Bruce Kulick played Count's Vamp'd on Thursday, December 30, 2021.
Even with the pandemic still weighing the world down, things haven't stopped Count's Vamp'd from remaining Las Vegas' premier house of rock and roll. This year has seen a long overdue return to the venue for this rock and roll fan. When I heard Bruce Kulick would be playing the venue with an all-star band performing KISS classics, I knew it's one I wouldn't want to miss. The venue keeps bringing the thunder, and there are already some spectacular gigs planned for 2022. This, of course, would be my last show of the year for 2021 since I never go out on New Year's Eve.
The first thing I noticed upon arriving at Vamp'd for this gig was that the venue was PACKED. This could very well hold the record for being the busiest I've seen the venue, and that's no small accomplishment. Seeing that Mr. Kulick could attract such a strong crowd was fantastic, although it did show the greatest limitation of Vamp'd, which is the small size of the venue compared to many others in Vegas. I love this venue; it's my absolute favorite in Sin City. That's not hard to see when you notice that the majority of the shows I attend are there. But it's reached a point with some of the busier gigs where the venue desperately needs to expand, either via add-ons to the existing space or moving to a larger location. That said, it's a place I'll always support, because they've done their part, even in tough times, to keep rock and roll alive.
Opening up the show (but not advertised) was an unexpected comedy set from comedian Craig Gass, who had some choice words regarding the performers for the evening (clearly intended in a joking way) which got plenty of big laughs from people in the audience, this one included. While I'm not familiar with Gass personally, he mentioned that he's done voices for television shows that include FAMILY GUY and AMERICAN DAD!, so odds are he's someone who I've heard the voice of and just not known who he was. There were some definite funny moments here, and he's honestly a man I wouldn't mind seeing a standalone stand-up set from (as in not relegated to the opening act).
The one issue I had with the opening set from Gass was the misinformation he provided. He claimed that the night was being recorded for a future live release, something later debunked by Zach Throne on Zach's own Facebook page as false. He also made several claims that it was Zach's birthday despite it not being such. Gass' set was hilarious. I won't deny that for one second. But was it necessary to lie about a live album being recorded? Likewise, Zach made claims to getting frequent (false) birthday greetings as a result of this. Gass also claimed to be Bruce Kulick's assistant, though this was thankfully cleared up on stage as false. There was one other claim he made regarding a personnel change for the evening, though that announcement was thankfully true.
On with the show
Anyway, on with that personnel announcement. The evening was advertised as a band featuring Bruce Kulick with Todd Kerns (Age of Electric, Toque, Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators aka SMKC and locally Original Sin Las Vegas) on guitar and vocals, Zachary Throne (Corey Taylor's Band) on bass and vocals, and Brent Fitz (Union, Slash Featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators aka SMKC and Red Dragon Cartel) on drums. Unfortunately, Fitz had COVID and was unable to attend the venue to play drums (Gass' initial reasons for Fitz's no-show were obviously fabricated, though quite funny). The biggest surprise of the evening was who the band got to play in Fitz's place - Eric Singer! Singer being the current drummer for KISS, as well as a past member of Black Sabbath, Badlands, and Alice Cooper's band. Needless to say, that got this fan fired up.
When the band took the stage (with remarks about Singer drumming being quite true!), they went right into a wide and diverse set of KISS classics, from the biggest hits to some of the more obscure numbers, including ones from Kulick's tenure as lead guitarist of KISS from roughly 1984-1996. The chemistry and enthusiasm shared by this band of musicians spoke for itself, as they tore through classic after classic, typically with Kerns singing the Paul Stanley parts, and Throne singing the Gene Simmons parts. This was an audience packed with a wide array of KISS fans, as was evidenced by the shirts on many of the people in the crowd. I even got several compliments on my KISS battle jacket, which just goes to show just how widespread the reputation of this classic hard rock band truly is.
The diversity of the band was outdone only by that of the crowd. As was previously stated, it's one of the busiest nights I've ever seen at Vamp'd, difficult to even move around on the concert floor! Attendees of the show included rock/metal media personality Eddie Trunk, classic Skid Row vocalist Sebastian Bach, former LA Guns guitarist Stacey Blades, and Mexican rock/metal TV/radio personally Monica Botello. Even surrounding me were equally diverse crowds of spectators. To my right was an older woman who was likely an original fan from the band's classic tenure in the 70s. To my left was a beautiful Latina who was likely under 30 (and certainly not alive during the band's heyday!) KISS music is timeless and stretches across generations. All the proof of that you need came in the form of the crowd Mr. Kulick and band attracted on this evening.
And how about the setlist? It didn't disappoint either. Coupled with the solid musicianship of a group that included two members of KISS on stage, one past and one present, their renditions were priceless. Of course, there was classic 70s fare like "Watchin' You" and "Detroit Rock City," but this setlist veered more towards 80s and 90s tracks. How about the holy trinity from CREATURES OF THE NIGHT, consisting of the title track, "I Love it Loud," and the Bryan Adams co-penned classic "War Machine?" How about 80s Kulick-era tracks like "Uh! All Night," "Tears are Falling" and the Michael Bolton co-penned "Forever?" Even the classic and sorely underrated 1992 REVENGE LP (on which Kulick and Singer both played) was represented in the form of songs like "I Just Wanna" and "Domino." And feeling they hadn't already dug into the vault far enough, we even got "Jungle" from CARNIVAL OF SOULS! This was a dream set for fans of the hottest band in the land, and while fans will likely nitpick this tracklist, this KISS lover found it to be damn impressive, with the musicianship to back it up.
KISS fans got what they wanted and then some on this killer night of rock and roll, with Vamp'd as crowded as it's ever been. 2021 brought up some epic shows in this house of rock, but for me, not of them topped this one. Wishing Brent Fitz a speedy recovery, of course, though no one will argue that Eric Singer brought his A-game to the table, as did Mr. Kerns, Mr. Throne, and of course, the mighty Bruce Kulick. It's not clear if this ensemble of musicians will ever take this show on the road (they'd only previously played the KISS Kruise), but if they do, and you're a fan, don't pass it by.
All live photos by Courtney Ware for ZrockR Magazine, 2021. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.