Kissology Vol. 2 - 1978-1991, Kissology Vol. 3 - 1992-2000, a four-disc DVD set, chronicles KISS' resurrection from a hard rock band struggling to survive in the early 1990s to their triumphant reunion tour in 1996 and beyond.
Kicking off with a November, 1992 concert in Detroit, MI from the "Revenge" tour, the first disc of Kissology Vol. 3 moves through the last chapter of the band's makeup-free years. The "Revenge" show features new-at-the-time drummer Eric Singer. This particular line-up finally seems comfortable with their non-makeup image. Instead of looking like drag queens or stuffed into neon spandex, the band looks like four rock and roll musicians confident that they're kicking ass and taking names.
From there, we get to see the seeds of the reunion tour sown in the 1995 "MTV Unplugged" special as the band's then-current line-up of Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Bruce Kulick, and Eric Singer does a great job handling acoustic versions of the band's many hits. When they're joined by former drummer Peter Criss and ex-guitarist Ace Frehley for a few songs to close the set, it's obvious that a reunion tour is the next logical step.
From the onset of Kissology Vol. 3, it's clear that the same problem that marred the other two volumes of the Kissology series is also present here. Once again, for whatever reason, material that is included is strangely edited and what doesn't appear at all is mind-boggling. While we are presented with an expanded version of the "MTV Unplugged" set, the "Revenge" show is missing several songs. We don't get to see the "Arsenio Hall Show" performance that aired to promote "Alive III". We don't get to see the band's 1993 performance on "New Year's Rockin' Eve." While it may seem like nitpicking, the first Kissology was full of vintage TV gems like that. The second set also had a few, although it was missing a fair share of material as well. This third set is comprised mainly of concert footage -- most of it incomplete.
The second disc begins with the first show of the reunion tour on June 28, 1996 at Tiger Stadium in Detroit. The footage is taken from the in-show cameras, so it's made-up mainly of close-ups and single member shots which makes it hard to appreciate the size of the stage, the crowd, or the venue. During some songs, video effects are present and between songs the picture fades to black as Paul Stanley delivers his stage raps. It's a minor annoyance but, for such a historic show, it's hard to believe there isn't better video footage available.
The highlight of the second disc -- and perhaps the entire set -- is a performance at the Brooklyn Bridge. Originally intended to be a one-off performance of "Rock and Roll All Nite" for the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards, the band delivers a five song set for those in attendance. After three months of touring together, the now-reunited band is a well oiled machine and hitting on all cylinders. The massive fireworks display complements the band's dynamic performance in grand fashion. This is the one performance from the reunion tour that truly echoes the hunger of the band's younger and hungrier days.
Closing the second disc and opening the third is the first show of the "Psycho Circus" tour at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. While the performance is good, and the concert appears to be complete, the band just doesn't seem to be as into it as they did on the reunion tour. According to commentary from Tommy Thayer, the footage from the drum camera following Peter Criss couldn't be found, so he's strangely absent from most of the performance which doesn't help create a cohesive feel. A short performance at the Los Angeles premiere party for the movie Detroit Rock City in August, 1999 is considerably more energetic.
The third disc closes out with "The Last KISS", which is taken from a 90 minute pay-per-view event that aired during 2000's "Farewell Tour". Although we now know the band didn't call it quits after these shows and, despite the commentary from Gene and Paul that the band was falling apart from the inside, they certainly play pretty well. Interestingly, this is the first time the reunited line-up played any songs from the 1980s incarnation of the band. Unfortunately, the only evidence of that on Kissology Vol. 3 is the inclusion of "Heaven's On Fire." ("I Love It Loud" and "Lick it Up" are missing, among others cut from what aired on the pay-per-view.) The camera work on this footage is well-done and the music sounds great.
One of the other highlights for long time KISS fans is the inclusion of the fourth disc which, while definitely not in chronological order, is a real treat. It features the earliest known film footage of KISS performing as a band. They're playing at the Coventry, a small club in New York City, in December, 1973. While there's only one camera (and it's at the back of the venue) and the sound is certainly nothing to get excited about, seeing this embryonic version of the band play to just a few people in a bar allows the viewer to put the band's career into perspective. Even the biggest band in the world had to start somewhere.
While Kissology Vol. 3 doesn't do a great job of capturing the excitement of the reunion tour, it does a good enough job closing out the series with just enough good stuff to keep a KISS fan happy. If there are future installments of Kissology, I hope they include more than just incomplete concert footage.