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Kisstroyer at The Croxton Park Hotel

Once upon a time, when Australian rock 'n' roll was ruled by a powerful trinity of blues rock, leather flares and ball hugging machismo, Thornbury's Croxton Park Hotel held court to some of '70s Oz-rock's most iconic acts: AC/DC, The Angels, Cold Chisel and more. These days The 'Croc is a shadow of its former pub-rock self, an oasis of pokies and forbidden suburban pleasures in the increasingly gentrified Thornbury.
 
Around the same time The Croc was forging its reputation for live rock 'n' roll, Kiss were on the cusp of global fame, migrating from cheesy New York club gimmick to stadium rock phenomenon. It was fitting, therefore, that Melbourne's finest Kiss cover band, Kisstroyer, chose The Croxton Park Hotel for a relatively small scale performance (shows in early October as part of The Hi Voltage event and late November's Monsters Pf Rock promise bigger and better spectacles).
 
There are two basic elements to the Kiss formula: the songs - a mixture of metal and glam, topped with lyrics that explore sexuality with all the subtlety of a phallic sledgehammer - and a bag of theatrical Kiss props (fire breathing and blood spitting included) that, while as predictable as Gene Simmons' perverted take on life, never fail to please. Kisstroyer own both of these elements, and nail both with aplomb.
 
In the front rows of the generous crowd, we metaphorically flip a coin to see whether the set opener will be Detroit Rock City or Deuce - it's the former, and the night is off and running in classic Kiss style. Deuce follows next, complete with formation Simmons/Stanley/Frehley moves. The band members' moves are as faithful as the oh-so-familiar costumes and make-up - Gene Simmons' demonic sexual glare, Paul Stanley's camp inter-song banter, Ace Frehley's stumbling Les Paul solos, Peter Criss' double-kick style and growling vocals.
 
The defining factor in any Kiss show is as much what's not played as what is played. Tonight's set has plenty of expected Kiss fare -Shout It Out Loud, Dr Love, Firehouse, I Was Made For Loving You, I Want You, God Of Thunder, Shandi, Black Diamond - and a few surprises, most notably the Peter Criss-sung Hooligan from Love Gun. The night ends with Rock 'N' Roll All Nite, Stanley smashes his guitar and the festivities are over.
 
Later on the band members appear for a meet-and-greet session. It's just like the real thing, except Simmons keeps his wandering eyes and philandering hands to himself, and Frehley keeps his feet. With the 'real' Kiss reduced to a post-modernist exercise in self-parody, Kisstroyer keeps the Kiss faith better than the real thing. And it's still rocking at The Croc.