KISS – Off The Soundboard: Live In Poughkeepsie, NY 1984
May 6, 2023, a month ago
Now here’s something for KISS fans to really sink their claws into. The fifth in the Off The Soundboard series, Live In Poughkeepsie, NY 1984 features the short lived lineup of founding members Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons with Eric Carr and Mark St. John on the Animalize Tour. This release stands out for two reasons – Mark only played three shows with the band which makes this a rarity and finally Eric Carr gets his just due being featured on a live album. For these reasons alone, it’s a must have for any hardcore KISS fan.
To set the scene for this soundboard’s date – November 28, 1984, Mark was sidelined with a hand injury so soon to be official member Bruce Kulick was in his stead as KISS went through Europe in September and it wasn’t until November 27 when Mark got his first chance at the stage, playing half a show in Baltimore. Heck, by the time Mark got up there, it might have already been decided that Bruce was going to be the guy going forward. And it probably was as St. John would play just one more show with KISS before Bruce took over for good.
So maybe it was nerves, pressure, lack of rehearsal time, or his hand not being fully healed, but Mark is all over the place; he’s clearly more comfortable with the “shreddier”, Vinnie Vincent-era tracks and not so much with those classic ‘70s licks. His guitar sound is a bit thin and could use more distortion, but he’s in the zone on Animalize cut “Under The Gun” as well as the thunderous “War Machine” and “Creatures Of The Night”. But then there’s “Detroit Rock City”, where the missing distortion sticks out and “Love Gun” is totally butchered and “Black Diamond” isn’t great either.
The true star is Eric Carr who is an absolute menace behind the kit and amplifies the ‘70s material while letting loose on the current songs. It’s great to hear him on the mic for “Young And Wasted” and the aforementioned “Black Diamond”. Gene’s bass shines on the mix – just listen to “Cold Gin” as he steadily attacks the strings. He really is an underrated bassist; his brief solo is groovy and has a nice rhythm.
As for Paul Stanley, the ‘80s unmasked era is where he starts flying the f-bombs in his stage raps, and it’s a bit weird to hear that, but his banter before “Cold Gin” is entertaining as well as when he jokes about giving the whole audience a drink to share. On this show, there’s a little wear-and-tear on his voice, but the energy is there. He lets out a wicked high note in “Creatures Of The Night”, but for the most part doesn’t go crazy with misplaced shrieks.
Worthy of mention are two tracks that are victims to cassette flips – “Young And Wasted” is missing parts, but Universal did the right thing to just leave what was there so listeners at least have something to hear and the finale “Rock And Roll All Nite” has the same fate and smartly fades out to end the disc.
There’s a definite energy and motivation that shines through the speakers as KISS was riding the wave of a successful album, continuing to rebuild their reputation after taking the makeup off. Everything was faster in the ‘80s and the ‘70s tracks are sped up and lose that mid-tempo groove, which will be off-putting to some fans, but it fits the vibe of the time.
Live In Poughkeepsie ‘84 is not perfect, even a bit rough at times, but it’s 100% sweaty rock ‘n’ roll and I’d take that over this ridiculous era of backing tracks and other nonsense polluting the live arena.