KISS | Madison Square Garden | 12/1/2023

Article Contributed by Justin Hunt | Published on Sunday, December 3, 2023

In 2019, the legendary rock band KISS embarked on their farewell tour, known as the "End of the Road" tour. They initially planned their final performance for the summer of 2021 at an undisclosed location. However, the pandemic led to the postponement and eventual cancellation of many tours, including theirs. Their touring resumed in 2021, and they recently announced their final shows for December 2023.

This March, KISS revealed "The Final 50 Shows," culminating in two landmark performances at Madison Square Garden, the world's most renowned venue. Having originated in New York City over 50 years ago, it seemed fitting to me that their final act would take place here. Although I had previously hoped for a grand finale at Yankee Stadium, Madison Square Garden, as an iconic location, is a befitting venue for their swan song.

The Final KISS Show | Photo by Justin Hunt

Tonight marks a significant moment, nearly five years after the "End of the Road Tour" commenced, with the first of two shows at Madison Square Garden. Amidst a downpour in Midtown Manhattan, enthusiastic fans crowded into the sold-out venue. Opening the evening was Amber Wild, a band with a distinctly rock 'n' roll vibe reminiscent of Led Zeppelin. Despite only making their debut in October, Amber Wild has quickly risen to prominence, making this their inaugural performance in New York City. The question arises: How does a new band land a gig at Madison Square Garden for their first New York show? The answer lies in lineage; Amber Wild's frontman Evan Stanley is the son of KISS's Paul Stanley. Towards the end of their set, Evan acknowledged “Dad and Gene” for the opportunity to join the tour. While their familial connection might have opened doors, their performance was genuinely enjoyable, proving that they were more than just an opening act.

Amber Wild | New York, NY | Photo by Justin Hunt

After Amber Wild concluded their set, stage technicians swiftly bustled about, setting the stage for the night's main event. A colossal curtain, emblazoned with the iconic KISS logo, descended, veiling the stage in anticipation. Around 9 PM, the sound of Led Zeppelin's “Rock and Roll” filled the air over the PA system, signaling the imminent arrival of the band. The venue plunged into darkness, and a video lit up the screens, showcasing the band's longtime manager, Doc McGhee, leading the band out of the dressing room.

Evan Stanley | Amber Wild

The moment we had all been eagerly awaiting arrived with the iconic announcement: “You wanted the best, you got the best! The hottest band in the world… KISS!”

As KISS struck the opening chords of “Detroit Rock City,” a spectacular burst of pyrotechnics accompanied the dramatic fall of the curtain. The band made a grand entrance, descending to the stage on platforms suspended in the air. No other band can match the theatricality and spectacle of a KISS entrance!

KISS fans | MSG | 12/1/23

If you've experienced any concert on the "End of the Road" tour, tonight's show bore a striking resemblance. The audience was treated to a retrospective of hits spanning KISS's illustrious career. This musical journey included early classics like “Cold Gin” and “Deuce,” 80s favorites such as “I Love it Loud” and “Lick it Up,” and more recent tracks like “Psycho Circus” and “Say Yeah” from their 2009 album, "Sonic Boom." The show's theatrics were as electrifying as ever: Gene Simmons ascended skyward after his iconic blood-spitting performance to deliver “God of Thunder,” while Paul Stanley soared across the arena to a secondary stage to serenade the audience with “Love Gun.” Tommy Thayer's guitar solo was a pyrotechnic marvel, and Eric Singer's drum solo elevated both literally and figuratively as his drum kit rose to the rafters. The quintessential KISS elements—flames, fireworks, and larger-than-life performances—were all present, making for a spectacular show.

KISS | Madison Square Garden

Despite the setlist being fairly standard, with no surprise appearances from former band members, the emotional weight of the weekend was palpable. In his heartfelt interactions with the crowd, Paul Stanley reminisced about his early days in 1972, driving a taxi in New York City. He recalled dropping passengers off at the Garden for an Elvis Presley concert, telling them, “One of these days, you’re going to see my band on that stage.” He also shared a poignant memory of their first performance at Madison Square Garden, where he saw his parents and Gene’s parents in the audience, reflecting on the universal desire to make one's parents proud. Tonight, they not only made their parents proud but also the entire city of New York.

Gene Simmons | KISS Final Show | Photo by Justin Hunt

KISS | New York, NY

Following the riveting finale of “Black Diamond,” the stage was momentarily engulfed in darkness. As the audience's cheers for an encore reached a crescendo, Eric Singer emerged, seated at a pristine white grand piano, performing the tender ballad “Beth.” This intimate moment set the stage for the rest of the band's return, as they plunged into “Do You Love Me.” The show then reached its zenith with the iconic anthem “Rock and Roll All Nite.” In a spectacular display, Gene Simmons and Tommy Thayer ascended in buckets attached to sprawling crane arms, soaring above the arena. Simultaneously, a flurry of confetti cannons enveloped the audience in a colorful cascade. The climax was marked by Paul Stanley smashing his guitar in a definitive rock gesture, as explosions illuminated the backdrop behind Eric Singer's drum kit. I've previously stated that no band can rival KISS's entrance, and it's equally true that their exits are unmatched in their grandeur and spectacle.

Eric Singer | MSG | 12/1/23

With their latest performance, KISS is now poised for what could be their final act. Their original farewell tour in 2000 has since become a subject of humor, with many poking fun at their seemingly unending series of goodbye tours. This raises the question: Is this truly the end for KISS? While only time can definitively answer that, it seems plausible that this could be the last of KISS's performances in their current form. Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, now in their 70s, face different challenges than their counterparts in the Rolling Stones, who continue without the added burden of heavy costumes and elaborate stage antics.

KISS | New York, NY

The legacy of KISS, however, is unlikely to fade away. The brand itself has immense staying power, and I can envision the continuation of KISS-themed events, like the KISS Cruises, or perhaps the band performing acoustic sets without their trademark makeup. The world of KISS tribute bands, known for their meticulous recreations, may evolve into an officially sanctioned, large-scale tribute act, or even a Las Vegas residency featuring younger musicians emulating a classic KISS concert.

KISS | Madison Square Garden

While the future of KISS remains uncertain, I am grateful to have been part of this night, a celebration of 50 years of KISS's enduring legacy and impact on the world of rock music.

KISS | New York, NY

Check out more PHOTOS from the show

KISS | New York, NY