First off, let me say that as an ex-Kiss addict – a band I gave 25 years to, I am very much qualified to give my opinion on why I think Kiss should retire in 2012. Many devoted Kiss fans are not going to like what I write and will not agree with me. That’s fine I accept that. However I would like to ask even the most loyal of Kiss fans to momentarily pull your heads out from the Kiss sand (can you buy Kiss sand ?) and look at the facts I am presenting to you in this article. If only for a moment, put your strong feelings to one side, digest this article and then look seriously at the band in late 2011 – and indeed their future. The conclusion you draw may very well be the same as mine.
Recently I wrote a very lengthy post detailing my former life as a Kiss fan – and my view on them today. A friend alerted me to the fact that my article had even generated debate on some Kiss fan forums, which I of course read with much interest. What I concluded was – (apart from some narrow-minded Kissers getting all offended, missing the point and resorting to immature, childlike insults) was that many fans, although still loyal, also lost interest after the ‘farewell’ tour of a decade ago. This is not at all surprising. Can I go so far as to say that I am confident, that if the official Kiss web site had a genuine ‘voters poll’ asking fans if it was time for the band to ‘call it quits’, the results would be alarming.
The decision to keep the band going is a perplexing one. But when casting an eye over their long career, there are actually many decisions Kiss have made which have left me baffled. Decisions which, only they can explain. Hands up if you remember them getting drummer Eric Carr to unnecessarily re-record ‘Beth’ back in 1988 ?! Or what about them re-doing the cover art for the iconic Creatures Of The Night album, three years after its release ?! Or when band members Carr and Bruce Kulick were supposedly ‘air brushed’ onto the cover art of the ‘Exposed’ video ! Or the time a lawyered-up Simmons and Stanley crashed a fan-ran Kiss convention in the mid-90’s to retrieve some authentic stage costumes. Man that was tactless. I could continue (and yes I will look at the stage personas of both Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer) however the decision which outdoes any other, is the choice to continue on after the ‘Farewell’ Tour of 2000/2001.
As stated in my aforementioned article, it really is time for Kiss to retire. With a new album ‘Monster’ due soon, and ensuing lengthy tour to follow, 2012 – which marks the 40th year of existence for the band – really is an ideal year to end it all.
Ten years ago just passed Kiss performed their Farewell Tour. The final date was in fact in Australia – April 13th, 2001 at Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast. Apparently after the Australian leg, there were to be a further five (final) shows in NYC at Madison Square Garden. Those dates were cancelled. Did anyone note the strange co-incidence that Ace Frehley’s two final live concerts in paint were both in the Oceania region ? New Zealand (1980) and Australia (2001) yet I digress. Before this lengthy tour had even reached Japan and Australia, all was not well in the Kiss camp. You see Peter Criss had been replaced by former Kiss drummer Eric Singer – cat paint and all ! I had a ticket for the Sydney show and was left quite disillusioned at this fiasco. Eric Singer is a great musician but he is not, and never will be – the silver-nosed tom cat (I cannot state this strongly enough). Former members Eric ‘The Fox’ Carr and Vinnie ‘The Egyptian Warrior’ Vincent both assumed new personas and so should’ve Singer. Maybe then was the time to finally retrieve that infamous ‘Hawk’ costume from the ‘Kiss warehouse’!
Yes folks hindsight is indeed a funny thing, but let us digest some quotes from both Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley taken from that ‘farewell tour’ time period:
Simmons said: “There are no ifs ands or buts, we’re not doing this again” and also
“it’ll be one last time and then we’ll be gone – for good.”
Stanley said: “I’d rather quit when people say ‘why are you quitting ?’ than when they say ‘why aren’t you quitting ?’ and also “I think it would be a real cheap shot if we say it’s farewell, then come back for another tour”.
Yet some months after the final pieces of confetti had fallen, 2002 comes along and guess what ? Plans are now underway to bizarrely put the Kiss machine back on the road ! Confused ? Me too. A farewell means goodbye, so long, sayonara, the end…or so I thought. Talk about the cheap shot to end all cheap shots !!
What exactly do you think was the real inspiration behind continuing forward ? To come out from ‘retirement’ as it were – and how did it occur ? Was it as simple as Gene phoning Paul and saying ‘hey y’know what, I think we made a mistake’ or was it something else entirely ? Was it a hungry desire to produce a new studio album ? I doubt it. Sales of the big 1998 ‘re-union’ album Psycho Circus (which I loved) were – although initially solid (certified gold by the RIAA in late 1998) did not go on to re-write any record books. According to Soundscan, by February of 2007 the album had sold 479,000 copies. Now most rock bands would be very content to ship nearly half a million units, but when that band is as iconic as Kiss and it takes nearly a decade to reach that figure, well – I’ll let you be the judge. In all honesty (if you exclude the devotees), the mainstream public couldn’t have given a toss about the Psycho Circus album – and it could’ve been the Village People putting out a new record for all they cared.
So why then ? Could it have been that Stanley and Simmons realised they would both miss playing live – and indeed the rush of the unique Kiss stage experience which they had created ? This is also unlikely as they’d been on the road a lot in the preceding five years – back in the paint in fact since the summer of 1996. If anything, at around 50 years of age, the pair of them would be entitled to feeling somewhat road weary. Was it the lure of the almighty dollar ? Simmons has long been mesmerized by money and seems to have a thirst which is never quenched. This reason could be the most likely, as many die-hard fans have fat piggy banks and are more than happy to smash ’em open and take the funds straight to the Kiss Central Bank. Or had Simmons latched onto the fact that album sales in the music biz would soon be plummeting and that a band could really only make the bucks by being on the road – selling tickets and merch ? This is also a possibility. However in 2011, Stanley – when rejecting a possible re-union (re-re-union ??) with Frehley and Criss said “The word that comes up is ‘closure.’ We had a good time that deteriorated over time. When we did the farewell tour I realized I didn’t want to say farewell to KISS, I wanted to say farewell to two of the members”. Sure, take another shot at Ace and Peter – yet unfortunately Paul – those two members, and only those two members, are half of Kiss. The real Kiss.
Whatever the reason, the Kiss almanac will show that in the year of 2003 a ‘new’ Kiss was born. I wonder how Simmons and Stanley could look front row fans squarely in the eye on that first night – the first night back from ‘retirement’ which happened to be in Melbourne, Australia. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth when bands, sports stars etc announce a retirement – only to continue on a short time later. After thousands of well-meaning fans have purchased tons of ‘farewell’ merchandise mind you ! Bizarrely, original drummer Peter Criss, was now back in the band for the 2003 run of shows and Ace Frehley’s big moon boots were being filled by ex-Kiss roadie Tommy Thayer. Giving Criss another shot behind the drum kit is at odds with Stanley’s recent 2011 comment, but ‘contradictions’ and ‘Kiss’ often go hand in hand.
Note: Kiss were back in Australia yet again ! Too funny. We could never entice them to tour down under in the 80’s – our pleas went unheard, yet now it seemed we could not keep them away ! And in what can only be deemed an exercise in overkill, they would return yet again in 2004. Oh yeah ! Oh no !
If you quickly do the math and take a look at the overall crowd figures for the Farewell Tour of 2000/2001 and the 2003 ‘fresh out of retirement’ aka ‘World Domination’ Tour – the statistics are as expected. The Farewell Tour figures are mostly impressive. But take into account that sentimental goodbyes are like that. Fans get swept up in the emotion, wishing to savour the moment for one final time. Kiss spent over one year on the road with 142 shows performed. Many concerts sold-out but not all. An indication that some fans were fast becoming weary with the (now 5th year) re-union and the incessant touring was noticeable – with some pitifully small crowd figures. Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia drew 4,369 in a venue holding 15,274 (28%). Even a Kiss stronghold like Chicago could not draw punters: The New World Music Theatre was eerily empty with a crowd figure of 6,771 in a venue holding a whopping 30,000 (22%) !!! Maybe they shoulda booked a club ! However there was no squabbling for seats at Devore’s Hyundai Pavilion where 13,807 Kiss fans crammed themselves into the 65,000 capacity arena (21% of tickets sold) ! Statistics do not lie and these particular figures are embarrassing.Mathematics never sat well with Mr Rockbrat but on average, the 2003 crowd figures are somewhat lower – yet what did Kiss expect ? If you do not believe me – Wikipedia has the attendance listings and you are welcome to grab your Kiss Kalculator and get busy. I acknowledge that they did not play as many dates as on the Farewell Tour, but nevertheless – the stats tell a tale. I will boldly state that they only reached these numbers indicated, as the band went out on the road with the legendary Aerosmith (for many of these dates) on a ‘co-headlining’ tour. Yes folks – the World Domination Tour ! Maybe Gene shoulda checked his Kiss Globe because technically speaking, apart from the one Aussie and four Japanese dates, the remaining 60 odd shows were inside North America – not exactly dominating the world there, but if it’s good enough for a ‘World Series’ baseball tournament to be held inside the USA – well it’s good enough for Kiss ! Oh and just for the record, the great Peter Criss performed his final Kiss concert on 20th December 2003 at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, California. Thanks for the memories Pete.
In 2004 the revitalized Kiss surged on ! Only now Gene and Paul had not renewed their ol’ pal Peter Criss’ contract and Eric Singer was back on the drum stool. Still with me ? For the uninitiated, Kiss were now Stanley, Simmons, Thayer and Singer – and what do the ‘new Kiss’ do next ?! Why another tour of the USA of course ! This was indicative of a band out of ideas. Sure the American live circuit is vast, but it’s not like the U.S fans were being starved of Kiss ! It was now eight years since the re-union tour and Kiss were, in my opinion over-exposed, over-toured and becoming quite dull. Like 1979 all over again, the market was now flooded with Kiss merchandise and large parts of the American public were tiring of Kiss. If you require any evidence of a lack in popularity – the subsequent ‘Rock The Nation’ Tour of 2004 was a flop (grossing $20.3 million in 58 shows) with poor ticket sales in America making them cancel another tour scheduled for the following year. Duh. This should’ve come as no surprise to anyone except maybe Simmons. Hey Gene, it’s called ‘over saturating the market’ friend. You should try switching ‘monetary’ in your vast vocabulary for ‘monotony’. Because this is what your band has been for quite some time.
So let’s take a further look into Kiss nowadays. They are of course still led by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. Tonight though, as mentioned previously – playing the role of Ace Frehley is former Kiss road manager Tommy Thayer. On the drums, looking and sounding all cat-like is Peter Criss impostor Eric Singer. As stated, since 2004 this line-up of Singer, Thayer, Simmons and Stanley have been the ‘new Kiss’. They have continued to tour and tour and tour. This line-up even released a new studio album called Sonic Boom in 2009, which – (although purchased by hordes of obedient Kiss fanatics) achieved only moderate sales figures. The album finished 2009 with 238,000 units sold, however the single ‘Modern Day Delilah’ stalled at #50 on the US charts before making a subdued exit. The year before this, Kiss re-recorded several classic songs for the Jigoku-Retsuden compilation album. This pointless exercise is further evidence of a band out of ideas. If they thought the Singer-Thayer line-up could freshen up tired old tunes like Shout It Out Loud, Love Gun, I Love It Loud and Rock and Roll All Nite – they were sadly mistaken.
Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer
The issue of Tommy Thayer taking on the role of Ace ‘The Spaceman’ Frehley and Eric Singer transforming into Peter ‘The Catman’ Criss, will always be a controversial move amongst some Kiss fanatics. I consider it an insult – an insult to the ‘Kiss’ I once knew and loved. I firmly believe that those iconic characters should have been preserved – and indeed the only individuals who should ever step into those roles were the two people who created them: Frehley and Criss.
I personally have nothing against Singer and Thayer. They are both fine musicians who’ve been on my rock n roll radar since the mid-80’s. Thayer was in 80’s outfit Black n Blue and his connection with Kiss stretches back to 1985 when ‘the bruisers’ supported Kiss on the ‘Asylum’ tour. I purchased their self-titled album back at that time on the strength of the ‘Hold On To 18’ track because it rocked. It still does. Simmons also produced some of their albums. In what could be a page torn directly from the Rock Star film script, Thayer even played the role of Ace Frehley in the Kiss tribute band Cold Gin. He had also been working as part of the Kiss organization for some years. Right place, right time. Looking back, he was an ideal fit for Frehley’s silvery cape – though I will never be able to swallow this decision. Calling him ‘The Spaceman’ – and Singer ‘The Catman’ is wrong. Again, those personas belong to Ace and Peter. End of argument. To preserve the integrity of the band they really should have given new identities to both Singer and Thayer. Why didn’t Vinnie Vincent take on Frehley’s persona in 1982 ? The same reason Eric Carr, in 1980 – never slipped into the cat suit, that’s why. In the past couple of years, Thayer has been performing the tune ‘Shock Me’ (Ace’s signature tune) on the live tours – complete with guitar solo. Is nothing sacred with Kiss anymore ? I guess not. This is something which is totally unacceptable. Thayer is only following orders, but making his live vocal debut, on the very song Ace made his vocal debut on in 1977 is something I find offensive, shameless and one of the low points of their career. Why not shoot rockets from your guitar neck as well ? Sure enough, this is copied too. For heaven’s sake where are the new ideas ?! The fact that an average teenager can walk into a Kiss show in recent years – completely unaware – and ‘think’ they are seeing Ace Frehley and Peter Criss up there is dishonest. Is it fraud ? Not sure – but I will label it ‘clever deception’. But you see it isn’t people like me or the die-hards who are being caught out. Again, it is the casual or curious fan – some who (although being able to identify the four iconic faces) are totally oblivious that it’s Thayer and Singer on all the images, up on that stage, in the videos and worst of all – on some of the merchandise packaging.
Many Kiss fans say they ‘just love the music’. That’s cool, though unfortunately – with this band, the music andthe merchandise go hand in hand. When you consider that the merchandising of Kiss got out of control in the late 70’s – something which in fact alienated many fans
and which the band have admitted did hurt them, it is ridiculous and ironic that it’s gotten way out of hand once again. Since 1996 – the sheer volume of items released is staggering. A self-congratulatory Simmons recently stated that there have been 3,000 licensed products released. Good for you Genie. The toy guitar, AM radio, record player, dolls and make-up kits in the 1970’s were cool (and relative), the Bally Pinball truly amazing – but the Kiss Kasket or the Kiss Urn ? Gimme a break ! Will it ever end ? I doubt it. Some years ago I joked that you would one day be able to buy a Gene Simmons ‘tongue’ and sure enough, you now can. About as far removed from rock n roll as you can get – not to mention just plain silly. Simmons himself would read my comment and say ‘this person does not get it’. You know what ? He is right. I do not ‘get it’ nor do I want to. Can it get any more absurd you ask ? Yes. Later this year the ‘Kiss golf course’ is opening in Las Vegas. ‘Hey Dad, kick off your Kiss slippers, turn off the Kiss TV, put your uneaten Kiss M&Ms in the Kiss refrigerator and throw your Kiss golf clubs into your Kiss car, cos we’re hitting the Kiss mini-golf course !’L for ludicrous. What’s next ? How’s about Kiss Airlines ? Kiss Hamburger Restaurants (got to be beef I’m afraid as the acronym for ‘Kiss Fried Chicken’ would never fly!), Kiss Auto Centres ? (have your car serviced whilst you relax in the Kiss Lounge, browsing the Kiss Kar Accessories – whilst sipping some ‘complimentary’ Kiss Koffee and absorbing the Kiss music being played over the PA (available for purchase of course). I can see the day when some busy malls around the globe will have a ‘Kiss store’ and stock nothing but Kiss items. But why stop there ?! Kiss Airlines, a Kiss hotel chain, Kiss Kola, how’s about
Kiss Currency (like Disney dollars – legal tender in any Kiss store) ?! If Simmons could somehow plunge a ‘Kiss Army’ flag into the moon’s surface you can bet he would. Remember folks, Kiss are a rock brand – and no longer a rock band. In the past Paul Stanley has hinted that he doesn’t approve of the incessant merchandising, yet remains quiet on the matter. Why make noise when those royalty cheques keep rolling in right ?
Simmons – during a recent interview on Absolute Classic Rock stated, “I want the next generation of kids starting at three years old to say, ‘Mommy, I want KISS’.”Kontemplate that folks ! Oh and the irony of both Simmons and Stanley endorsing ‘Kiss wigs’ is not lost on me either.
Do I care if Simmons is a shrewd, successful businessman who could sell Kiss Ice to Kisskimo’s ? No. Half your luck brother. But it is all so far removed from the Kiss which I grew up with, the Kiss which I – and thousands like me – treasured. Thatis the point. They could endorse dog shit for all I care, but I will never agree with it – nor do I have to buy any of it. I’d sure like to see the stats on just how many long time fans have become disillusioned with the band because of all this ‘merchandising madness’ ?
The real issue I have with the merchandise is the trickery or ‘clever deception’ which Kiss/Simmons deploy. Using Thayer’s and Singer’s images on assorted items alongside the ‘Catman’ and ‘Spaceman’ phrases is blurring the line of honesty. I assume Simmons and the Kiss Company own the rights to those phrases so legally, they can dress anyone up in those designs but again – this is deceitful – and it is wrong.
With a string of recent health issues – the question many fans ask is – at 59 years of ages – Paul Stanley still up to the physical demands of a Kiss show ? I acknowledge that he has looked after his body for many years, but he is not super human and he now has health issues. For legions of the faithful, it is not easy to accept that their ice cool, ruby-lipped singing and dancing Starchild is indeed greying and middle-aged, but them be the facts. When you get older you often experience health issues. He is no different from anyone else. He has had hip surgery and he has also quite recently undergone vocal chord surgery. This was sorely needed cos in recent times his voice on some nights sounds powerless – and he has long had trouble reaching some of the higher notes. This not a swipe at Paul; he was my rock n roll hero and is one of the greatest frontmen ever. But there comes a time when you must face the facts.
Of major concern is when – on the 27th July, 2007 before a Kiss show at California’s Soboba Casino Arena, Stanley was hospitalised with a rapid heartbeat. The attending paramedics even stated an IV which momentarily stopped his heart in order to get it back into a normal pattern. This is a major health scare ! At odds with his publicity-hungry, long time Kiss co-hort, Stanley in recent times has stayed out of the public spotlight, preferring to paint and work on his solo material. His album ‘Live To Win’ from 2007 was terrific and I enjoyed the show which I saw on that tour immensely. But did the mainstream public catch on ? Did anyone care ? Well according to Soundscan – in the USA the album sold 16,821 copies in the first week of release, followed by a paltry 6,262 the week after. It entered the charts at #53 before falling to #155 and then bowing out. These sales figures are alarming and I would have expected someone of Stanley’s stature to have shipped more units. Should sales figures be taken into account when stacked up against his band’s popularity ? Possibly not – though it says plenty about the demographic of new Kiss fans – many of whom that are content to embrace one or two albums or songs from the band’s past – yet show little interest in the efforts of individual band members.
The bass playing brains-unit behind the Kiss empire is now 62 years old. He has lived a non-smoking, non-drinking lifestyle but at that age, how long can he keep up with the physical demands of a Kiss show – sweating it out on long tours ? It cannot go on forever. Also, do you think his numerous business ventures and television exploits have had a positive or negative effect on the band ? Two thumbs down my friends. What a shame he just could not have been content with being a member of the greatest rock n roll band in the world. He pined for attention in the 80’s (remember when MTV were apparently ignoring Kiss) and now he has sadly become so overexposed it is harming Kiss. Simmons used to scoff that ‘no one is bigger than this band’. Pot – kettle. To prove he is not as savvy as he would like to have you believe, he released a solo-album in 2004 appropriately titled ‘Asshole’ – which sunk faster than the Hindenburg. When you are wealthy and have no-one to keep your ego in check, you do whatever the hell you want. As sweet as it was to have his son, daughter, girlfriend – and even her mother sing on his record – the album bombed badly. No one was listening. It was a sign that Simmons is often out of touch – and not everything he touches turns to gold. Further evidence comes in the form of his short-lived Tongue (a men’s ‘lifestyle’ magazine) which was discontinued after a meagre five issues.
His reality TV show – which I personally find extremely uninteresting – (and is mainly viewed by Kiss-drones hoping to catch a glimpse of the band) has again, damaged the Kiss name he helped to build. Who the hell wants to see him undertake a face-lift ? Who cares if a middle-aged millionaire is having relationship issues ? Not me. It’s a shame you did not have your ego removed when you went under the knife.
In 2002 he conducted an interview on National Public Radio with respected journalist Terri Gross – and did himself no favours. This (now legendary) interview is enthralling listening and let me be clear – for all of his self-absorbed and sexist bravado, Simmons comes off sounding like an ass. I have listened to this interview many times and it always amazes me. The highly intelligent Gross is no dippy MTV reporter so it’s possible Gene felt a little intimidated. Really though, it was an ideal opportunity for Simmons to display his intellect and to share his vast knowledge on non-musical subjects to a whole new demographic. Alas, it was an opportunity he did not seize – preferring, predictably – to talk about his ‘tally’ and his cod-piece. Don’t bother trying to hear it on the NPR web site as Simmons did not grant them the required legal permission to make his interview available. Who can blame him.
Despite being tolerated by most and adored by many, his arrogance does not sit well with all people. Last year, hackers brought down his website and I believe it has been re-attacked since then. I do not agree nor approve of that action, yet it should come as no surprise. Who is Gene Simmons nowadays anyway ? I realised that I have lost sight of the person I once idolised – a person who at one time held some importance to me. I often wonder, due to the trappings of wealth and fame – if he wonders the same thing – though I severely doubt it. He is no longer the fiery, bass-playing bat winged demon who once adorned my bedroom walls. Rather, when I hear his name now I picture a middle-aged, arrogant, opinionated tycoon. Rather than endear himself to the public, his giant sized ego and at times unsympathetic attitude has led to many folks now despising him. He would not care. In the Ace Frehley book ‘No Regrets’ he mentions Simmons has no real friends. This is not a personal slur – but a very interesting observation. I could head down the ‘money does not buy you happiness’ road here, but I do not have to. I will re-state; if only he had been content with being a member of Kiss…….if only.
Points to consider:
Are Kiss attracting new fans ? Or is it safe to say that the majority of new fans have been introduced to the band by parents or relatives who were themselvesfans ? Is it fair to say that probably half of the Kiss live crowd nowadays are casual fans; the ones who like to play dress-ups, take in the fireworks and bombs, and are no doubt familiar with Rock n Roll All Nite and Shout It Out Loud. I reckon so. This is the kind of fan Kiss will always lure in. The one who has a passing interest and cannot pick Thayer from Frehley and Singer from Criss. Listen closely to any live bootleg during recent years and hear the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhhs’ from the crowd after a loud explosion ! Funny. These folks would be better off saving their cash and heading for a free 4th July fireworks display instead. To support this, I can remember chatting to a work-colleague in 2008 who was telling me he was ‘off to see Kiss in Sydney’. Not unveiling my past identity I asked him if he was a fan ? Predictably he threw out his un
sightly tongue and quipped ‘Nah I just wanna see big Gene’ and walked off. This dunce is an accurate example of who Kiss have become and a large majority of their fan base.
Kiss are a business. Many fans never contemplate this. Ruthless decisions are made to ensure the business remains profitable – and this is one very successful business. Apart from Stanley and Simmons, members have long been hired and sign contracts as members of Kiss. I was devastated to learn that the much loved Eric Carr was never a ‘full member’ of the band. The nicest and sweetest guy in the world was a contracted employee ! Criss and Frehley also signed contracts and were pretty much told what to do on the big 1996/97 re-union tour. I still have to pinch myself to believe that the re-union did occur and that – our dreams had come true ! The original four guys back together as one unit. A happy family. If only that were true. To be fair to Stanley and Simmons, they had kept the band going in the 80’s when Frehley and Criss were both battling their individual demons. But be that as it may, the controlling power which Simmons (and Stanley ?) allegedly wielded in that studio for the Psycho Circus recording ? Who would put up with that ? Also digest the fact that Criss and Frehley barely played on that album ! Simmons should’ve let bygones be bygones. From what I understand, it sounds like he was quick to dismiss many of Peter’s ideas. It should’ve been the four of them locked in the studio, creating and recording. Alas it wasn’t to be. In a 2004 interview with Eddie Trunk, Peter Criss claimed that many of the same old problems re-surfaced during the recording of this album. A ‘controlling’ issue. How petty. The reality is if the re-union and Psycho Circus album had’ve been a genuinefour-parts involvement from all the band members, then AWOL fans like be would still be in the ranks. I enjoyed the album but like most, was duped into thinking it was our four boys – the team – creating magic once again ! As is documented the drums on all of the album’s tracks, except ‘Into The Void’ were laid down by a session man named Kevin Valentine. Some team ! Nowadays I nearly gag when
hearing songs like ‘We Are One’ or the god-awful and syrupy ‘I Finally Found My Way To You ?’ How’s about that sickening lyric Simmons wrote in the tune ‘You Wanted The Best’ which states ‘the fans wanted us to play we hear and we obey’. Did anyone buy this horse shit ? The ‘fans’ had in fact been crying out for a full make-up re-union for many years, and in fact it was the massive popularity of the fan ran conventions, strongly attended and held throughout the world in the late 80’s and early 90’s (which Simmons would’ve duly noted), and which led him into organising ‘official’ Kiss conventions ! One of which (in L.A) saw them extend their hands out to Peter Criss, which of course led to the Unplugged album – which led to the big 1996 re-union. By the way, Australian fans were yelling loudly for a tour for fifteen years, but were not heard. No ‘obeying’ there from big Gene.
On 5th April, 1997 at the Columbus Civic Center, something significant occurred when drum tech Ed Kanon filled in for an injured Peter Criss (in make-up) who was unable to perform. Why not just cancel the show ? It is a business. The show must go on right ! Are these types of decisions made with the fans in mind ? Yeah right.
In 2003 Kiss did a ‘co-headlining’ tour with the great Aerosmith. You can call it a co-headline tour all you wish, but history will show that Kiss hit the stage first and were technically the opening act. Kiss had not opened for any band for years – but this was indicative of their sliding popularity at that stage. Also on that tour, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry appeared on-stage with the band and jammed on ‘Strutter’. Don’t get me wrong, Perry is way cool, but him jumping on stage on more than one occasion (decked out in a pair of Stanley’s boots no less) is at odds with the band’s past. Ask any former 70’s Kiss roadie – that stage was theirs and theirs only. It was sacred ground. Go jam with Perry in a club after the show – fine. But the Kiss stage ? and wearing Paul’s boots cheapens the thing like some shabby Halloween stunt. Hell, why not sport a black wig as well !
Unbelievably, when Stanley experienced heart problems before that Californian gig in 2007, instead of respectfully cancelling the show, Simmons decided they should perform as a trio and turned the show into ‘a tribute to his ailing band mate.’ P-lease. A Kiss show without Paul Stanley – can you believe it !? This would have caused an uproar at one stage. Fans today are very forgiving. If you need evidence that Kiss could indeed carry on without Stanley and Simmons I advise you to track this particular live show down and give it a listen. If I had’ve been attending that Friday 27th July show at the Soboba Casino Arena I would’ve demanded my money back. Simmons – now in the unfamiliar role of band leader, sounds out of his depth and almost ill at ease with the situation. He lacks any stage charisma, is clearly uncomfortable and his song intros and ‘stage raps’ were short and awkward. He even drags five girls and five guys up on stage to assist with Christine Sixteen ! What a farce. Again, just cancel the freaking show ? If anything, this performance was a clear indication that the two new guys actually carried the whole thing off with a minimum of fuss. A sign of things to come maybe ?
Actually what is the Kiss ‘live experience’ like in recent times ? Well apart from Thayer and Singer, very little has changed since the 1996 re-union shows . They still intro with The Who’s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’. Simmons gets raised to the roof, the Spaceman, err I mean Ace, err I mean Tommy shoots a rocket and damages the lighting truss, Stanley still flies out over the audience. Year check anyone ? What about the set-list ? Many of the tired old classics remain. Sadly, Kiss are in a no-win situation with song selections these days – attempting to please the part time fans as well as the lifers. This is a challenge though when the majority of your audience (the aforementioned part timers) pay to hear ‘Love Gun’, Shout It Out Loud’ and ‘Rock and Roll All Nite’. They must be catered for. To look after the die-hards, Kiss have in recent years cranked out obscurities like ‘All The Way’ and ‘Love Her All I Can’ which were met with unknowing shrugs, followed by the sound of shuffling feet as Joe Average headed for the bar. Speaks volumes about the Kiss of today doesn’t it. Quite honestly, some tunes in the Kiss back-catalogue have not aged well. I know of several Kiss fans who’ve complained of boredom at recent shows. Read through the forums ran by Kiss fans and you’ll find many like-minded concert-goers.
Retire Now before it becomes a Tribute Band
We cannot go back in time, yet here’s a couple of scenarios of what I believe should’ve happened but did not:
(One) The original band do a run of farewell shows in late 2001 at Madison Square Garden. Why not show up at one of the early 1973 live venues with a film crew in tow and do a show unannounced ! What a missed opportunity ! Bringing down the curtain at the Garden would’ve been stylish and classy. Bowing out with heads held high. Then in 2002 let the Kiss machine roll on, but revert back to the unmasked Kulick and Singer line-up.
(Two) Do the MSG thing (see above) and continue on with the Kiss make-up announcing to the world the departures of the Catman and Spaceman. Give new identities to the two replacements – Singer and Thayer. Sounds pretty simple to me. Die-hard fans would’ve gone nuts grabbing merch featuring the new characters !
The time is right to call it a day. After this ‘Monster’ tour let sanity prevail and give us four great decades to look back on. Has it all reached the point of embarrassment you ask ? Is it now a parody ? Yes and yes. As previously stated, this band are now far removed from the Kiss I knew and loved. I cannot recognize who they are and what they represent any more. Many others feel the same. Kiss are now at risk of becoming ‘the heavyweight boxer’ – you know, the one who keeps coming back and cannot let go of the glory days. Let’s remember the halcyon days folks and not the discomforting knock out. There is no point in continuing the band forward – not with two aging members (bear in mind Singer and Thayer have also hit 50) and not with a bunch of new musicians filling the roles. Sounds unbelievable ? Maybe not. Paul Stanley has previously hinted that this is indeed possible stating “I really, firmly believe there will come a time when the band will continue without me”. If you are a Kiss fanatic reading this, is this what you want to see and experience ? I mean really ? Is this the future of Kiss ? Stanley also stated “I believe Kiss is founded on something so solid that it will continue to live on, the way a football team continues. There have been great players, but there will always be other players.” Is this how Kiss will end up ? Nothing more than hotshot players filling the roles of each member. It is a huge gamble and one which I think would ultimately fail. Anyone remember the Led Zeppelin of modern times. Why would you ? It’s ironic that these guys – (who Kiss looked up to) re-united once or twice and were a pale shadow of their former selves. Rock fans wishing to remember Zep do not instantly consider their weak performances in the late 80’s – and of course prefer to hark back to the glory days. There is a message in here for Kiss. Yet Kiss are unlike any other band. Anyone can, maybe will – play the roles of those four iconic characters.
It saddens me to see what Kiss have become. Rather than this being a bitter rant from a formed devoted fan, it is a plea to Simmons and Stanley to cease tarnishing the image and lasting legacy of the band. Over the past two decades Kiss have inspired many tribute acts the world over – musicians who nightly pay homage to this legendary American rock n roll band. The sad irony is that with two impostors now in the ranks, and the real possibility of others to follow – they eventually may become the biggest Kiss tribute band of them all…..