KISS shuttled between make-up chair and stage for 50 years: is there more to give?

Tom Peeters

KISS celebrates its 50th anniversary. No one can ignore the fact that frontmen Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons gave a new face to rock and roll.
Literally, too, with bombast and paintbrush that matched the zeitgeist. Sometimes we wonder if at the time, they ever imagined to still be having make-up applied to their faces with just as much enthusiasm even after the age of 70. And what you do when it starts to itch? In more innocent times, many thought rock ‘n’ roll and its youth culture was – and would –
remain something for the young. But now it appears that the fans, who found inspiration from KISS’ musical spectacle when they were younger, have remained fervent supporters, sometimes even involving their children and/or grandchildren.

KISS is what is nowadays called a “heritage act”, a band that keeps rehashing its classics and the accompanying appearance, convulsing into timeless lists. Their speciality: stretching. This has benefits not only for their muscles, that stiffen with age, but moreover for their wallets and, later, for their heirs. Their current End of the Road-tour took the American hard rockers to Graspop in 2019 and to Sportpaleis in 2022. Twice it was announced that this would be the band’s very last Belgian concert. But no. figured out for us that the current tour includes at least 205 concert dates. The pandemic stretched it some more: in time, not in songs. The two-hour set, from opener “Detroit Rock City” to twice “Rock and Roll All Nite”, always features the same tracks.

In more innocent times, many thought rock ‘n’ roll and its youth culture was – and would – remain something for the young. But now it appears that the fans have remained fervent supporters.

The lack of variety in the carefully crafted setlist is counterbalanced by the variety in tickets. They come in different shapes and sizes. Luckily, we can spend a bit more now than in the latter days of the 1973 oil crisis. The promoter’s site lists a total of six ticket categories and three VIP packages. Meet & Greet, the most expensive VIP package, will cost you over €1,000. But be warned: one fan states online that after meeting his painted idols, he had to photoshop the two pictures with them, as they did not even bother to look into the camera. But you could always go for the cheaper package which, at almost €400, allows you to be present during the soundcheck, but does not give you any signed memorabilia to take home. Even with the cheapest package at just €250, you will be able to show off your “commemorative KISS VIP laminate” until the end of your days. Not satisfied? There is plenty of opportunity to get your credit card out during the “crowd free merchandise shopping opportunity”.

Is there nothing good to say about the industriousness with which hard rockers continue to milk their tricks? Of course there is. To milk something, there has to be something to milk. Enter the double album Alive!, which in 1975 pretty much set the standard for live albums. The sound influenced by Slade’s glam rock, Led Zeppelin’s guitar violence and Queen’s pathos was a live experience before the term “experience industry” existed. In terms of spectacle, KISS was way ahead of its time: the band was spitting fire long before Rammstein and was already letting fake blood flow when in Europe Halloween was still the unknown supporting act of All Saints and All Souls.

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