If Paul Stanley had followed his own advice, there would be no intense sensation of deja vu when Kiss performs its San Diego farewell tour concert Thursday night at Viejas Arena. In fact, there would be no concert, or “Kiss End of the Road World” farewell tour, now at all.
That’s because Kiss — which was formed in 1973 — launched its farewell trek back in 2000 and vowed to retire after the tour concluded in 2001. Or, as Stanley said in a Union-Tribune interview prior to Kiss’ March 2000 San Diego Sports Area farewell stop: "I'm a big believer that it's better to leave early than stay too late. And to quit while we're still in top form. That's when it's the right time to go out."
Stanley was 49 in 2000. He was adamant at the time that Kiss — which in 1996 reunited its original lineup, after a number of acrimonious personnel changes — was retiring for sound reasons. The band didn’t want to risk becoming a limp parody of itself.
"There are (over-the-hill) athletes and singers we have all seen in action and wished that we didn't have to, because we want to remember them in their primes ..." Stanley said in that 2000 interview.
“Maybe we're fortunate enough that we don't have to (go on). We're such big fans of the band that we don't want to see it continue at any other level except prime. … It's out of respect for Kiss, and our fans, that we have to stop.”
By 2003, Kiss was back on the road with Stanley and band co-founder Gene Simmons, but minus its original drummer, Peter Criss, and its original lead guitarist, Ace Frehley (who is now a Rancho Santa Fe resident). Criss and Frehley were replaced by Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer, whose tenures in Kiss had started in 1992 and 2002, respectively.
Kiss has embarked on a dozen more concert treks since 2003, including its recently launched “End of the Road World Tour,” with Singer and Thayer. (The animosity between Simmons and Frehley hits a new high — or low — last week with a scathing post on Frehley’s Facebook page, which came in in response to a recent Simmons’ interview in Guitar World magazine.)
In a 2009 interview, I asked Stanley why the band had opted to reactivate with a revamped lineup, rather than stay true to its vow to quit while Kiss was purportedly still on top.
“Um, when I said that, I certainly believed it wholeheartedly,” Stanley replied. “But what I found as I was doing the (2000/2001) farewell tour is that I didn’t want to stop, I just wanted to stop playing with a couple of the guys. The reason it was a ‘farewell’ tour is that it was unbearable to play with some of the guys. I realized that to stop the band (for that reason) didn’t make any sense.”
Of course, Kiss isn’t the first major rock act to complete a much-publicized farewell tour, only to later “un-retire.” Others include Ozzy Osbourne, The Who, Judas Priest, Nine Inch Nails and a number more who retroactively decided not to step away from the spotlight after all.
But Kiss is the only rock act I know of to license more than 2,500 products bearing its name, including Kiss condoms, Kiss coffins and a Kiss golf course in Las Vegas.
Moreover, in light of the band’s past reversals, it’s hard to swallow Kiss’ claim the group won’t reappear in some form in the future. That’s despite — or maybe because of — the group’s statement that its recently launched “End of the Road World Tour” really marks the end of the road.
“This will be the ultimate celebration for those who've seen us and a last chance for those who haven't,” the statement reads. “Kiss Army, we're saying goodbye on our final tour with our biggest show yet and we'll go out the same way we came in ... Unapologetic and Unstoppable.”
The key word there might be “unstoppable.”
And that takes us back to our 2000 “farewell tour” interview with Stanley, who — to underscore that Kiss really was retiring — stressed how the band was auctioning off all its music equipment, stage sets and costumes at the end of that tour.
When I pressed Stanley 19 years ago whether it really was the end of the road for Kiss, he acknowledged: “But the idea that we can never tour again because of the auction is silly. It only takes a sewing machine, some good spandex and a cobbler, and we'd be back in business. It's out of respect for Kiss, and our fans, that we have to stop."
Kiss “End of the Road World Tour”
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Viejas Arena at Aztec Bowl, San Diego State University, 5500 Canyon Crest Drive, San Diego
Tickets: $29.50 to $1,000, plus service fees; $6,500 (Ultimate Kiss Army VIP Experience package for two)
Phone: (800) 745-3000
12:15, Feb. 7: This article updates the year drummer Eric Singer joined Kiss. It was in 1992, not 1982.