The End of the Road — One Fan’s KISS Concert Journey Comes to an End

It’s over…

I’ve seen KISS for what will be the final time — unless something comes up all of a sudden and the four-piece band currently consisting of Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Eric Singer, and Tommy Thayer tours again. 

On Sept. 17, I witnessed my sixth, and final, KISS concert on their “The End of the Road Tour.”

My dear friends and family will know that this was a joyous—and sad—moment for me. 

You Wanted The Best” — A Band 

The kabuki-style makeup’ed band KISS was formed in 1973 by guitarist vocalists Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, with lead guitarist Ace Frehley, and drummer Peter Criss. 

Their personas: The Starchild, The Demon, The Spaceman, and The Catman 

A year later, their debut self-eponymous album was released. 

The band struggled against others of the decade until September 1975 when Alive! was released, almost instantly preparing the band to superstardom. 

Only a few years later, in 1980, the band’s first lineup change occurred when Peter Criss was replaced with Eric Carr. During this lineup, my favorite album—and overall most hated album by KISS fans for some reason—”Music From The Elder” was released. From there, the lineup changed a considerable amount over the next decade.

Frehley was replaced with Vinnie Vincent and he was subsequently replaced with Mark St. John.  In December 1984, Bruce Kulick joined the band as the new lead guitarist. 

Carr passed away from heart cancer on Nov. 24, 1991 leading to Eric Singer becoming his replacement later that year. 

Then, in 1996, KISS did the unimaginable — the original four members reunited, and in both costumes and makeup, were introduced onstage at that years’ Grammy Awards by none other than the late Tupac Shakur. 

The band set off on a massive worldwide reunion tour and released a reunion album—Psycho Circus in 1998—although the original four members only performed “together” on one song. Subsequently, the band did another tour. And then, in March 2000, the band embarked on The Farewell Tour, effectively announcing their retirement. 

In reality, it ended up being more of a send-off for Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. 

On January 1, 2001, Criss quit the band during the tour and Singer, once again, took his spot on the drums.  A couple of months later, Frehley was replaced with Tommy Thayer, who worked for the KISS organization. Then, Criss returned to the band, and performed on KISS: Symphony: Alive IV, until his contract with the band expired and he wasn’t offered a renewal. 

From then on, it’s been the same band with Stanley and Simmons as founding members and then Singer and Thayer — who have been in the band longer than the original drummer and lead guitarist at this point.

Great Expectations” — The Buildup 

You see, KISS is a band that I grew up with — even with Deaf parents. Both of them loved KISS and the visuals that came with the music. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area primed me for concerts, too. I saw many with my mom, who wore hearing aids, prior to seeing the band. My dad, however, never saw the appeal in concerts

There’s also my second cousin, Marty, whom I love dearly. He, a veteran of the Sacramento punk scene, was, and still is, a huge KISS fan — entirely for the original lineup, though.

Vinyl records entered my foray as I grew older. As a result, I became an avid record collector and always have, mostly, focused on KISS. 

I’ve even tweeted about it. 

My first opportunity to see KISS—and holy shit I was excited—was in August 2012 on their “The Tour” with Mötley Crüe at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California. It got canceled, though. Apparently, low ticket sales was the culprit and they continued on their tour. 

Watchin’ You” — Finally Seeing KISS

On July 2, 2014, I saw the band in concert for the very first time at Concord Pavilion on their “40th Anniversary Tour” with Def Leppard. Daniel, my partner at the time, and I had tickets and, with a couple of weeks to go, I made a decision to buy another for my mom. In doing so, I made arrangements with the venue to provide for an American Sign Language interpreter as per the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Not only were we provided with two ASL interpreters but we were given our very own, private, raised handicap platform above the crowd about 30 yards in front of where our ticketed seats were. Below us, we saw both Gene Simmons’ wife and daughter, Shannon Tweed-Simmons and Sophie Simmons.

The show was amazing. It was one of the first few in the United States where the band used their “spider stage” from the preceding European tour. 

Notably, the show started off with a technical difficulty with Tommy Thayer’s guitar unable to be heard. 

How often are you going to see “Hotter Than Hell” live, too?

In the end, we saw an amazing show. I collected confetti during the “Rock and Roll All Nite” encore, and even received an official setlist from the night. 

A set of tickets from July 2, 2014, some confetti, and an official setlist that was given to me. [James Croxton // Double Sided Media]
One of my prized possessions is my mom’s 40th Anniversary Tour shirt from that night. [James Croxton // Double Sided Media]

Got to Choose” — The Las Vegas Residency

A few months prior, though, in April, my mom was diagnosed with Stage IV Glioblastoma brain cancer — and we knew, frankly, that time was ticking. 

She had nearly died from sepsis. 

We, as a family, knew at that point that she had to travel to Las Vegas, Nevada to visit with the rest of her family one, presumptuously, last time.

My dad made the plans while she was temporarily in a nursing home getting the many rounds of antibiotics needed for post-emergency surgery to remove part of her infected skull. At the same time, he alerted me to KISS’ planned month-long residency there at the Hard Rock Casino in November 2014. So, naturally, Daniel and I planned accordingly. 

At some point, I plan to write about my experiences about my mom’s fight with cancer. Now is not the time for me, so, back to KISS — 

The two of us drove down from the Bay Area, met my parents, and the rest of the family. We had tickets for the show on Sunday, Nov. 15, but, admittedly, got bored during our underage trip to Las Vegas and bought tickets day-of for the night prior, too. After all, this was the only weekend that the band played back-to-back.

Without going into the minute details of each night, I can say that they were great!

Not only did I get to see the band on a stage specifically designed for a venue but they played songs that I, previously, could only have dreamed of them performing. Two of those songs—“Tears Are Falling” and “Do You Love Me”—soon became concert staples again, though. 

And, again, I repeated my tradition of collecting confetti. 

Two sets of tickets and confetti from KISS’ Las Vegas Residency at the Hard Rock Hotel on November 14 and November 15, 2014. [James Croxton // Double Sided Media]

Lastly, I also got to attend Paul Stanley’s book signing and was able to meet him.

Right Here Right Now” — KISS Comes to Eugene

It would be a few years until I saw KISS in concert again. 

In the meantime, I had moved here to Eugene, Oregon and began my college career at Lane Community College. Then, on July 9, 2016, I saw KISS again. This time, it was on the band’s “Freedom to Rock Tour,” where they went to cities they either hadn’t before, or in a very long time. 

They came to Matthew Knight Arena at the University of Oregon — which, honestly, felt weird because I knew I was seeing them at a school I would come to attend. This really “drove home” the fact that Eugene was now “my place” and that not only was I going to school here but I’m seeing my favorite band locally, literally, right down the fucking street at that very same school. 

Now, if I thought that the residency shows were fantastic and exciting with rarely performed songs, I was to be in for a complete surprise. 

The band played songs such as “Creatures of the Night,” “Flaming Youth,” and “Strutter.” Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer also performed “Shock Me” and “Beth,” respectively. Their performances of original members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss’ original songs were well-received by everyone in the arena, including myself, because of their rarity.

Gene Simmons has openly said he dislikes “Beth” and the controversy surrounding Ace Frehley, the original Spaceman, and his predecessor has kept the latter from regularly performing songs associated with both Ace and his, personally, designed character. 

Two tickets from KISS’ “Freedom To Rock” tour stop at the University of Oregon’s Matthew Knight Arena on July 9, 2016. [James Croxton // Double Sided Media]

Lots of confetti was shot out towards the crowd that night as like any other night. Apparently, I wasn’t close enough for it, though, and was stopped by a security guard as I went down a few rows to get some. He wouldn’t let me through, so, I asked if he could get some confetti for me and he told me to go away. I hate this man to this day.

All for the Love of Rock & Roll” — Hiatus

There was another break in seeing KISS in concert for a few years. In the meantime, I saw my obsession with KISS, vinyl records, and KISS records on vinyl collide. I joined the KISS My Wax Facebook group where thousands of collectors worldwide shared what they had collected and purchased.

In 2017, Tom Shannon’s three-volume set, KISS My Wax: The KISS LP Bible, was released. The book catalogued over 1800 variations of KISS vinyl and over 1,000 photos; the set quickly sold out and is considered an essential text for KISS vinyl enthusiasts. 

When my set arrived, I was taken aback to see that my name was listed in the special acknowledgments for helping bring to light rare variations. Sure, I had sent in numerous scans of labels for records that I own but I didn’t expect a special credit at all. I was just doing what I love. I can credit that with living in the Bay Area and finding a lot of promotional releases from old radio station collections. 

[insert photo gallery of books]

A World Without Heroes” — The End of The Road Tour

A couple of years later, in 2019, I mentally prepared myself to say “goodbye” to KISS since they had announced and were beginning their “The End of the Road Tour.”

That show—which I had, honestly, thought would most likely be my last—was on Feb. 1 at Portland’s MODA Center.   

It was a longer show than previous but, like many KISS concerts, had a predictable setlist. It was great seeing “100,000 Years” off of their 1974 debut album, though. And the stage — the stage was really incredible. I, especially, really liked the “pods” of screens above it. 

I went into this show mentally prepared as if it would be my last, but I had a gut feeling that they would do another U.S. leg of the tour.

My ticket and confetti from KISS’ “End of the Road Tour” stop at Portland, Oregon’s MODA Center on February 1, 2019. [James Croxton // Double Sided Media]

God Gave Rock ‘n Roll To You II” — The Final Show

Needless to say, I was right. 

KISS announced another run of the U.S. market and I was going to be able to see them, yet, again for what I fully anticipate to be my final show with them on tour. 

Originally scheduled for Sept. 20, 2020, the concert was postponed to Sept. 17 of this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic The wait, honestly, sucked. I was already anticipating my final show and was anxious. Another year just prolonged that feeling more. 

While marketed as the Portland date, it was actually at the RV Inn Style Resorts Amphitheater in Ridgefield, Washington.

Naturally, for some reason, I took another ex-boyfriend of mine—Jayy—who happens to be a huge KISS fan, too. In retrospect, there would have been no better way to cap-off my KISS shows than by taking a fan to see their first. 

The show opened with David Garibaldi—like my previous show above—who is a performance painter. By that, I mean he paints one-of-a-kind works of art on canvas with his hands and limited tools while jamming out to classic heavy rock and metal. 

That night, he painted Alice Cooper to “I’m Eighteen” and James Hetfield of Metallica to a mashup of “Seek and Destroy” and “Enter Sandman.” 

Capping his performance off, Garibaldi ended his show as he always does—with a KISS portrait, but painted upside down—which was a part of a raffle during the show and it’s winner would receive it signed by the entire band. 

His performance ended and then the “house music” came on — a mix of classic rock and, notably, Harry Styles’ “Kiwi” which seemed to draw a really positive reaction from the crowd. At one point, KISS’ stage-high banner was erected. A roar from the crowd ensued.

Then, Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” came on, and, as any KISS concert veteran would know, that is a sign. The band is going to come out right after. 

The song ended. The lights completely turned off. 

Both the stage and spotlights above set upon the banner and with thunderous screams and applause, it dropped as the band set into “Detroit Rock City.” As close as we were, each tower of flames was felt.

The band did what they always did on big tours — play the major hits such as “Shout It Out Loud,” “Deuce,” “War Machine,” “Heaven’s on Fire,” “I Love It Loud,” “Lick It Up,” and “Calling Dr. Love, ” “Say Yeah,” and “Cold Gin” prior to Thayer’s guitar solo.

After the solo, the band went into “Tears Are Falling,” “Psycho Circus,” a drum solo by Singer, and a little bit of “100,000 Years” prior to Simmons’ bass solo. 

Simmons, “The Demon,” spilled blood and launched into “God of Thunder” and Paul Stanley flew over the crowd onto a platform in the middle of the amphitheater for “Love Gun” and “I Was Made For Loving You.” The band ended their show, before the encore, with “Black Diamond.” 

The band left the stage and darkness ensued until a shiny jewel-encrusted piano was brought onto the stage. There, Singer performed “Beth,” one of the band’s classic ballads. 

They played the crowd favorite, “Do You Love Me” and then launched into their show closer, “Rock and Roll All Nite” with all the confetti I could grab. 

And then that was it. The show was over. We struggled to find my car in a sea of thousands for about half an hour and spent another 45-minutes trying to get out of the parking lot. 

Now, that’s a concert. 

My ticket and confetti from what will most likely be my final KISS show at Ridgefield, Washington’s RV Inn Style Resorts Amphitheater on September 17, 2021. Note that not only was the date postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic but the venue was also renamed in the interim. [James Croxton // Double Sided Media]

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