Another way to see KISS in concert

If you don’t get to see KISS at Covelli Centre — and tickets remain available, by the way — the next best thing would be “KISS Rocks Vegas.”

The DVD/CD package will be released Friday, the same day as the iconic rock band’s Youngstown concert.

Filmed at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas during the act’s nine-day residency there in 2014, the DVD captures a KISS concert in all its laser-and-pyro glory (not to mention Gene Simmons’ flitting tongue).

“KISS Rocks Vegas” ($21.98; $26.98 for Blu-Ray) is a product of Eagle Rock Entertainment. It will also be available in a deluxe edition ($79.98) that includes a DVD, Blu-Ray disc, CD and a bonus CD in an album-sized hardcover book that includes photos from the concert.

The concert has the band, in makeup and full costume regalia, roaring its way through a 16-song, career-spanning set. It opens with “Detroit Rock City” and includes hits “Love Gun,” “Black Diamond” (my favorite), “Shout It Out Loud” and “Rock and Roll All Nite.” There’s also a cool take of “Lick It Up” that samples The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

I’m not sure if the Covelli concert — which is part of a small-market tour that also includes Erie, Dayton, Toledo and Rochester — will feature the same degree of stage effects as the glitzy Vegas show. But it should be on a par with it, and if it’s anything like the DVD, it will deliver the spectacle for which the band is known.

The “KISS Rocks Vegas” DVD is a straight-up concert film that’s nearly two hours long, and shot from dozens of angles. It constantly cuts to new vantage points to capture the band and its fans in action. Highlights include a blood-spitting segment by the evil kabuki Simmons during the extended intro of “God of Thunder.”

The accompanying CD is the audio of the concert.

Also included on the DVD is a six-song unplugged (and without makeup) set the band did the afternoon before one of its Hard Rock concerts before a crowd of maybe 100 in a smallish room.

KISS is known for playing simplistic rockers with the amps dimed up, which makes the acoustic set all the more interesting — and surprisingly great. It removes the noise from the songs and also demonstrates the talent of the band members, especially guitarist Tommy Thayer (but also Paul Stanley and drummer Eric Singer).

The unplugged set is mostly softer songs such as “Hard Luck Woman” and “Beth.”

D-DAY INVASION RE-ENACTMENT was a piece of living history

I was behind enemy lines Saturday, watching U.S., English and Australian soldiers storm the beaches of northern France.

It was the annual D-Day re-enactment of the Allies’ invasion of the Nazi-held Normandy region.

Held at the lakefront Township Park in downtown Conneaut, it’s one of Northeast Ohio’s most unique annual events.

It also keeps getting bigger every year. Dubbed D-Day Conneaut, the two-day event drew a total of at least 40,000 people Friday and Saturday. It’s the nation’s largest World War II re-enactment.

About 10,000 clung to the bluffs and beaches of Lake Erie Saturday afternoon for the invasion.

The event was started in the tidy little city of Conneaut because its park bears a resemblance to the cliff-backed beaches of Normandy.

Nazi soldiers are dug in on the hillside, and in the trenches on the beach. The battle started at 3 p.m. with Allied aircraft strafing the positions and the ground soldiers returning fire. The rat-a-tat of World War II-era anti-aircraft guns firing at vintage bombers and fighters lent realism to not only the look, but the sound of the war.

Next came a steady stream of vintage landing craft that deposited waves of Allied soldiers. Quickly the beach became a fog of war, with smoke hanging over the battlefield. The sound of tank shelling and gunfire was loud and nonstop, and no matter how closely you watch, there’s always a shell you don’t see coming that delivers a startling jolt.

Authentic (and replicas) of WWII aircraft, vehicles, uniforms and weapons bestowed realism. The sheer number of troops made it human. About 1,500 re-enactors — Allies and Nazis — took part this year, according to Betsy Bashore, director of the event.

The number of living World War II veterans is rapidly dwindling, but about 200 were in attendance — including a handful who were part of the D-Day invasion.

D-Day Conneaut also includes acres of encampments and displays that further the goal of showing what life was like for soldiers on both sides, as well as the people in the war-torn cities. Some women dressed in the distinctive high fashions of the era.

The most realistic cinematic depiction of the D-Day invasion is undoubtedly the opening 15 minutes of Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” (1998).

While the re-enactment at Conneaut cannot focus the action for the viewer the way a film can, it surpasses “Ryan” in other ways. It is human theater on the largest of scales.

To get the most out of it, a spectator should plan to move around during the battle. Get to the top of the bluffs to see it unfold panoramically, the way the Nazis in their bunkers did. But get down to the beach to see the fighting up close, with American soldiers fighting their way to the trenches.

Conneaut is expanding on its status as a center for World War II history. In June, the D-Day Museum opened in a former church building at Harbor Street and Lake Road, near the park. Hours are very limited for now.


The 2016-17 community and college theater season is fast approaching, and one of the most intriguing lineups is that of Kent-Trumbull Theater.

The branch campus theater program, directed by Prof. Eric S. Kildow, will present “On the Verge, or the Geography of Learning” in October; “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” in December; and “The Increased Difficulty of Concentration” in March.

Kildow didn’t select the plays for their long titles, or just to be different.

“We have to consider the educational mission of the university, and tie that together with our community engagement,” he said. “In some ways, it was ‘what are some shows that people haven’t heard of ...but they really should?”

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