By Diane DiMemmo

August 28, 2019

As I was walking through the magnificent crowd of KISS Army fans (faces painted and clothing emulating their favorite band characters) at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on August 24th ... I heard a fan say, “I hope this isn’t really KISS’ last tour. I never want them to stop!” I paused and thought about how amazing it is that these close to 70-year-old musicians are storming the stage almost every night giving live performances that are more energetic and more bad-ass than most rock shows today (given by guys generations younger.) At 70 years old, I hope to still just be GOING to concerts, let alone performing them!! And this fan wants them to continue into their eighties? Nineties??

As funny as that sounds and as incredulous as it seems, THAT statement is the dedication, the love, and the loyalty KISS fans have for THEIR band. An hour-long wait in the merch line was not a problem for them. They were happy to wait and talk with fellow fans about who went to the most KISS concerts, who had the coolest KISS merch, and the “persecution” many suffered back in the day just because they admitted they liked this band. Parents brought children of all ages to witness what they dubbed, “the greatest show there ever was.” And forget about sitting down in your seat when KISS took the stage. Everyone was there to “rock and roll all night” … and they most likely partied all day prior too! As Tom Morello [Rage Againt The Machine, Audioslave] said so eloquently in his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction speech of KISS: “Kiss was never a critic’s band. Kiss was a people’s band!”

When I was growing up, I never paid much attention to the band KISS. I knew about them, but I wasn’t really interested in getting to know their music better. Then about 20 years ago, a friend told me I’d one day regret not seeing KISS live, especially since he knew I was a concert fanatic. Plus, it was the band’s “Farewell Tour” and I may never get to see these iconic rockers perform again … right?? {{*wink*wink*}} Well, I went to that show in 1998 … and never looked back.

KISS is one of the best-selling bands of all time, having sold more than 75 million records worldwide, including 25 million RIAA-certified albums. The original and best-known lineup consisted of Paul Stanley (vocals/rhythm guitar), Gene Simmons (vocals/bass), Ace Frehley (lead guitar/vocals), and Peter Criss (drums/vocals). Today the band is Simmons and Stanley, along with Eric Singer (drums/vocals) and Tommy Thayer (lead guitar/vocals). Additional past band members include: Eric Carr, Vinnie Vincent, Mark St. John, and Bruce Kulick.

KISS also holds the title as America's #1 Gold record award-winning group of all time, having earned 30 Gold albums. They have 14 Platinum albums, with three albums being multi-Platinum. And on April 10, 2014, the four original members of KISS were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. [Read Tom Morello’s induction ceremony speech here which was an extremely poignant event that all of us who were there … will never forget.] 

Additional accolades include KISS being ranked by MTV as the ninth "Greatest Metal Band of All Time" and placed tenth on VH1's "100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock" list. And Loudwire ranked them as the third "Best Metal and Hard Rock Live Band of All Time."

The best way to describe a KISS performance is to liken it to a three-ring circus. A three-ring PSYCHO CIRCUS! You just don’t know where to look because there’s so much going on. Each band member represents a character and is covered in makeup and costumes to fill their roles. Simmons is The Demon, Thayer is The Spaceman, Stanley is The Star Child, and Singer is The Cat. Gene is marching around in those huge 7-inch demon boots, singing wildly, pounding his bass, and rolling out his abnormally long tongue in that signature stance of his that’s become his trademark. Never at a loss for striking iconic rockstar poses and being an outrageous performer who spits blood and spews fire, Gene is a photographer’s delight. Paul is the ultimate frontman in that everything he does on stage is genuine, not overly rehearsed or predictable. He performs in the moment always sashaying around the stage, singing gorgeous tunes and flying above the audience on a contraption that really does seem like it came from a circus. Singer’s drum stage is hoisted unbelievably high as he plays and Thayer (in between scorching hot guitar licks) shoots fire and rockets from his guitar neck. All of this happens to a backdrop of an incredibly colorful stage with pyrotechnic displays that are worthy of a Fourth of July celebration. Yet, on top of this incredible stage show, you hear some of the best rock and roll music to have ever been created, performed better than ever before. Rock music of which countless successful bands have credited with inspiring their music careers and influencing their own music.

But in stark contrast, this tour had several tender, emotional moments. Gene turned 70 the day after this NY show, so the guys pushed him to the center of the stage and had the entire arena sing, “Happy Birthday” to him. It was pretty amazing to hear so many sing in unison; and ironically, Gene didn’t seem to want the spotlight only on him.

The most touching segment came right after Singer preformed the hit single “Beth” center stage on piano. All band members put their instruments down, came to the edge of the stage and hugged each other. They also held hands and bowed. Then Paul (in a somewhat choked-up voice) said that this was, in fact, the final time they’d be performing here. Gene, Paul, Tommy, and Eric took time to walk to all corners of the stage to look at and wave to audience members. It was their heartfelt way of saying “good-bye” and they seemed to relish every last second they had on this stage with these specific fans. As much as the KISS Army loves these immortal rockstars, it appeared in that moment that the fans meant even more to them.

I did not expect to be that emotionally moved by their farewell but, as always, KISS surprised me. It may be their "End of the Road Tour,” but KISS is definitely not going out slowly or quietly. They are playing and touring at full speed, giving fans everything they possibly can to remember them by.

"You wanted the best? You got the best! FOR 47 FREAKIN’ YEARS!!!! The hottest band in the world: KISS!"


Detroit Rock City/Shout It Out Loud/Deuce/Say Yeah/I Love It Loud/Heaven’s On Fire/War Machine/Lick It Up/ Calling Dr Love/ 100,000 Years/Cold Gin/God Of Thunder/Psycho Circus/Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll/Love Gun/I Was Made For Lovin’ You/Black Diamond/Beth/Happy Birthday To You/Crazy Crazy Nights/Rock And Roll All Nite

Asbury Park Vibes

ASBURY PARK VIBES is a media outlet dedicated to shining a light on the music scene at the Jersey Shore and throughout the Mid-Atlantic Region of the U.S.! We strive to provide show reviews and photographs that capture the true essence and fan experience of each concert. Our coverage focuses keenly on the artists and venues in legendary Asbury Park, New Jersey, however you'll also catch us promoting events in PA and NY as well! There is nothing better than the dynamic energy and vibes you feel when you experience a concert at the Jersey Shore! We're sure we'll see you at a concert here very soon!

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