Thunder. the Fox gets his chance to show his shops and turns in a strong 5 minute solo. Paul goes on a tirade on the music press just before Rock N Roll All Nite, the crowd is fully in his corner and he leads them in a shout of “Fuck Off”.
Black Diamond is the finally and starts with song guitar improvising from Paul, a Klassic in every sense of the word the song simply delivers, Eric Carr delivery strong vocals that are somewhat reminiscent of Peter Criss. The first extra track is an interview conducted by the BBC the day before this concert with discussion from all four members. They talk about Eric being the new guy, the stage show, and the KISS army in the UK. The funniest part is when the interviewer asked Ace about the spectacular part of the show and he answers he is the spectacular one. Hilarious.
The second is New York Groove with a long introduction with drums and guitar playing the main riff and finally Gene starts in but from the sound Ace is have difficulties of some sort. This goes on for just over four minutes until Ace starts the vocal, and a minute after that his guitar comes online. He pulls off a great solo nonetheless, an interesting version and well worth hearing. The sound is very good and is an audience recording. The last bonus track is from the soundboard and is excellent quality, the song itself if the ballad from Unmasked and was a hit in Australia, Shandi.
The Paul penned song is another that grows on you over time and the performance here is great and is a great way to finish off with. The packaging is typical tri gatefold with full color pictures, the cover being the one used for the Japanese vinyl record. The inside has the 1980 tour dates and a brief write up about each band member and the origins of the bootleg and tape source, there is even a ticket replica.
The bottom line is this set delivers on all angles, visually it is beautifully packaged, sound wise it is the best we xan hope to get from this concert, and finally we get quantity content, the full show plus relevant bonus tracks. If you are a fan of KISS get this now then turn it up LOUD !