KISS: The Band That Never Ends
Written by Kimberly Debnam on May 22, 2019
Kiss, The American rival rock band to British phenomenon, The Beatles, has been performing for more than 45 years across the world. They started in early 1973 with Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. Still not sure of who they are by name? Well, you will definitely recognize their faces, specifically there painted faces and outrageous outfits, reflective of their influences from musicians like Alice Cooper and New York Dolls.
From the beginning, the group separated itself from other acts popular during the time by adding individuality to their performances such as their outfits, platform shoes and glamorous-no-makeup-spared, stage image.
In their time, Kiss has released over 20 studio albums, won 15 awards and ultimately inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014, nearly three decades after the bands standing really began to take off. In 1975, Kiss released their first live album, respectively titled ‘Alive’ which became one of there most popular albums that decade.
Following up the success of the Alive album, they produced a studio album with Bob Ezrin who had previous experience working with Alice Cooper and Pink Floyd. The result was in a second gold album entitled ‘Destroyer’ that had more elaborate influences than albums previous, such as the use of choirs and orchestras. The following two albums would become certified platinum and towards the decade’s end, Kiss continued to reap the fruits of their popularity.
Like any band then and now, the common question then comes, ‘is there a possibility of any of you going solo?’ Kiss definitely tested the waters of this possibility. Each member saw the opportunity to see their individual strengths, which also showed their differences in styles when they released solo albums under the Kiss name.
Simmons’ album showed music more influenced by the Beatles and held the most varied collaboration with artists such as Donna Summer, Cher and Joe Smith from Aerosmith. Much like any band its strength and identity comes from how their differences make Kiss have its own sound as a band.
Kiss easily identifies as two genres, Rock and Heavy metal. Rock comes from their blues-rock sound, aggressive vocals, never enough guitars, drums and keyboard -upon request. Inspiration from heavy metal comes from the highly distorted guitars, guitar solos and never being loud enough.
At this point in its career, Kiss had loaded the gun that would wound them. As they had become more commercialized at the peak of their career, they had their faces on just about anything: comic books, shirts, cups, pens, pencil, shoes, lunch boxes and so on. It was during their Dynasty Tour that they realized that their audience was changing.
It was getting smaller and…younger. Children who had yet to hit puberty were attending concerts with their parents, both of whom had their faces painted. This was a time when Kiss recognized that their change in sound had left many fans behind and in the dark. With the music taking a different direction then it’s original days and change of members and style that by the conclusion of it all, in 1983, Kiss unmasked itself for the first time for an MTV appearance.
Fast-forward to 2019 to a time when I was, personally, able to catch the action of Kiss, live in concert at their March 16th show, held at Nationwide Arena in Columbus.
While the opening act was acting, I got a chance to chat up with my neighbor who openly shared all he knew about the band.
“Metallica, Black Sabbath…Iron madden are just about the same because heavy metal is about having no control and being yourself uncut. In the 1990s, metal became more like grunge. Iron madden tells a story like about wars and things of history, but the band image as a whole has gone through some changes.”
It was at this point that he began to give me the details of how Kiss like many other bands, had gone through its fair share of lineup changes. Performing over 15 songs plus three encore songs, the band made sure to keep the energy lively and increasing with a reminisce of their greatest hits, over the years, member changes, career highs and lows, and the shows they have done for their fans all across the globe.
Stanley and Simmons does an amazing job of using the entire stage to their advantage, giving their energy to different parts of the arena. Towards \the end of the show, Paul was carried across the crowd and taken to a smaller, individual stage in towards the rear of the lower section. Carr, on drums, had his platform raised nearly 40 feet into the air.
The band has gone significant style changes as well; style of music, style of dress, who’s on stage, and even the audiences that they perform for. With all these adjustments, it is hard to nail down one characteristic that makes Kiss unique to stand out from the rest of the musicians and bands who have grabbed the title of Rock and Heavy Metal, and unfortunately the only thing that they can constantly be tied to is their songs that have resonated with different fans for different reasons over the years.
In the US leg of their current tour, they average about 1.3 million dollars in ticket sales, so is there is a profit here that other artists, and groups have not been able to master. Is there any possibility of this band ever ending, even with their golden years well behind them? There doesn’t seem to be a goal of Kiss other than a group of guys just forever wanting to do something their passionate about regardless of if that means they only sing the gold oldies.