What KISS promises is its final tour kicks off Thursday (Jan. 31) night in Vancouver. But it will likely be a while before the actual final farewell.
“This is going to last a few years,” Paul Stanley tells Billboard about the End of the Road World Tour, which has currently announced dates announced through Dec. 3, including a KISS Kruise setting sail Oct. 30. But, he adds, rest assured the group isn’t kidding about saying goodbye to the road.
“It’s been 45 years,” Stanley says, “and we want to be able to do this with the fortitude and with the respect for our legacy that it deserves. We felt it was time to make a conscious decision that this is the last tour and go out in a blaze of glory and take a victory lap and spend a very special evening with fans around that world.”
Whether KISS will be doing it with former band members is still up in the air, however.
Since even before the tour was announced there’s been speculation about KISS including some of its faces from the past, and some — particularly original guitarist Ace Frehley — have openly campaigned for it. Frehley recently responded to some comments bassist Gene Simmons made about the situation with a flaming social media post, countering Simmons contention that Frehley had been fired from KISS three times (he says he quit), calling the bassist “an asshole and a sex addict,” accusing Simmons of groping his wife during one of the bassist’s Vault Experience events in Los Angeles and claiming Simmons and Stanley of trying “to derail my solo career multiple times over the years.” He demanded “a complete and heartfelt apology” and “an offer to give me my old job back” and threatened that “the shit will hit the fan” if not.
Stanley — who guested on Frehley’s 2016 album Origins, Vol. 1 — says he’s heard about Frehley’s comment but is “not sidetracked by anything. I have no comment about that.” And after 15 years with the lineup of Tommy Thayer on guitar and Eric Singer on drums, he adds that there’s no desire, or need, for any changes.
“This is in no way or should be a reunion tour — that would negate everything that came since,” Stanley explains. “The band is in the best shape it’s ever been, and built on a foundation of everything that came before it and built that much higher by us. This is a celebration of KISS and of all eras and everything that’s happened. It doesn’t even make any sense to me to talk of a reunion.” Nevertheless, he adds, “We’re happy to invite people who have been involved in the band to come join us at some point for a song or whatever. If it doesn’t happen, it wouldn’t be by my choosing.”
Speaking recently to Guitar World, Stanley and Simmons spoke favorably about Bruce Kulick, KISS’ guitarist from 1984-96, but indicated Vinnie Vincent, with KISS from 1982-84, would not be welcome “for so many reasons.”
With or without former member cameos, however, Stanley promises that KISS is planning to top its usual over-the-top standards on the End of the Road tour. “This is by far and away the most complex, multi-layered, bombastic show we’ve ever done,” he says. “This show is completely new. The technology is technology we’ve never used. This is as state of the art as it can be and yet retains everything that makes KISS what we are. I think it’s been proven time and again that any band with money can do a KISS show but you can’t beat KISS, and this show once again shows that to be so.”
The repertoire, meanwhile, will be crowd-pleasing, in line with the recently released Kissworld: The Best of KISS compilation. “This is not the obscurities tour,” Stanley says. “This is not the tour where the diehard of diehards is going to hear a song that we’ve never played live before. I really believe that now more than ever we should go out there and celebrate the songs that people know and have connected over the years. It’s certainly not a show where somebody’s going to look at the person next to them and ask, ‘What’s that song?’ or ‘When is it from?’ That’s not what this is about.”
Stanley says there’s no sadness about being at the end of the road, whenever it actually concludes. “There’s nothing bittersweet about this tour — it’s all sweet. This is not a funeral.” And while KISS may be calling it quits on touring, neither Stanley nor Simmons has said they’re planning to mothball the band entirely.
“It’s really too soon to tell what the next step is,” says Stanley, who also operates his Paul Stanley’s Soul Station R&B cover band. “This is a huge world and there’s so many places to go see, so right now what’s on the plate and what’s in front of us is this tour. In terms of what comes next, I don’t know. The end of something is the beginning of something else, but I think we have to finish this chapter of the book before we know what the next one is.”