Kix | Image by City Paper Digi-Cam Every year around this time, hair metal's hometown hero Kix does a brief string of reunion shows, culminating in a big bash in Baltimore. (Last year's at Rams Head Live was the best show I saw in 2007.) Still, the band hasn't recorded a new album since 1995, and doesn't substantially change its stage show from year to year. So the only incentive to go back to see the band's show this year was that it's still fun as hell. And after hearing reports that Kix blew some of its better-known peers off the stage at the Rocklahoma festival in July, I was reminded that the band will be worthwhile to catch for as long as it keeps playing shows. Original bassist Donnie Purcell, who wrote the bulk of the band's greatest tunes, hasn't participated in any of the Kix reunion shows for the past five years, but the other four members of its classic lineup, along with bassist Mark Schenker, are close enough to the real thing for those of us who never saw the band in its prime.
This year, Kix kept its fans waiting a little longer, hitting the stage more than an hour after openers the Fishnet Stalkers finished up. But its introduction had a little added flash, thanks to a projection screen behind the stage, playing a short reel of video clips as the band members entered, and throughout the set displaying the cover of whichever Kix album it was playing songs from at the moment. Last year, the emphasis was on 1981's self-titled debut, but this time, the cover of its best-selling album, 1988's Blow My Fuse, seemed to appear on the screen the most, as it blew through explosive-themed rockers such as "She Dropped Me the Bomb" and "Red Lite, Green Lite, TNT."
With an increasingly craggy face and the toned abs of a 20-year-old, singer Steve Whiteman is starting to resemble Iggy Pop in his aging yet ageless appearance, while his stage moves still consist of an endless array of props, midair splits, and spastic arm-waving. Whiteman's personality tends to be less rock god than a good ol' boy playing at the part, goofily drawling in his Hagerstown accent, whether lasciviously teasing female fans or poking fun at his own advancing age. Kix reunion shows inevitably consist of the band spotting old friends in the house and reminiscing about the good old days, and this time the usual shout-outs to the club the band was once synonymous with, Hammerjacks, were punctuated by the original location's old owners showing up.
Kix was one of the most unapologetic good-time bands of an era defined by unapologetic good-time bands, and its catalog reflects that with an almost unbroken string of hard-charging up-tempo anthems. Some flourishes, like the fake ending in "Cold Blood," were nailed with aplomb, while Whiteman playfully flubbed the lengthy monologue during the traditional encore, "Yeah Yeah Yeah," and let fans fill in the blanks. On Saturday, the band played its two most notable slow songs, the rootsy "For Shame" and the hit single "Don't Close Your Eyes," in a row, and that lighter-waving segment was the only time that the band took anything resembling a breather.