In spite of its title, Symphony: Alive IV was not entirely recorded with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra; they perform only on the second disc. The first six songs are Kiss alone; standard, solid fare, but nothing special other than Thayer's takes on Frehley's leads, which are pretty close to the originals generally. The following five songs were performed acoustically with the Melbourne Symphony Ensemble. Many of them are retreads on material from MTV Unplugged, and "Beth" really would've been better served with the full orchestra. The performances, though, retain the high quality of the previous six songs. "Shandi" is actually a pleasant surprise; being a huge hit in Australia at the time of its release, the band treats the audience to an acoustic/orchestrated take on the ballad.
Disc 2 is where the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra comes onstage (covered in Kiss makeup, no less). Interestingly, most of the Destroyer album was performed, as this was/is Kiss's most complicated affair musically and thus best suited for such an environment. Not only do listeners get the first official live version of "Do You Love Me?", but the band even plays "Great Expectations" with the Australian Children's Choir! As for the interplay between Kiss and the orchestra itself, the musical chemistry is minimal given Kiss's sonic attributes, similar in vibe to Metallica's S&M minus the darker edge. Nothing necessarily wrong with some extra volume and power, though, even if it is coming from wind and string instruments.
It would've been nice if Kiss had left off the "Alive IV" part of the album title, as the album tries to be two things at once - a live album and a novelty record. Because the band pulls off this tightrope walk well enough, Symphony: Alive Iv really isn't that different at its core from its three predecessors: it's still big, dumb, fun, gaudy, live Kiss, except that they got an orchestra to mess around with this go 'round. It's just that those two words, "Alive IV", especially dilute the appeal of this album's main attraction, though: the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. (Would MTV Unplugged receive the same praise and respect that it receives had it been christened Alive IV?) This album is really more for Kiss devotees, but it is far from a bad purchase for that demographic. Obviously, neophytes should head straight for Alive! and then Alive II from there.