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  • Writer's pictureEric Senich

Rocking Into The Digital Age: My Reflections On KISS's Final Concert & Their Avatar Encore

Updated: Dec 14, 2023

KISS's final concert on December 2nd at Madison Square Garden was one we'd been hearing about since January 2019. Nearly four years of speculation and anticipation. Turns out it was all just a fabrication.

While I wasn't at the show in New York last weekend, I did get the chance to see the show on YouTube and couldn't believe what I was seeing. Actually, it was more like I couldnt' believe what I was NOT seeing. No mention of the people who helped KISS get off the ground in the '70s, rise to the top of the mountain by the end of the '70s, and survive the 80s only to return to the top in the '90s. What about their manager Bill Aucoin? Neil Bogart of Casablanca Records? How about a couple of other guys by the names of Ace Frehley and Peter Criss? We can keep going. Eric Carr, Vinnie Vincent, Bruce Kulick. Nada. Nothing.

What we got, instead, was the same show the band put on throughout the entire tour. Pretty much the same setlist. A solid show, yes, but it had no feeling of finality. I was waiting for Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons to take a moment and thank everyone including the fans for 50 amazing years. I remember Gene previously saying he would have to hold back the tears on that last night. No tears were falling from Gene or Paul. Instead, Paul announced that, while this was the end of one road, it was the start of another. He was referring to the next phase of KISS - performing as avatars. Let's face it, there was no feeling of finality because Paul and Gene never intended to stop.

Most KISS fans were expecting KISS 2.0 to arrive. Find four new musicians to wear the original makeup and costumes and take the show on the road. Why, instead, the avatar decision? I truly think this is Paul's decision. While I'm sure Gene is excited about the idea of him becoming an animated superhero, I also think he'd be OK with walking away. But I don't think it would be the same for Paul.

I think it was in his 2014 book Face the Music: A Life Exposed that Paul talked about spiraling into a period of depression after the initial retirement tour back in 2000. The only reason he decided to end things was because he felt Peter and Ace weren't able to perform up to standards anymore. He didn't think that was the case for himself. And he was right. Listen to his voice on that tour and he was still firing on all cylinders. But over these last handful of years, his voice was toast. KISS manager Doc McGhee admitted that the band used prerecorded tracks during the shows and there are plenty of videos that provide pretty solid proof. I'm not here to bash Paul for that, however. The guy had one of the best voices in the business from the '70s right through to the early 2000s. Hell, listen to his vocals on 1987's Crazy Nights album. It's mind-blowing and he could "bring it" onstage every night for decades. But Paul went against his credo of going out on top of his game because he still needed KISS then and I believe he still does. The avatar Paul Stanley is the only way he can do it. And just remember that Paul is the guy who calls the shots, not Gene.

So will the KISS as avatars thing work? This is something Paul and Gene plan on taking on the road into venues as big as when they performed themselves. If they can put together a show that is like the ones they put on themselves for the last 50 years, ones that created a buzz among rock fans as being "one you can't miss", then it'll work. From what I've seen so far, I'm just not feeling it. I hope I'm wrong. Either way, I'm a KISS fan for life. The music they created and the shows they put on are unlike anything I've ever experienced so I say, "Thank you KISS for everything you've done", even if this really isn't goodbye after all is it?


Watch "Producer Tom Werman Predicts Success for KISS Avatar Concerts: 'Oh Yeah Man!'

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