While KISS has always strived for bigger and better with their stage show, it's hard to imagine them topping the amazing spectacle of the KISS Symphony, which took place in Melbourne, Australia, on February 28, 2003. This was a classic KISS show: Band members flew in all directions on harnesses; there were floating drum risers and flying bats; Gene Simmons dribbled fake blood; plus, there was a wealth of pyrotechnics and oversized confetti. Added to that was the 60-piece Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and the Melbourne Children's Choir, all in KISS makeup.
The show was divided into three parts: It started with the four members banging out KISS classics. An acoustic set followed, with an eight-piece string ensemble. But it was the final part that everyone was waiting for: KISS with the MSO.
Lighting designer Bryan Hartley built upon his design from the last KISS tour, because the stage could not be set up until two days before the concert, as a soccer match was scheduled for the venue. Added to that was the necessity to program new songs as well as having to light the orchestra and audience for a DVD and Pay Per View.
A large LED wall center-stage delivered close-up images of the band members, and this was flanked on either side by projection screens, so no one in the 30,000-member audience in Melbourne's Telstra Dome missed out on any onstage antics.
Displayed prominently onstage were the two KISS signs that have put in an appearance at every KISS concert since 1996. Each sign is made up of 1,000 MR-16 lights to produce a blistering statement. Within the set, designed by production manager Patrick Whitley, there were a further 300 MR-16s, 23 police beacons, and enough pyrotechnics to service many a New Year's Eve celebration.
The truss design was very simple: straight trusses and square boxes with 60 High End Systems Studio Color® S fixtures and 34 Icon 600W HTIs providing the majority of lighting onstage. For lighting the orchestra and the audience, Hartley relied on 46 Vari*Lite® VL5s™ and 38 SLD DWE PAR-36 8-lights.
“I originally wanted two trusses for the orchestra, but because of problems with the roof that was impossible,” explains Hartley. “So I had to improvise with just one truss directly overhead holding 20 VL5s. There is another truss with 72 PAR cans and four Molefays that also light the orchestra. Two other Molefays are used to light up the KISS Army banners.”
Hartley is a keen fan of coloring truss sections with light, describing it as a cheap yet decent effect. On this show he used 10 Molefays with ACL bulbs and 360 PAR cans. Strong, solid colors dominated the lighting, with Hartley using a favored palette that includes Lee 106 (primary red), Rosco 22 (deep amber), R83 (medium blue), and, instead of white, he prefers to use L202 (half CT blue).
Hartley used an Icon desk because “It happened to be the new thing when I started out with KISS in 1993. It was a great board at the time and the Icons were great lights,” he says. “However, 10 years later, I actually prefer a Wholehog now — it's just so much quicker — but the show was already programmed on an Icon desk.”
KISS, who seem to be eternally playing their “final” show, were then on their way to play a couple of shows in Japan where Bryan's rig was “borrowed” by the Rolling Stones for a night! This was followed by a tightly scheduled gig at a Las Vegas club.
The rest of the gear list included Wybron PAR-64 color changers, Martin Atomic 3000 DMX strobes, Martin MAC 600s, two Reel EFX DF-50 diffusion hazers, and 540 channels of Bytecraft dimmers. Crew and equipment were supplied by Bytecraft Entertainment.