Rescued from VHS: KISS first played live 41 years ago today

Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons started a band called Wicked Lester more than 40 years ago. That band didn’t go anywhere, but after the band changed their name to KISS, they had a little bit more luck. It probably didn’t hurt that Ace Frehley and Peter Criss also joined the band.

KISS made their debut on Jan. 30, 1973, at a venue in Queens called the Popcorn Club. Its name was soon changed to Coventry, thankfully, because the Popcorn Club is such a dorky name for a live music venue.

This video footage is not from the night of their debut, but it is from the same club. And while it’s fascinating to hear how the band already has their signature sound, you can probably isolate the claps from one another rather than the thunderous ovation that would greet the band just two years later, as documented on their “Alive” album. It’s worth noting, however tangential, that there was some degree of overdubbing that went into that crowd noise.

Anyway, there’s no overdubbing here. It’s just KISS in a tiny club, rocking out and playing “Firehouse” and “Let Me Know,” both of which would appear on the band’s eponymous 1974 debut.

The best part about this clip is how even though there doesn’t seem to be that much of an audience, they still come running in on platform shoes and Marshall stacks to unleash, and play in full makeup — Gene Simmons even does his fire-breathing stunt. Rock and Roll All Nite indeed!


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