Asked with emphasis if this is really the end — no second and third go-rounds that stretch into 2021, no “reunion” dates five years from now — Paul Stanley did something that he and longtime Kiss bandmate Gene Simmons aren’t often known to do: He stopped and thought before he spoke.
“I hesitate only because there’s still so much ahead,” the star-eyed singer/guitarist, 67, said last week, just three weeks into what’s so far confirmed as an eight-month, 61-date farewell tour.
As quickly as the pause passed, though, the classic Paul Stanley-isms kicked in:
“This tour is like Mount Everest. I’m just looking toward the top, looking at what it’ll take to climb it. Beyond that, I can’t say what’s on the other side.”
Whatever degree of finality there is to Kiss’ End of the Road Tour, which lands at Target Center on Monday, the band’s “army” of fans, and most 1970s and ’80s rock lovers, know the peaks and valleys that have led to this purportedly mountainous final trek.
No band impacted the visual side of rock concerts more than Kiss. Few made as much of an impression on the merchandising end, too.
Between Simmons’ blood-spewing, flame-breathing antics and Ace Frehley’s truly fiery guitar work, Kiss became one of the defining bands of heavy metal. Their biggest hit single, though, was actually the mushy 1976 piano ballad “Beth,” sung by drummer Peter Criss.
Over its 45-year, 30-plus-album discography, Kiss has sold more than 100 million records.
At least a handful of those LPs should be in every hard-rock fan’s collection (top five in order: “Alive!” “Destroyer,” “Hotter Than Hell,” “Creatures of the Night” and “Ace Frehley”). Great god of thunder, though, the band also delivered some real stink bombs (worst in order: “Music From ‘The Elder,’ ” “Peter Criss” or “Gene Simmons,” “Unmasked” and “Hot in the Shade”).
Perhaps most memorable of all, Kiss left behind enough sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll lore to fill at least one autobiography by each of its four original members; Simmons has written three books.
The drugs and alcohol part of the equation fueled the original, 1973-80 foursome’s breakup, as ex-members Frehley and Criss bumped up against the cleaner-living Simmons and Stanley. Their 1996-97 reunion run was similarly calamitous, resulting in the first “farewell tour” in 2000. Stanley and Simmons restarted the band in 2003 with drummer Eric Singer and guitarist Tommy Thayer wearing Criss’ and Frehley’s makeup and costumes — and even singing their songs.
Alas, the sexual part of the band’s lore has taken an ugly turn in recent weeks.
Frehley publicly accused the infamously libidinous Simmons of groping his wife and propositioning her at a recent event, part of a screed that also accused Simmons of making “slanderous remarks” about Frehley’s 12-year sobriety. This was especially jolting news to Twin Cities fans, who saw a rare live reunion by the two ex-bandmates at CHS Field in 2017.
Those recent developments seemingly closed the door on many fans’ wish for Criss and Frehley to somehow be incorporated into this final tour. In another rare instance of him clamming up, though, Stanley declined to directly address Frehley’s accusations in our phone interview last week. A Kiss publicist even interrupted to stymie questions on the matter.
Stanley had plenty else to say, though, and genuinely sounded excited about the tour.
On the decision to call it the end: “We reached a point where we all looked at each other and said, ‘We can’t do this forever.’ We didn’t want to take a year off, and then another, and kind of fizzle out. That’s not who we are. We’re not a band that’ll ever fizzle out. We want to go out with heads up high and fists in the air.
“Bands go on final tours because they hate each other. We’ve honestly never had more fun.”
On putting together one last elaborate staging: “The show we put together is such a state-of-the-art elevation of everything we’ve done before. So on that level, it’s perfect timing to go out with this one. This is the ultimate Kiss show.
“I’ve always said all you need is a lot of money to do a Kiss show, but you still can’t be Kiss. That’s more true than ever. This is our stage, and nobody else could stand on it.”
On how he’s taking care of his voice, which has sounded diminished on many recent tours: “I try not to talk to guys like you, for one. It’s hard to stay away from smoke, because the arenas are filled with it. But I do shut up as much as possible, and try other things.
“There’s no denying, whether you’re an athlete or singer, that life goes on, and you aren’t who you once were. That’s life. I always say if you want to hear me sound like I did on ‘Alive!’ go listen to ‘Alive!’ That said, I have no problem doing what I’m doing and standing by it. The songs sound awesome.”
On whether Kiss has sidelined any songs (i.e., “Christine Sixteen”) or changed its act in response to the #MeToo movement: “We’ve just never talked about it. We’re entertainers. We’re not up there making a political statement.”
On the 2000-01 farewell tour: “It was misguided. The idea was: Once the reunion of the original members became sour — which was fairly quickly — we thought it was time to put the horse down. That went against our philosophy, though, which has always been that this band is bigger than its members. To let the people who were causing the problems decide whether or not we continue was crazy.
“It became clear after the tour was over that the fans didn’t want it to end, and we didn’t want it to end.”
On the lingering prospect of a reunion by Kiss’ original four: “Anyone who was suggesting this tour should be a reunion missed the point completely. This is to celebrate 40-plus years of Kiss, and this lineup now has been intact for 17 years. Eric has actually been with us 20-plus years. So the idea of bringing back former members in any capacity — other than perhaps to show up as guests and do a song — misses the whole point. But that door is certainly open, if anybody wants to participate on that level.
“Honestly, I want to celebrate the past, too, but I don’t want to live in it. Like I just saw the Super Bowl, and at the end they showed Joe Namath, and I thought that was great he was there. But nobody expected him to suit up and get in the game.”
On why he calls this tour “a gift” for the band and the audience: “We’re really in a very fortunate position, because this is a choice we made. So often we’re all in a position of saying, ‘I wish I had known,’ or having regrets. To be able to spend an evening with people knowing it’s the final one, it gives us a magical and celebratory night. There’s nothing wistful, nothing funereal about it. It’s essentially a victory lap for all we’ve accomplished together.”