Sunday, February 28, 2016

Paul Stanley brings Soul Station to the Coach House

KISS singer Paul Stanley brought his new group Soul Station
to the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on Feb. 26, 2016.
Photo: Bob Steshetz
REVIEW: KISS singer Paul Stanley proves he has plenty of soul in Orange County debut of his new ensemble

It's no surprise there were plenty of KISS fans on hand at the Coach House on Friday night (Feb. 26, 2016) to catch the local debut of singer-guitarist Paul Stanley's new group dubbed Soul Station. But what may have been a bit surprising to some unschooled members of the capacity crowd was not only the complete lack of any KISS classics in the set list, but the fact that "the Starchild" performed sans makeup and never even touched a guitar during the 90-minute performance.
Paul Stanley at the Coach House.
Photo: Bob Steshetz

The good news is the 64-year-old hard rocking icon's performance was not only very good and made for a fun-filled night of music courtesy of his outstanding backing 12-member ensemble Soul Station. Stanley and company crackled life into more than a dozen soul and Motown classics in versions that featured arrangements mostly faithful to the studio versions while gaining an additional edge afforded by the concert setting. 

Opening with a rousing version of the Temptations' "Get Ready," this was a performance where every song covered was a bona fide classic. As Stanley noted after the opener: "Tonight's about a lot of the music I grew up loving."

Stanley used his falsetto as the instrument of choice throughout most of the night, generally able to hit all the high notes associated with iconic ballads (the Delfonics' "La-La Means I Love You," an especially impressive take on the Miracles' "Ooo Baby Baby") and uptempo soul standards (Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" with Stanley showing off some dance moves; Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours"). Stanley not only hit those lofty notes, but delivered the songs with authentic emotion that gave the overall performance an artistic sense of purpose more than justifying future outings from Soul Station.
From left, Nelson Beato, Crystal Starr, Paul
Stanley and Ayana Layli. Photo: Bob Steshetz

The three terrific backing singers (all of whom were featured singing lead vocals from time to time) were the obvious ingredient in replicating the vocal sound of the soul era; a top-tier trio of horn players, ace rhythm section (including long-time KISS drummer Eric Singer), several keyboardists and stellar guitarist Rafael "Hoffa" Moreira (the latter who drew several cheers throughout the night for his flashy fret work, notably during an extended cover of the Isley Brothers' "Who's That Lady") all helped make this a night to celebrate a sound that got many on their feet and dancing in a venue where such displays are rare.
Tom Griesgraber playing Chapman
Stick at the Coach House.
Photo: Bob Steshetz

Opening the night was Tom Griesgraber, an Encinitas-based composer who performed an instrumental set of original works on a Chapman Stick, a unique instrument that is able to fuse sounds from the guitar, bass guitar and even keyboards. 

His virtuoso talents on the Stick were highlighted on the beautiful Americana-styled "Rebecca" and dazzling rhythm-defying "War Dance."

For more information on Tom Griesgraber, visit his official Web site at

Review by Robert Kinsler

All photos courtesy of Bob Steshetz

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