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KISS still rock sand rolls all nite -- but not for much longer
If KISS is truly saying farewell with its current End of the Road World Tour, parting from Detroit Rock City will be sweeter sorrow than others.
"Detroit is a second home to us," singer-guitarist Paul Stanley, who co-founded KISS during 1973 with singer-bassist Gene Simmons in New York. "Before we were headlining anywhere in the country, we were headlining in Detroit, and I think there was an embracing of us that really made for a connection to this day.
"I've written hundreds of songs, but I only wrote one song (1976's 'Detroit Rock City') about a city. And it was because I'd heard bands sing songs about a few other cities, and I thought, 'Wait a minute, what about Detroit?' It's not unusual for me to introduce that song in other cities and point to their rowdiness and say that it reminds me of our sister city, and that's Detroit.
"So for me, there's an indelible connection."
The same could be said, of course, for KISS and all its fans — a legion known, and craftily branded, as the KISS Army. It's kept the group alive for nearly five decades and sales of more than 100 million records worldwide, plus a 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. Twenty-five of the group's albums have been certified platinum or better — including 1975's "Alive!," recoded at Cobo Arena — and it's amassed a pile of rock hits that includes anthems such as "Rock and Roll All Nite," "Shout It Out Loud" and "Lick It Up," and the ballad "Beth."
KISS has purportedly said goodbye before — more than once. But Stanley, 67, says this time he and Simmons mean it.
"It's been 45 years," he explains, "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 fend a very special evening with fans around that world."
That said, Stanley (nee Eisen) promises that the tour "is going to last a few years...because this is a huge world and there's so many places to go see." That includes the high seas, with the latest KISS Kruise setting sail on Oct. 30. What's not clear yet is where some of KISS's celebrated former members, most notably original members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, may fit into the trek.
Since even before the tour was announced there's been speculation about KISS including some of its faces from the past, Frehley in particularly openly campaigned for it. Some comments Simmons made about Frehley being fired three times from the band, however, sent the guitarist off on a rage in which he called Simmons "an a**hole and a sex addict" who groped his wife during an appearance in Los Angeles last year. Frehley also accused Simmons and Stanley of trying "to derail my solo career multiple times over the years" and threatened some sort of action in retaliation.
Stanley, who guested on Frehley's 2016 album "Origins, Vol. 1," declines to respond except to say that after 15 years with the lineup of Tommy Thayer on guitar and Eric Singer on drums 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." However, 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."
Regardless, the extravagantly staged tour, focusing on KISS' greatest hits, will keep going until Stanley and Simmons have had their fill. And Stanley, who also fronts the Paul Stanley's Soul Station R&B cover band, is confident there won't be regrets when they do find the end of the road.
"There's nothing bittersweet about this tour — it's all sweet," he says. "This is not a funeral. 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."
KISS and David Garibaldi perform at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 13 at Little Caesars Arena, 2645 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets $29.50 and up. Call 313-471-7000 or visit 313Presents.com.
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