The Kiss show at Tokyo Dome on March 3 was the third time I’ve seen the band play live.

The first time was in Sydney in 1980 — my first-ever live concert. At 13, I was a massive Kiss fan, dressed to the nines and all made up like the group’s original drummer Peter Chris, “the Cat,” much to the amusement of my father, who chaperoned.

I lost interest in Kiss around 1983 when the members took off the makeup. However, I decided to go see them for a laugh in Ottawa in 1996, when the original lineup put the costumes back on. I was living in Canada at the time, and my mates and I couldn’t help but chuckle when guitarist Paul Stanley shouted to the crowd, “We played Montreal last night, but they didn’t rock as hard as you do Ottawa!”

So, when I saw Kiss was coming to Japan I simply had to go once more, especially because the band announced it would be playing its Tokyo Dome gig with idol group Momoiro Clover Z — Momokuro to their fans. It was an appropriately kitsch move for a band of old dudes whose masked onstage personas have become so iconic that even Hello Kitty can be found wearing the masks of the Lover, the Demon, the Spaceman and (most appropriately, I guess) the Cat.

The hordes of fans that gathered to see the show were a curious blend of idol superfans and classic-rock aficionados — the multicolored outfits of those there to see Momokuro floated among the black T-shirts and denim uniforms of the Kiss Army, like oil on dark water. Those two sets of fans would have been an impossible mix had it not been for the curious fact that both groups were mostly made up of middle-aged men.

To say Momokuro fans are maniacally loyal is an understatement, so I’d been curious as to how Kiss’ management could ensure that a stadium full of them would stay to watch the aging rockers once the girls’ set had finished. However, in a stroke of sheer marketing genius, prior to the tour Kiss and Momokuro released a joint single titled “Yume no Ukiyo ni Saitemina” — which guaranteed that the two would play together on the night of the show.

As the lights in Tokyo Dome went down and the Momokuro fans lit their glow sticks, I was really surprised to see Kiss come on. I thought Momokuro was going to be the supporting act and therefore play first. It seemed the answer to getting Momokuro fans to stick around was for Kiss to open.

Kiss began with “Detroit Rock City” and pushed through a set list of both old and new songs. But when Paul Stanley asked, about seven songs in, “Do you love me Tokyo?” I’m not sure the love was there, many in the crowd were just politely waiting for the megahits and Momokuro to show up.

Kiss has toured Japan 11 times over the past 40 years and I suspect the band has stuck with the same shtick for most of those shows. Gene Simmons spat fire during “War Machine,” blood when he flew on wires above the stage during “God of Thunder.” Tommy Thayer launched rockets from his guitar and Paul Stanley charmed the locals by singing a verse, in Japanese, of the Kyu Sakamoto classic “Sukiyaki.” The antics delighted the Kiss Army, but it may not have been quite enough to convert the Momokuro fans.

Perhaps the show was too quiet? The sound didn’t seem that loud for the most part, which was especially noticeable during “I Love It Loud” and “Shout it Out Loud,” and Stanley’s interaction with the crowd seemed strained at first — perhaps because he needed to win over the Momokuro fans.

The inclusion of the idol group may have actually worked to Kiss’ disadvantage, previous shows across Japan saw the band performing by themselves and those audiences would’ve likely all been card-carrying soldiers in the Kiss Army. At Tokyo Dome there was a good chance that half the audience didn’t even know who Kiss were.

However, the highlight of the night was without a doubt the encore. Momoiro Clover Z finally came out on stage and their fans let loose with their glow sticks. Backed by taiko drummers, the two groups united to perform “Yume no Ukiyo ni Saitemina” and “Rock and Roll All Nite.” I suspect the legion of Momokuro fans were disappointed the girls only played two songs, but for the Kiss Army it was more than enough. And of course, Tokyo rocked harder than Osaka.

Set list

Detroit Rock City
Creatures of the Night
Psycho Circus
Shout It Out Loud
War Machine
Do You Love Me
Hell or Hallelujah
I Love It Loud
Lick It Up
Bass Solo
God of Thunder
I Was Made for Lovin’ You
Love Gun
Black Diamond

Encore with Momoiro Clover Z:
Yume no Ukiyo ni Saitemina
Rock and Roll All Nite

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