KISS — Interviews, concert reviews and commentaries

by Alan K. Stout

A Proper Farewell: KISS Out To Dazzle Fans One Last Time

(Interview, July 2000)

The Times Leader
July 7, 2000

By Alan K. Stout
Times Leader Staff Writer

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You wouldn't think that a band such as KISS - which has long prided itself in its close relationship to its fans - would have broken up without saying its proper goodbyes. But that, according to guitarist and vocalist Paul Stanley, is exactly what nearly happened at the end of the band's 1998 tour.

"Psycho Circus" - the group's first album featuring all four original members in nearly 20 years - was well-received by fans, as was its accompanying road jaunt. And the band's 1996/97 "Alive Worldwide" reunion tour was the biggest concert attraction of the year, helping cement one of the greatest comebacks in rock history.

Both occurrences, says Stanley, had the group asking itself: What can we possibly do next?

"Toward the end of 'Psycho Circus,' we kind of said 'Ya know, maybe it's time to go home,' " says Stanley in an interview in the Times Leader.

"Not because the 'Psycho Circus' tour wasn't big - it was more because after the reunion tour - which was just absolutely enormous - we really accomplished the impossible. Coming back after 17 years apart and being the No. 1 touring band and - more importantly, the approval and overwhelming positive feedback from the fans - was more than we could have ever hoped for.

"It was kind of like the heavyweight champ coming back after 17 years out of the picture and knocking out all of the opponents. At that point, we pretty much accomplished everything."

The only thing left to do, the band members decided, was to say goodbye and say thank you to their longtime fans by heading for one more extravagant, eye-popping, sonic spectacle.

"Rather than stop after the 'Psycho Circus' tour and just have people in four or five years start to realize that we're not coming back - which, really, I don't think is fair to anybody - the fans or us - we decided to mount one last tour," says Stanley. "We wanted to go out with the same feeling we had on the reunion tour, which is to celebrate the history of the band."

And what a history it's been.

KISS has sold nearly 80 million albums and is second only to the Beatles in terms of gold records. An eventual lock for the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, the band has been a household name for 25 years and the four painted faces of Stanley, bassist Gene Simmons, guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss have become familiar parts of American pop culture. All of those things - and a sense of pride about the band's reputation as one of rock's most entertaining live acts - were also major factors in the group's decision to embark on this summer's "Farewell Tour."

(Contrary to some erroneous writings in the rock press, KISS has never disbanded nor played the "farewell" card before. The group has been a consistent recording act and touring band for 27 years.)

"The idea of stopping, rather than petering out, was much more appealing," says Stanley. "We wanted to end this on top. It's better to have people say 'Why are you quitting?' than to have people say 'Why don't you quit?' Better to leave when you're at your best, than to have people see something that perhaps would be better left unseen.

"I'm aware of my physical capabilities," he adds. "There are no 48-year-old football players. We're in a position of not only having to be a band, we're athletes and super-heroes. Both my knees have been operated on, one shoulder has to be operated on - but they're all sports injuries. It's a sports doctor who will look at them and say they're basically the same injures you get on the field. I want us to go out when we're capable of doing this 100 percent, and that's important to all of us.

"We're not only in KISS, but we're big fans of KISS."

"The Farewell Tour," says Stanley, will offer fans of KISS a nod and wink to all eras of the band. Unlike the past two tours, the shows will include a few numbers from the non-makeup, costume-free '80s, when the group remained one of rock's biggest acts.

"We had this peculiar dual life, where, after Ace and Peter were no longer in the band, we still sold 15 million albums," says Stanley. " At this point, to not celebrate the history of the band in its entirely would be crazy. If there hadn't been the non-makeup band selling all of those albums, I don't know about a reunion tour. I don't know what would have happened. Every aspect of the band and every period of the band has been responsible for what came after it."

What will come next for Stanley is a return to theater. The man known to KISS fans as "The Starchild" spent most of last summer performing the lead role in "Phantom of The Opera" in Toronto and now has his eyes set on Broadway. And, of course, there's always music.

"I'm always going to make music," he says. "How my love of music manifests itself is what we'll all find out. Music is what has been in my blood since I was almost too small to remember. That will never end. Doing theater is just an extension of that, and I'm sure there will be other things. But in the meantime, if I spend too much time thinking about the future, then I'm not really appreciating the present and what we're going through right now. The 'Farewell Tour' is so amazing in itself that to not suck it all in would be a shame."

That, says Stanley, is exactly what he'll continue to do through September, when KISS is expected to give what may be its very last show at Madison Square Garden in New York.

And what will the Starchild be thinking that night? What will he be feeling when the band is pounding out "Rock and Roll All Night" for the last time? When he's standing under that bright KISS logo with confetti falling, smashing one last guitar to toss to the crowd?

"I'll be thinking 'What a great life I have,' " says Stanley. "What an awesome life I've had, and I have. Belief in yourself and a lot of hard work will go a long way, and I can't thank the fans enough for making my life possible. I guess in some ways it mirrors fans saying they can't thank us enough for what we made possible.

"It's a perfect relationship."

And - with this one last hurrah from "The Hottest Band In The World" - a seemingly perfect ending.