AS soon as Kiss announced their farewell tour, frontman Paul Stanley knew there would be cynics.
Because The End of the Road tour, starting next year, is actually Kiss’s second goodbye.
The original Kiss line-up reformed for a farewell tour that ran from 2000 to 2001, but lost drummer Peter Criss before it finished and guitarist Ace Frehley soon after.
Stanley and fellow co-founder Gene Simmons would later state Criss and Frehley’s playing skills meant they weren’t especially proud of the reformation tour musically, even if it was the line-up the fans wanted to see.
“The first farewell tour was almost 19 years ago,” Stanley says. “Cynics be damned. Those people will always find something to say. That (reformed) line-up of the band was dysfunctional. People in the band weren’t showing respect to the fans or the band itself. We decided to put the horse down. The truth is we’ve carried on for 19 years (since the first farewell) because we realised people still wanted to see Kiss, we just had to have a tyre change.”
For this farewell tour, dubbed The End of the Road, Kiss will again be Stanley, Simmons and “new boys” Tommy Thayer (15 years in the band) and Eric Singer (27 years).
Stanley insists this will be it, despite bands regularly receiving raised eyebrows when they announce they’re splitting for good — Motley Crue had to sign a pact in public to prove to fans that their final tour was indeed the last goodbye.
“Not to take away from anybody else, but you can make up any piece of paper that makes people believe one thing or another,” Stanley says.
“It’s all about your intent. We’ve been thinking about how to do this for a while. With the band being really in top form and getting on terrifically, it’s time to take a victory lap. We made the conscious decision that this is it.”
Stanley, 66, says Kiss have strategically planned their exit. Dates for The End of the Road have so far announced been announced for all of 2019, but they’ll potentially tour for up to three years.
“It’s a big world,” Stanley explains. “We want to go out and celebrate with every country and every city that we’ve been to and that will take some time. We planned this. We’re not getting any younger. If we were playing some rock and roll songs wearing blue jeans and T-shirts we could do this into our 90s. But we’re wearing 40 or 50 pounds (18 to 22kgs) of gear, running around on stage.
“I’m 66. People half my age probably wish they were in the same shape. But there’s no beating the clock. You can’t. There are no 60-year-old footballers or basketball players or track runners. Your body can’t take that. At this point we are facing the inevitable and want to do it in the best way possible. We want to do it while we feel great as opposed to letting things deteriorate.
“Forget about a typical rock band, we’re so much more than a rock band. This is the greatest show we’ve ever put together. It’s a completely different stage, a completely new technology. We’re not one of those bands who does a farewell tour because we can’t do it anymore. This will be the ultimate Kiss show.”
Part of the band’s manifesto as they head out one last time is celebrate the success they have achieved despite the critics who always wrote them off. As much as the internet has given the Kiss Army a new platform to rally the troops, there are also plenty of Kiss haters online.
Decades of jumping around on stage in heavy boots may have taken its toll on Stanley’s hips (he’s had both replaced), but some voices online are more concerned with the impact age has had on his voice, posting unflattering concert videos to back their claims.
During his Australian solo tour this year, bandmate Simmons even mocked the Stanley “losing his voice”. (Stanley was quick to point out Simmons was struggling to sell tickets to his concerts.)
“If anyone wants to hear me sound like I did on (1975’s) Kiss Alive! then put on Kiss Alive!” Stanley says. “It would be absurd. Of course your voice changes. Any athlete’s body changes. Any singer’s voice changes. The naysayers and the scrooges will find the video of you falling on your ass, that’s the one they’ll post. But when you’re playing to between 20,000 to 60,000 fans a night and beginning and ending a show with an audience going crazy, I’m not really that concerned with the sceptics.
“I’m in the same boat a lot of people are,” he adds. “I see singers around my age and we talk about it. The difference could be many bands have a singer where you go ‘Well he sounds really good’ but, so does the keyboard player singing along with him. Or the person singing off stage. Kiss have never done that.
“I understand there’s people who tend to spout negativity but they’re in the vast, vast, vast minority. I will do everything in my power and I know that I will sound great on this tour. That is not delusional. I don’t look the same as I did at the beginning of the band, nobody looks the same today as they did decades ago, but it’s all about degree. But there are realities of course.”
Stanley — who is also an accomplished painter — says there are no plans to keep making new music once the final curtain goes down on Kiss’s live career.
“I don’t think there’s any reason to record at this point. You’re up against your past. Your past is much larger and more potent than the quality of your songs. It’s about songs that had a moment in somebody’s life, that’s where the power comes. It’s a photograph of a certain moment for somebody.
“Whether or us or the Stones or any classic band, when people say, ‘Why don’t you do a new album?’ they have no intention of wanting to hear it. They may tolerate a new song or two. But don’t kid yourself, when the (Rolling) Stones put out a new album someone will say, ‘That’s terrific, now play Brown Sugar’. It’s the nature of the beast. I’d rather go out and celebrate our glories and not hunker down in the studio to do an album which, understandably, will never receive the embracing that earlier ones do.
“If you put on a live concert of any of the classic bands and turn off the sound, I could tell you every time they’re playing a new song because the audience sits down. People really don’t want to hear those new songs live.”
It’s a different world Kiss will be saying goodbye to. The sexual metaphors in their lyrics would be hard for a new act to get away with, while even notorious pantsman Simmons has finally opted for marriage rather than salaciously reliving stories of the thousands of women he bedded over the years.
Indeed, on Andrew Denton’s Interview this year Simmons, 69, declared that, looking back on his behaviour through the #MeToo prism, he’d been “an arrogant and sexist pig”.
The two Kiss originals are very different personalities — they’ve clashed many times in recent years, most recently over Simmons’ unsympathetic views on the death of Prince and drug victims. However, Stanley and Simmons will go out as they came in — as friends.
“The Gene most people know is a self-created commodity for the media,” Stanley admits. “He’ll say all kinds of things. That’s who he is. He likes to stir things up, he likes to have soundbites. I can’t address anything other than to say we’ve been together 50 years at this point. We have an unbreakable bond and an appreciation for each other that goes far beyond what most people are fortunate enough to have.”
Kiss will also go out having left a big impression on the music industry. Once criticised for finding a way to merchandise everything from coffins to paid meet and greets, they’re now seen as the band who wrote the blueprint for finding new financial streams beyond album and ticket sales.
They’re a band that achieved pretty much everything possible and Stanley can see their legacy all around.
“There’s not a rock show out there, or a rap show, or any live show you see without some Kiss DNA in it. We were the wake up call to audiences of what they should expect and not tolerate less than. We are still fans of Kiss and we are Kiss.”
While they’ve prepared themselves musically and visually, is Simmons emotionally prepared for that final show — for which they’ve already pencilled in Rock and Roll All Nite as the last song they’ll ever play?
“The term ‘bittersweet’ comes to mind,” he says. “I’m so grateful for everything I’ve been given and everything I’ve shared. I see this as a celebration. It probably won’t sink in for quite a while that it’s over. That being said it’s a time of joy and defiance if you will, celebrating that we’ve always, for better or worse, done it our way, unapologetically. We’ve stood by our victories and brushed ourselves off in defeat. We were and remain the band we always wanted to see. That’s what we’re going out as, the band we always wanted to see.”
Kiss, RAC Arena Perth November 16 2019, Coopers Stadium Adelaide November 19, Rod Laver Arena Melbourne November 21-22, Supercars Newcastle November 23, Qudos Bank Arena Sydney November 26, Brisbane Entertainment Centre November 28. On sale 10am November 12, Ticketek