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Lemmy, Kiss and Steel Panther at the L.A. Kiss Home Opener: Exclusive Photos

Charles Epting for Ultimate Classic Rock

Professional football made its return to Los Angeles on April 5, as the newly formed L.A. Kiss of the Arena Football League won its home opener at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., 44-34 over the Portland Thunder.

Team owners, and Kiss bandmates, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley were on hand to take part in the pre-game festivities and, true to their words, they helped present an over-the-top rock ’n’ roll sports experience that more than delivered bang for the buck.

From the silver field with the giant guitar pick logo to the towering columns of fire set up in the end zone for player introductions, this was not your father’s football game. Dancing girls in suspended gondolas and a floating bridge contraption that seemed straight out of a vintage Kiss stage show helped set the tone for what became a night of solid entertainment and some decent football.

Simmons and Stanley addressed the crowd from midfield just before things got under way and, as they’ve been doing over the course of the last few weeks, promised to give the fans their money’s worth. Then, heavy-metal parody group Steel Panther took to the stage set up in the end zone to play a few songs from their just-released album, ‘All You Can Eat’ (the band would appear two other times during the night). A healthy crowd of more than 12,000 fans also was treated to a soaring electric guitar version of the national anthem by “in arena guitarist” Nita Strauss, from the all-female tribute band the Iron Maidens. Throughout the night, Strauss punctuated the festivities with a variety of riffs to keep the crowd on its game.

On hand to perform the opening coin flip, meanwhile, was Lemmy from Motorhead. The heavy-metal icon was driven out to midfield in a golf cart and was met with thunderous applause as he was driven away after the toss.

For all of the pomp and publicity surrounding the Kiss machine taking over a football team, the promotion of the band doesn’t seem to be too overdone, at least during the game. Yes, there are a couple of illuminated signs featuring the classic Kiss logo at either end zone and performances by a “Kiss Rock City” dance troupe, not to mention the BMX riders who came out a couple of times during the game to ride up a giant ramp emblazoned with Simmons’ face and wagging tongue. In addition, the Kiss tune ‘Lick It Up’ is played after the teams scores a touchdown, but plenty of other music also was heard throughout the night, from Def Leppard to Aerosmith to Ted Nugent. The spectacle also included aerial artists and lots of explosions and green lasers.

Current Kiss drummer Eric Singer and the band’s former guitarist Bruce Kulick also were in the house, and during the game Stanley could be seen in a front-row seat signing autographs and taking photos with many fans (all of whom were given commemorative opening-night guitar picks and towels upon arrival).

And perhaps most importantly, the home team delivered on opening night. Wide receiver Donovan Morgan caught four touchdown passes and linebacker Beau Bell set a league record by delivering six sacks in one game, while the team as a whole set another single-game sack record, with 11 for the night.

The merchandise booths were crowded most of the night, and many of the fans donned jerseys with Simmons’ and Stanley’s name emblazoned on the back. For anyone that thought this team was merely an investment for two Kiss legends, opening night would have given them great pause. These guys seem committed to delivering a unique and affordable sports entertainment experience that’s family-friendly while also focused on winning.

The LA Kiss have arrived … and they’re worth at least a deuce.

Charles Epting for Ultimate Classic Rock
Charles Epting for Ultimate Classic Rock
Charles Epting for Ultimate Classic Rock
Charles Epting for Ultimate Classic Rock
Charles Epting for Ultimate Classic Rock
Charles Epting for Ultimate Classic Rock
Charles Epting for Ultimate Classic Rock
Charles Epting for Ultimate Classic Rock
Charles Epting for Ultimate Classic Rock

Next: Paul Stanley's Best Kiss Songs

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