It’s been said that a man’s hair turns gray at the moment he realizes the great moments of his life weren’t so great. That may explain why you won’t see a gray hair on Gene Simmons or Paul Stanley. Great moments that will always remain great. Or maybe it’s hair die and wigs.
I started listening to KISS as a seven-year-old and since have been my favorite band. Around my 14th birthday, I realized KISS had been in my life more than most things. And I couldn’t fathom a day with no KISS. Almost every aspect of my life had turned over by then. Parents divorce. Then a new mom. New siblings. New school. New friends. KISS was my constant. By my 20’s I was certain the death of an original member would require some sort of bereavement time away from work. And still a day, when there would be no KISS, was too hard to fathom. I mean KISS had gone through their own changes. Ace and Peter leaving. The whole Vinnie Vincent thing. Mark St. John being the man for a few weeks before his arm blew up. The tragic passing of Eric Carr. KISS always soldiered on.
So it’s odd in a way that it was the reunion where I first realized that KISS, as a band, did have an expiration date. Suddenly in my mid-twenties, I started to accept there would be a day without KISS. Seeing the original lineup back in makeup it was clear there would be no turning back. Just like Ozzy returning to Black Sabbath when he did meant they could never go back to Dio. A non-makeup KISS was off the table once they walked on stage at the American Music Awards. And being stuck in the costumes and make-up would make any real growth as a band difficult. The reunion tour cemented the reality that going forward, KISS was a nostalgia act. With that, how could they physically continue more than 5-10 years at their age? And it was even less likely they would be able to stand each other that long. As such when the farewell tour was announced it was almost like sending a grandparent to hospice. As a child, you never contemplate a world without grandma. But by your adult years, you have seen the day coming. The farewell tour gave us all a chance to visit grandma one last time.
I made arrangements to see my last ever KISS concert with my sister. The enormity of that night and what it meant to me at times was overwhelming. KISS had been there for more at so many key moments in my life. I can remember what year a certain event in my past took place just by pairing it with the KISS album that came out that year. They were such huge part of my identity. Of who I was. People I haven’t seen since grade school still post something KISS related on my Facebook page. It’s because of KISS I know none of my ex-girlfriends will ever forget me. Every time they see some asshole in a KISS t shirt or when Gene Simmons tries to trade mark the high five, they’ll be reminded of me. And here they were. Saying goodbye. Thanking us for the ride. The weather was amazing. Seeing KISS under the stars with my sister. The perfect ending.
We all know what happened next. A few years off. Family Jewels. Phantom of the Opera. Live To Win Tour. Then the sin of all sins. Tommy and Eric in Ace and Peter’s make-up! There is no way. NO WAY! the KISS Army will accept this. There will be a revolt!! Won’t there?
Of course not. KISS fans have a long tradition of taking metaphorical kicks to the crotch from the band. The Paul and Gene narrative will be sucked down like a glass of Kool-aid by the Jonestown faithful. So with Gene recently spouting that he’s can’t see going on more than three more years, it got me wondering. Are KISS fans truly prepared for a world without KISS? If they were capable of moving on there has been reason to, than not to. At this point they have suffered enough betrayals maybe they would be fine with KISS Kruise headlined by KISS featuring Eric, Tommy and a couple of guys from Steel Panther filling in as Gene and Paul… er I mean. Demon and Starchild.
I have long accepted that whether they want to admit it or not, there is a sizeable chunk of the KISS Army that doesn’t really care about the music. But that acceptance doesn’t mean I don’t have to fight the urge to slap a fan when they say “KISS is really more of a ‘BRAND’ than a ‘BAND’ when you think about it”. Really? When you “THINK” about it? I don’t think anyone regurgitating Gene-isms from his self-help tome, ME INC., has any business claiming to “THINK” about anything. KISS is a band first and a brand second. Or at least they fucking should be.
Eric Singer once spoke about fans who had the audacity to tune out once he took over as Peter Criss that you’d think they’d be happy with this KISS over no KISS. I think what irritated me about that remark was how it was said. As if it’s an unarguable fact. That any KISS is better than no KISS. Because I disagree. Before this KISS we had no KISS. And it was better. They ended on a high note. Gave the fans more than we could ever ask for and more than any other band has. Since the re-boot lineup, it feels more like they are taking than giving. A couple of sub-par records. Paul’s drooping old man face and aging voice. Gene needing to have his costume taken out a few extra inches with each tour. KISS Hello Kitty. That whole Rock N Roll Hall of Fame debacle could’ve been avoided had they left on the high note of the last show of the farewell tour. Still, a lot of ticket purchasers agree with Eric that this KISS is better than no KISS. Which got me thinking. Is any KISS good enough? Can these remaining fans accept a day with no KISS or do they need the band to exist in some twisted form.
I’m not a hater. I get it. I had Paul’s rose tattooed on my right shoulder. I was married on Halloween wearing black leather pants and a vintage KISS belt buckle. My wife and I wore KISS boots for our wedding invite photo. My first Yahoo password was EISEN. I launched a petition for KISS to remake Phantom of the Park. Like many of you, a room in my house is dedicated to the items I squandered my hard earned money on related to this band. My next quest is to construct an Elder door knocker for my front door. I promise. I get it. For so many of us, KISS has meant more to us than most will ever understand. They have never cared about something like this like we do. They will never understand the ridicule we suffered for having daring to care so much about a band. They will ALWAYS be my band. I used to say they gave me so much. I don’t need anymore. But I’m starting to realize I don’t want anymore.
Yet there they go. Summer of 2017 Gene Needs To Payoff Shannon’s Credit Card Tour. Tickets will be bought. T shirts sold. And a couple of rock icons will trudge through their classics at a pace befitting men in their 60’s with a pair of more than qualified hired guns behind them. But as the last of the smoke from the pyro drifts into the night air I truly wonder. Have the fans walking back to cars prepared for the last time they make this walk?