By Brian Ives
It finally happened: the self-styled “hottest band in the world” was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Recent interviews with current and former members of KISS led fans to believe that some battle royal might break on the stage at the Barclays Center in New York, where the Rock Hall induction ceremony took place tonight (April 10). In fact, it was an unexpectedly warm moment — almost shockingly so.
Before the founding members of the band took the stage, Tom Morello introduced them with a speech that raised the roof, proving that the man can inspire awe without a guitar in sight. Morello usually reserves his passionate speechmaking for matters of politics, but he was in full-on preacher mode when extolling the virtues of a band that, as he said, wasn’t always easy to be a fan of.
“Impact, influence and awesomeness: KISS had all three in spades!” he yelled, getting the audience to its feet. “What Elvis and the Beatles were to past generations, KISS was to us!” He continued, “Tonight proves that the critics and the high school bullies were wrong and we were right!”
In one of the surprises of the night, Gene Simmons took the mic and uttered these rather rare (for him) words: “We are humbled.”
He was referring to Morello’s speech, but, after all of the controversy of the band’s induction, he did seem (relatively) humbled. He’ll surely deny this in the interviews that will likely follow over the course of the next few days, but it was a touching moment watching him speak about Ace Frehley (“his guitar playing has often been imitated but never equalled”), Peter Criss (“nobody else has that swing and style”) and his longtime partner Paul Stanley (“You couldn’t ask for a better partner!”).
Criss spoke next, noting that “in or out of makeup, I’ll always be the Catman,” a reference to the fact that current KISS drummer Eric Singer now wears his makeup. Otherwise, he seemed happy to be there. Criss also noted he’s been free of male breast cancer for seven years.
Next up was Frehley, who realized that he couldn’t read his speech because he was wearing nonprescription shades (bring on the ageist snark!).
Stanley then took the opportunity to share his opinion that Hall of Fame voting should be open to the fans.
Sadly, there would be no performance. While Morello told the press room that “our heroes have not been represented,” noting that hard rock and metal is still not represented strongly enough, the members of KISS — seemingly wanting to keep things civil — declined to take questions but posed together for photos.
Frehley came back to the press room on his own later and, when asked about why they didn’t perform said, “It wasn’t my choice. I wanted to do it. But the bottom line is, we’re still brothers in rock and roll.”
The KISS portion of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony was notable for many things, but the most notable may have been this: that Gene Simmons held his tongue.