Kiss' Gene Simmons acknowledges that he's been "very lucky" during the COVID-19 pandemic, able to quarantine in comfort at homes in California and British Columbia.
But he and his bandmates are still ready to, well, kiss 2020 goodbye.
Kiss, like all its musical colleagues, found itself in dry-dock due to pandemic shutdowns -- in its case postponing U.S., European and South American legs of its End of the Road World Tour, which the group says will be its last. But the theatrical quartet will be playing the year out, bells, whistles and pyrotechnics intact, on New Year's Eve.
Kiss' virtual "Kiss 2020 Goodbye" concert takes place Thursday, Dec. 31 from Dubai, using 50 cameras and state-of-the-art technology, and what it promises will be "the world's largest pyro display" outdoors at the Royal Beach at Atlantis resort.
"We get offers all the time, thank goodness, and we've been saying no to everybody because it's just not safe -- for us, for the fans," Simmons, 71, says by phone. "With this we happened to be in the right place at the right time, and it all make sense. The folks in Dubai, which is a fascinating place, suggested something crazy and said, 'You can do anything you want here, no restrictions.'
"And we said, 'Wait a minute. You mean we can put on the biggest pyro show of all time, since Krakatoa and the Big Bang? You mean we're gonna be safe going over there?' They said 'yeah,' so there you are."
Simmons says the operation will be "ultra-safe," up to and including the group members traveling to Dubai in a "specialized supersonic futurist jet" with individual apartments and no-contact services. Managers and production staff have been working on the show -- which will stream continuously for 72 hours -- for weeks, with full COVID-19 protocols in place for workers as well as the limited audience that will be able to attend live.
"The thing about all this," Simmons says, "is we can either go quietly into the night or we can send a good message to everybody, which is, 'Please stay at home on New Year's Eve. We know you want to go out there and get drunk and kiss strangers. Don't do that. Stay at home. We'll bring the party to you. We'll put on the biggest show you've ever seen -- bigger than the (fireworks) on the bridge in Sydney (Australia), near the Opera House, bigger than New York.'
"We've never been small, or subtle, you know? So if someone gives us a chance to put on the biggest and baddest New Year's Eve party on planet Earth, we're there."
Kiss, whose breakthrough "Alive!" album was recorded at Detroit's Cobo Arena during 1975, last played on March 10 in Lubbock, Texas, before the pandemic shut its tour down. The quartet -- which has sold a reported 75 million records worldwide and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during 2014 -- is slated to resume June 2 in Europe with the next U.S. run starting in August (including a Sept. 1 date at the DTE Energy Music Theatre in Independence Township). Simmons says the plan is to play another 150 cities around the world -- he even mentions Antarctica -- before Kiss says its final goodbye during 2022 in New York, at an as-yet undisclosed location. "People are gonna say, 'They're playing there? Are you kidding?! I didn't think anybody was allowed,'" Simmons teases.
And, he adds, it really will be the last the world sees of the band.
"Ethically and morally we have to get off the stage while the getting's good," Simmons, who was born Chaim Witz in Israel, explains. "Remember, we introduce ourselves as 'you wanted the best, you got the best' -- not the second best or 'we used to be good' or 'remember them when.' Nope, 'You got the best, the hottest band in the world, Kiss.' We say that every show and we hope those words will still be true at the very last show we play, which is not too far in the distance."
Even though it's leaving the stage, however, the band will not necessarily be kissing Kiss goodbye. "On the business side, there's a lot of stuff -- real estate, restaurant chains, you don't want to know," says Simmons, who also has his own band that plays periodically. Bandmate Paul Stanley is planning an album from his R&B band Soul Station in March. There will also be a brand of coffee, with the brewer Dead Sled, coming in 2021, and a new line of guitars with Gibson along with other merchandise and branding partnerships.
"There's a lot of fun stuff to do," Simmons notes, "but nothing compares to being up on that stage, shaking the heavens. The idea that we'll go down in history -- OK, that's cool if it happens. But if we made people's lives happier for those few hours that they saw us on stage, that's enough."
Simmons is less sanguine about another goodbye he said this year -- to Eddie Van Halen, whose music career he helped start during the mid-70s. After seeing the Van Halen band play during 1976 at the Starwood in Los Angeles he signed it to a production deal and recorded a 29-track demo called "Zero." But when Simmons couldn't convince the rest of Kiss or its management to support the fledgling group, he released it from their contract, "and the rest is history."
He maintained a friendly relationship with Van Halen, however, and was "heartbroken" when the guitarist passed away during October.
"You can talk about how Eddie was a monster on guitar and all that, but not many people talk about the gentle soul he was," Simmons recalls. "I never heard him say a bad thing about anybody -- not another band, not another person, nothing. He was just sort of, 'Aw, shucks. Hey, how ya doin'?' that kind of thing.
"So the image I'll always have is of Eddie smiling -- that big, goofy, ear-to-ear smile, the same one you see in Van Halen videos or live on stage. He's just having the time of his life. For me that's the saddest part, losing the person even more than the player."
Kiss' "Kiss 2020 Goodbye" New Year's Eve concert takes place Thursday, Dec. 31 and will stream for 72 hours via Landmark Live Presents. Tickets start at $39.99 via KISS2020Goodbye.com.
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