After 46 years in the music industry, the self-proclaimed “hottest band in the world” will be hanging up their platform boots and makeup brushes. Classic hard rock and heavy metal group KISS kicked off 2019 by embarking on their last-ever tour, aptly titled, “One Last KISS: End of the Road.” In true KISS fashion, they are going out with a bang. Having sold out most of the dates on the tour already, it is refreshing to see that, given the current oversaturation of mumble rappers and industry plants in the music business, the world still has room for a band like KISS.
KISS formed in New York City in 1973 as the brainchild of rhythm guitarist/lead singer Paul Stanley and bassist Gene Simmons, the only original members in the band’s current lineup. Following their decision to recruit Peter Criss for drums and Ace Frehley for lead guitar, the band started performing in the city, cultivating a reputation for their theatrical live performances and iconic makeup.
After selling countless hit records, experimenting with new styles (including a decade of performing without the makeup) and surviving lineup changes, KISS decided that they would embark on their Farewell Tour in the year 2000, as tensions resurfaced among the members of the recently reunited “classic” group. Although this tour was marketed as the band’s “last tour ever,” after Frehley and Criss quit for a second time, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons decided they would continue regardless, recording two albums with new recruits Tommy Thayer on lead guitar and Eric Singer on drums. The band members decided to keep the makeup for this last portion of their careers, with Thayer and Singer performing with Frehley and Criss’s trademark looks, respectively.
This time, however, it seems that the band is sincere in their message that this tour will be their last. With Simmons turning 70 this year, it is no wonder that he has no desire to continue wearing over 30 pounds of gear each night on stage. So, if you have never been to a KISS concert and want to see what they are all about, this will be your last chance. (Side note: the opener, however, is something to be skipped. Instead of getting a band to open for them like most established acts do, KISS decided to have live painter David Garibaldi open for them, which is about as boring as an opening act can get.)
During their show at Madison Square Garden, KISS was in rare form. They played with the same energy and charisma as they did when they were a rough and raw young band starting out in the early 70s. The group began the show by lowering from the ceiling as the opening riff to their 1976 hit, “Detroit Rock City,” blasted through the Garden’s sound system, coaxing everyone to leave their seats and move to their feet. Paul Stanley’s singing was the only aspect of his performance that revealed his age; he can no longer hit the notes with the same strength he held in his youth. Next came their arena-rock anthem, “Shout It Out Loud,” which had the whole stadium singing along, followed by the fan-favorite, “Deuce,” a live staple since their original tours in the 70s. The band incorporated much of their signature stage act during the show, including their choreographed swaying during “Deuce,” and Gene’s fire breathing and blood-spitting at the end of “War Machine” and in the beginning of “God of Thunder.” Eric Singer’s drum set fluctuated during his solo in the middle of “100,000 Years,” Tommy Thayer’s guitar shot fireworks during his solo and Paul Stanley took a zip-line into the middle of the audience to “play for the people” during “Love Gun.”
For the most part, the setlist was stellar. The band played incredibly tight renditions of hits such as “Lick It Up,” “Heaven’s On Fire,” “Calling Dr. Love,” and they even gave a nod to Ace Frehley by playing his song, “Cold Gin.” The only head-scratcher in the set list was “Say Yeah,” a song off the band’s horrifically bland 2009 album “Sonic Boom.” The track sounds like something Journey would write, that standard pop-rock chord progression with generic lyrics.
All in all, the show was a shot of adrenaline from start to finish, with the band ending with their most well-known song, “Rock and Roll All Nite.” My advice to everyone reading this article: Go see the show. There will never be another band as dynamic as KISS.