As their way of supporting servicemembers, the iconic rock band KISS gave a special gift to 2,000 area veterans, active duty troops, wounded warriors and friends July 19, putting on a free, up-close and personal concert at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, Va. On the eve before KISS and heavy metal band Mötley Crüe began “The Tour,” which kicked off in Bristow July 20 and will cover 40 dates across the U.S., with stops in Canada and Mexico, KISS held nothing back during what they called a “dress rehearsal,” entertaining the small crowd with elaborate stage lighting, pyrotechnics, and theatrical stage antics.
KISS was founded in New York City in January, 1973. The band features co-founders Gene Simmons on bass and vocals and Paul Stanley on rhythm guitar and lead vocals. Tommy Thayer plays lead guitar and provides vocals. Eric Singer, completes the group with drums and vocals. Their devoted fans are known as the KISS Army.
The band has stage names, including Simmons as “ The Demon,” and Stanley as “The Starchild.” Thayer is “ The Spaceman,” and Singer is “ The Catman.”
Almost garnering as much attention as the makeup-clad, heavily armored world-famous rockers, was the tour’s now-famous roadie, retired Army Staff Sgt. Paul Jordan.
The free gig came about as a result of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s national chamber foundation’s initiative Hiring Our Heroes program, launched on March, 28, 2011. “The goal is finding meaningful employment for veterans and military spouses that need help as they transition out of the military,” said Brian Goettel, Hiring Our Heroes director of communications.
“Along with a major bank, we announced an extension of the program, Hiring 500,000 Heroes, engaging with the business community to hire a half a million vets and spouses by 2014. One of KISS’ managers contacted us to say the band wanted to hire a veteran after they learned of the announcement.
“We helped KISS screen the 1,900 applicants and narrowed it down before they selected Jordan,” Goettel said. “Shortly after we entered into this partnership with the band, they expressed they wanted to do this concert.”
An infantryman in the Army for 21 years, including three tours to Iraq and Afghanistan, Jordan said he’s been a KISS fan most of his life. “I became a fan in 1975 at age 4, said the Buford, Ga., native. He even has a KISS tattoo depicting Simmon’s likeness with his famous tongue exposed. “My favorite KISS songs are ‘God of Thunder,’ performed live, and ‘Flaming Youth,’ recorded in the studio,” Jordan said.
“I’ve been seeking full-time employment since I retired from the service about 18 months ago. The only jobs I’ve been able to get are temporary through employment agencies.
“I heard about the contest to be a roadie through my friend Michelle Paluzzi, a fellow Army KISS fan I know from online,” said Jordan. “She sent me the link and I thought, ‘This is me, it has to be me.’ When I sent my resume to KISS, I thought, ‘How am I going to get noticed?’ so I started a Facebook event called ‘Help Paul Jordan get hired as a KISS roadie,’ and invited my friends, who invited their friends. All of these people, including retired Army officers, wrote letters of recommendation for me,” he said.
Jordan received a phone call from James Cunningham, Hiring Our Heroes director of social media, who conducted a phone interview and followed up with another call to Jordan the next day. “I didn’t sleep at all the night after the phone interview,” said Jordan. “I kept thinking I just had to get this job. When James phoned me back, he asked if I could fly up to New York City the following day, May 23, to appear on the “Today Show,” to talk about wanting to be a roadie. “I saw Gene Simmons there and couldn’t believe it I was so excited.”
The veteran said although he was nervous, Simmons made him feel completely at ease during the live, televised segment. “When he announced on the air I got the job, I nearly jumped out of my skin. I couldn’t believe it, it was all so surreal.”
Jordan’s first gig as a KISS roadie was at the free concert for veterans July 19. “I’m in the carpentry section, helping to build stage sets,” he said. “The entire process has been overwhelming,” admitted Jordan, who said it was weird so many people wanted to interview him. “Last night, they did a full dress rehearsal, and I was standing right in the front because I had to help Gene with a few of his special effects. I also met the rest of the band. They’ve all been very nice.” Jordan said.
He looks forward to his roadie job for the North American tour and is positive about working full-time as a roadie. “Once you’ve been a roadie for KISS and Mötley Crüe, you can roadie for any band,” he said.
The retired Soldier stressed this is not the first time KISS has done something for veterans. “KISS has supported vets for years. I saw them two years ago in Atlanta and they sold T-shirts with the KISS logo on the front and a wounded warriors logo on back. They donated the money from the T-shirt sales to the wounded warriors organization.”
While in the National Capital Region, KISS paid a visit to the wounded at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Simmons was quick to credit Jordan for his military service, drawing attention from the band. “He volunteered to deploy. A lot of people don’t know what deploying means,” said Simmons. “He volunteered to risk life and limb just to support an idea, and he served our country. He came back and all he wanted was a chance to work,” he said.
“Patriotism is always cool. Regardless of whether you agree with government policies, the people who fight on our behalf are owed for everything they’re asked to do,” said Stanley. “They are truly the heroes of the 21st century. They make everything possible for us to enjoy what we do.”
Before the concert, representatives from Hiring Our Heroes welcomed everyone and introduced KISS as well as Mötley Crüe co-founders bass guitarist Nikki Sixx and drummer Tommy Lee, lead guitarist Mick Mars and lead singer Vince Neil to a standing ovation as an American flag photo waved in the breeze on the jumbo screens on stage.
“I want you all to know something. A free country’s greatest national treasure is the people that make that country free,” said Stanley to a cheering crowd. “None of us can enjoy the freedom we have without the sacrifices you people make for us. God bless the troops and God bless America.”
“I just want to say how honored me and the boys are to be here with you guys because of the service you do. You live it every day, so thank you very much,” said Neil.
“At the end of the day, all the good intentions are only worth what they can put in people’s pockets and what they can do in terms of hiring those heroes,” said Stanley. “We’re going to put our money where are our mouths are … So this is a check to Hiring Our Heroes for $250,000 on behalf of both bands,” he said.
KISS opened the show with “Detroit Rock City,” as Simmons, Stanley and Thayer descended onto stage from levitating platforms with Singer and his massive drum kit hovering mid-air while pyrotechnics blasted around them.
KISS performed classics and new songs on their tour set list, including: “Lick It Up,” “Black Diamond,” “I Love It Loud,” “Fire House,” and their latest hit, “Hell or Hallelujah.” Simmons generated a standing ovation and rousing applause during his bass solo in “God of Thunder.” With an ecstatic crowd wanting more after the final song, Stanley lead band mates back on stage while waving a large American flag, and performed their anthem, “Rock and Roll all Night,” as millions of pieces of confetti were blown throughout the crowd.
“It is great that KISS wants to give back to veterans and the military,” said Master Sgt. Jason Hazzard, provost sergeant at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall’s Directorate of Emergency Services. “I thought the concert was outstanding. They interacted with the audience, continually expressing how much they appreciate our sacrifice, saying what we do gives them ability to do what they do on stage.”
A KISS fan his entire life, police Capt. Christopher Miller, JBM-HH DES chief of detectives and an Army veteran, said he enjoyed his third KISS concert. “I last saw them in Seattle, about 1986, and for Gene [Simmons] and Paul [Stanley] to be in their sixties – these guys can still bring it,” said Miller. “I know from watching Simmon’s reality television show “Gene Simmons Family Jewels,” he’s pro-veteran. I appreciate they took time out of their schedule to do this free concert to such a small group. These guys sell out huge stadiums. We also got a free [commemorative T-shirt] and the food and drinks inside the venue were half price. It was a neat thing to do.”