As Kiss delves further into a farewell tour that was interrupted by the pandemic, lead singer and guitarist Paul Stanley knows what he’ll miss most about the band he co-founded with bassist/singer Gene Simmons in 1973 in New York City.
“There’s nothing really that can compete or come close to the combustive emotional nature of what we do on stage and the connection to the fans,” he says in a phone interview. “That’s something that’s irreplaceable. That’s something that there’s nothing to compare it to.”
But fans won’t have to worry that they’ll see a mopey or overly sentimental Stanley on stage as he grapples with the reality that this is the final Kiss tour. In fact, Stanley — in typical fashion for a band that has never been short on bravado — says this last outing, billed as the “End of the Road” tour, is a festive occasion.
“This is really a time of joy and for us to be up there and celebrate what we’ve done together,” Stanley says, adding that fans are a key part of the experience. “It’s much better than finishing a tour, let’s say, and then a year later deciding you don’t want to go out and two years later you decide you don’t want to go out. In that sense, you’ve called it quits, but this is so much better for us and better for the fans to go out there with the highest of spirits and the greatest of shows.”
The show, indeed, is bigger and bolder than any Kiss has taken on the road, Stanley says. That’s no small endeavor for a group that revolutionized the rock concert in the ‘70s by not only donning their famous makeup — Stanley as the starchild, Simmons as the demon, original guitarist Ace Frehley as the space ace and original drummer Peter Criss as the catman — but with state-of-the-art lights, enough pyrotechnics to light up a Fourth of July and even a few flashy stunts, such as Simmons breathing fire, all while decked out in elaborate costumes and high-heeled platform boots.
“The show this time really is the ultimate Kiss show,” Stanley says of the farewell tour stage production. “With that in mind, we wanted to put together something that really raised the bar, not just for us, but as happened over the years, raises the bar for every act out there. That’s a good thing because the fans win because of it.”
“This show is more bombastic. There’s more pyro. The lights are stunning. The automation involved, the computer synchronization is unlike anything we’ve ever done, and yet it doesn’t lose, we don’t wind up with something that’s technical and sterile over something that’s passionate and gritty,” he continues. “So it’s a marvel, I’ve got to tell you. It left us speechless when we first saw the finished stage. And for us to be silent is a miracle in itself.”
The show, which will head to Wright State University’s Nutter Center in Dayton on May 12, also will offer more for fans on a musical level, with a longer set than Kiss has played on recent tours and full of crowd-pleasing selections.
“I believe we’re doing 22 songs, I think, somewhere around that,” Stanley says. “I think the average on the last tours has been about 16. It’s a diverse and really great overview of all the eras of the band.”
The wide-ranging setlist means fans will get a final chance to see Kiss perform core songs from each of the band’s three primary eras — the original edition with Frehley and Criss, the 1980s/early-‘90s lineup with Bruce Kulick on guitar and Eric Carr (and later Eric Singer) on drums, and the current edition with Tommy Thayer on guitar and Singer on drums.
Each lineup had considerable success, with Kiss selling more than 100 million albums over the years. The original lineup was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014.
Stanley says he is open to former band members (such as Frehley, Criss and Kulick) participating during the farewell tour.
“To not have various former members be a part of it at some point, in some way, if it didn’t happen, it wouldn’t be of my choosing,” he says.
So why did Stanley and Simmons decide it was time to do a farewell tour and retire as a touring band? Simply put, they didn’t want to risk reaching an age or point with their health where they couldn’t deliver the kind of performance fans expect.
“We are not any other touring band. If we were wearing t-shirts and jeans and athletic shoes, we could do this into our 90s. There’s no reason to stop,” Stanley explains. “But take any one of those bands and put 40 pounds of gear on them, and they wouldn’t make it through a tour. So it just has reached a point where we just felt, ‘Let’s go out there and be at our best,’ knowing we can be at our best, and not look to the future. Let’s stop when we believe we can deliver the best Kiss ever.”
Kiss will perform at 7:30 p.m. May 12 at Wright State University’s Nutter Center in Dayton. Doors open at 6 p.m. More info: nuttercenter.com.