The End of the Road
So, KISS is doing a farewell tour… again… for realz. This time I think it’s going to stick.
As the name of the tour implies, it will be the end of the road for Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons of KISS. After a reportedly three-year plus long tour, the duo will hang up their platform boots.
So, does that mean KISS is done in 2021? Of course not.
Here’s what I expect to happen after the tour ends: a Vegas residency. Yes, the band had a short one already in 2014, but I think that was to gauge interest in having a long term contract. A nine show residency barely satiated the appetite for fans. A longer residency with three shows a week allows the band to not have to travel, not have to take down and put up a stage show each night, sets up playback for tracks much easier, and will make the inevitable transition into KISS 2.0 practically seamless.
What’s KISS 2.0?
Gene and Paul believe the band’s iconic look lends itself to interchangeable members. Think of it as a rock and roll Blue Man Group. It is inevitable. I’m not sure a KISS 2.0 can survive as a touring entity unless they turn it into a Beatlemania NOW-style show with stage and costume changes, but I think that’s irrelevant. KISS in Vegas is a natural.
However, before we get to Post-End of the Road Tour there’s the whole matter of the actual tour.
First, let’s get this out of the way: As most fans remember, back in 2000 and 2001, KISS embarked on a Farewell Tour. They played a lot of places and I saw that tour thinking the band was slow, plodding and, frankly bored out of their minds out there. In retrospect, it was obvious at that time the problem wasn’t the band was tired half of the band. Ultimately, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss were the brought back to make everyone a lot of money and after a few years they got tired, bored, and greedy. Paul and Gene were just done dealing with them. It was a Farewell Tour… a farewell to the original line-up.
You may believe the nearly twenty years since then that KISS has toured and recorded with Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer it’s really a glorified tribute band and I can understand that sentiment. I think that’s hogwash, but I get it.
As it turns out, the current line-up, over time, has been a stronger, more cohesive unit with a strong level of professionalism shown throughout. They became a true working band and for several years they look and sounded pretty great.
Sadly, time catches up with us all.
The latest show the band did was in Barcelona and, frankly, it’s hard to watch and especially listen to. Paul’s voice is blown out and the entire setlist is worked around to maximize what he can do. They are tuned, I think, a full step down which isn’t crazy but vocally it’s still painful. Gene was never much of a singer and his voice has held up to be a somewhat melodic growl, but Paul is hurting.
However, what was most interesting to me was that when they appeared onAmerica’s Got Talent it seemed Paul’s voice was in top shape for a 66 year old. Unfortunately, I’ve watched the performance several times and its obvious they recorded it live and used playback. Honestly, I don’t really mind this at all especially for a live TV appearance. As for on tour, I’d honestly prefer Paul record live vocals and set up playback for all of his songs. This is it, so why not make it sound as good as possible?
Robert Mason sang live, behind the curtain, with Ozzy Osbourne. No one cares except purists and they are a smaller bunch than the fans that want KISS to play “Burn Bitch Burn” or the entire Elder album. Best to simply ignore and move on.
Paul has said this stage show is going to be brand new. I’ve had some ideas about their stage show before. I revisited my thoughts from 2014 and what I thought then, mostly remains true. They need a new stage, new gags, new setlist (give or take some obvious things), new outfits, and a new album. As a KISS fan, I really want all five. I’m guessing I might get half.
I know the band (mostly Paul) is reluctant to spend the money on actually writing and recording a new album. His reasoning is a song that’s come out in 2018 just can’t compete with a classic track from 1977. He’s not wrong, unless you actually write something as good or better than that song from 1977. Basically, Paul sees no reason to compete with himself. From his point of view he’s been there, done that. He’d rather paint or play with his Motown inspired act. He’d rather be a restaurant owner and shoe designer than a rock and roll star and at 66, I get it.
What if they record a five-song EP? Five songs is better than the one song Motley Crue recorded before their farewell tour, but one song is better than no songs at all. Five new tracks and five live performances from the last few years would make for a decent package. I’d prefer ten new songs and no live performance, but it’s a little bit “beggars can’t be choosers” and a little bit “what’s the most realistic approach?”
A new album could help set both the outfits and stage show. It really has to be new outfits and not a retread of something previous. They certainly can not use the Dynasty-era “Super KISS” or Elder-era short boots, short hair era either. No, this time they need new outfits like they had for Monster.
Speaking of Monster, personally I want a third full album of this line-up to really solidify the last twenty years of KISS. They are not a nostalgia act playing state fairs and clubs. I can see this being their true swan song though. I final studio album that ends KISS in much the same way Coda ended Led Zeppelin, except this time it will be on their terms.
While I’m not the creative force in KISS (it’s Paul), I have a few ideas for the album, outfits and tour. If you’re a KISS fan, I hope these ideas spark your own wants and desires and maybe a debate or two. If you’re not a KISS fan, I applaud you for getting this far into an article all about the band.
Please name it a three word title. Dressed to Kill, Hotter than Hell, Lick it Up,and even Carnival of Souls were all great titles. Creatures of the Night and Hot in the Shade also work well, but I’d prefer a three word title such as my favorite for many years for a final album, The Last Seduction.
Please put the band on the cover. In the age of Spotify, the cover can be the only thing a fan or potential fan will see. Unfortunately, cool non-band artwork just won’t work. Make sure your outfits look iconic enough that the casual fan will get it.
Please try and write a 70s record. I know this may sound counterproductive, but this is what they need to do. Go back and listen to Destroyer, Rock and Roll Over, and Love Gun. Do that. Need more help? Listen to Klassik 78.
Please think about the tour package. Who is going to go out with KISS on a Farewell Tour? It won’t be a co-headlining tour so the likely two other openers aren’t getting full sets. I’ve heard Cheap Trick and Alice Cooper floated, but I’m not sure they will sell tickets. What if the Ace Frehley band opens? That would probably generate some interest. Imaging if Greta Van Fleet was offered the gig?
Please create a completely new stage show. A typical KISS show is not bigger and badder than anyone else touring these days. Rammstein is bigger, louder, and definitely has more pyro than any recent KISS show. All the KISS show gags are tired. Yes, even Gene spitting blood, breathing fire, and flying. Paul going out the audience is boring. Tommy shooting rockets is ho hum.
I don’t think they can do a KISS show without Gene spitting blood and breathing fire, but please make it new. I like the idea of Gene in a cage when he does his “solo” and blood spitting. The flying needs to stop. It barely looks cool now. Do something cool with Tommy’s speakers as he does his solo. Make the levitate, vibrate, and spark. Make them smoke instead of the guitar. Do a Criss Angel teleport effect or really anything we haven’t seen before.
Please think about the set list. This is an old problem. You can’t tour by playing a bunch of tracks off your new album and sacrifice something that fans want to hear. If the band is going to use playback so Paul’s vocal issues are hidden away, then I think they can do any song they want. The line-up can definitely play any song. Mix it up.
I’d like them to play a few things totally unexpected like “It’s My Life” and “Hard Luck Woman” along with the classics they have to squeeze in. My preference would be to drastically shorten the solo length and add songs. Right now they do about fifteen songs with two solos the same length as songs. For this farewell tour, I really want them to add about five more songs. The good thing is that with playback, you don’t have to structure the setlist to protect Paul’s voice.
I’m sure the world at large will get more info soon likely making my suggestions moot, but I hope I’ve hit on some good ideas.