KISS  For Kids could well be the theme of the iconic rock group's just-started North American tour.
In a novel move for its amphitheater dates, the costumed quartet is giving free lawn tickets to up to four children with each paying adult.
"It's time to give back," bassist Gene Simmons  explains to Billboard.com, adding that KISS -- which is also donating $1 per ticket to the Wounded Warrior foundation -- hopes to show the youths "that there's another world out there besides Hannah Montana  and the Jonas Brothers . It's important for them to see how the big boys do it. There's no tapes. There's no background singers backstage. There's no click tracks. It's important for the kids to see that whatever you see on stage is real. We want to spread this. I'm insulted by any act that goes up there with dancers and tapes. It's insulting."
KISS hopes to snare the kids more in the near future via an animated program that's being produced in partnership with E1 Entertainment and will feature the four KISS members as characters. Simmons says he hopes to have the program on air "in the next six months."
Meanwhile, he and his bandmates are planning to give fans old and young alike a freshened KISS show after focusing on the group's "Alive!" album -- which turns 35 this year -- during last year's road trek. "Technology has enabled us to do all kinds of wacky stuff," Simmons explains, while the repertoire includes three songs from last year's "Sonic Boom" album -- "Modern Day Delilah," "Say Yeah" and "Animal" -- as well as the seldom-performed "Crazy Nights." And drummer Eric Singer will be taking over the Peter Criss-sung smash "Beth" each night.
"It's acoustic -- there will be no tapes, just two acoustic guitars and bass and that's it," says Simmons, adding that KISS had previously kept the song out of the shows "out of deference to Peter Criss," who has left the band three times, most recently in 2004. "We still have a tug of the heart...Peter and Ace [Frehley] are beloved, as well they should be for the beginning, for helping launch the band. But it's important to note that with them in the band today, KISS wouldn't be around."
Simmons says KISS is anxious to work on a follow-up to "Sonic Boom," the group's first new studio album in 11 years. But he won't guess when that will be. "I think we'll do another one, but we need time," Simmons explains, noting the group's heavy touring schedule as well as his continuing "Gene Simmons Family Jewels" reality series on A&E and co-founder Paul Stanley's burgeoning art career.
The next KISS project will likely be a fourth version of the popular "KISSology" DVD series, which Simmons says is coming "soon" and will feature "some new stuff but some stuff nobody's ever seen before, going all the way back to 1973." The group is also expecting to film a third commercial for Dr. Pepper in the near future.
- Live