“Good people, how could we not end where it all started?” asks Paul Stanley rhetorically, looking around the most iconic venue in America ahead of Lick It Up.
While not everyone in Stanley’s hometown is wholly convinced that this truly is The End Of The Road for Gotham’s loudest superheroes - told that Classic Rock is in town to see Kiss’ last ever show, the nice immigration officer at JFK airport chuckles softly and says, “Yeah? I saw them here on their farewell tour in 2000” - The Starchild and The Demon insist that this truly is where the party ends, fittingly, on a Saturday night, in the city that never sleeps.
“So this is the end of the road,” Stanley states early doors, as wild cheers give way to a chorus of disappointed / disapproving boos. “I know, I know,” he responds sympathetically. “But tonight’s a night for joy, tonight’s a night to celebrate what we’ve done together. We couldn’t have done it without you New York!”
Announcing that their last ever gig would be streamed live from Madison Square Garden tonight as a pay-per-view event, Kiss revealed that they’d be chucking an extra million dollars into additional production and pyro for their last stand, and, given the sensory bombardment, you could easily believe it: the music-synced LED light bracelets on every seat are a nice touch for starters, and the ending… well, we’ll get to that. But however it may have looked on your TV at home, from Section 108, Row 7, Seat 20 - close enough to feel the heat of the seemingly relentless barrage of ceiling-scorching flames on your face - trust us, the self-professed Hottest Band In The World’s big, bad finale looked and sounded pretty fucking spectacular.
If you were in attendance at any one of the previous 240+ shows staged since the End Of The Road tour launched on January 31, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada, you probably already know pretty much how things panned out tonight from the moment that Led Zeppelin’s Rock And Roll gives way to openers Detroit Rock City and Shout It Out Loud.
Now, admittedly, we weren’t in attendance in Moline, Illinois on March 20, 2019, but - call us cynical if you must - we’re prepared to bet that those gathered inside the fabulously-named TaxSlayer Centre that night were also told that they were “beautiful” when Stanley asked the group’s lighting engineer to turn on the lights before Calling Dr. Love and yelped “Take a look at yourselves!”
That said, there are some nice hometown touches tonight, such as Stanley pointing out “We don’t have to go to the Bronx to see a zoo” ahead of Psycho Circus, and his rather sweet tale of driving a couple to Madison Garden Avenue to see Elvis Presley in 1972 back when Stanley was a taxi driver: “They looked at me like I was crazy when I said, One of these days, people are going to come here to see me and my band… and here we are!”
That William and Eva Eisen could have imagined their little boy, aged 71, flying out over a full-capacity house in 2023 (“New York, I’m coming out there to see ya!”) to sing Love Gun from a mid-arena platform is unlikely, but who wouldn’t be proud to see the joy here - with some grown men in tears - engendered by Black Diamond, Deuce, War Machine or God of Thunder, Simmons gamely spitting blood and waggling that prodigious tongue with an energy and enthusiasm that is frankly frightening.
Before second encore Do You Love Me, Simmons and Stanley stand on a podium 20 foot from CR, and Stanley silently calls for appreciation for his pal: in response, Simmons pretends to cup Stanley’s balls. Textbook.
The encore segment, augmented by showers of ticker-tape, balloons and confetti cannon explosions is glorious, but after the show-closing Rock And Roll All Nite there’s an intriguing coda, with a ridiculously impressive digital film, the promise of “a new era”, and a QR code displayed on the side stage screens.
“The end this road is the beginning of another road,” says Stanley, cryptically.“We're not going anywhere...you'll see us in all different things, all the time. See you in your dreams.”
You wanted the best, you got something right up there with the best, a louder-than-life American Dream delivered with no holding back from day one. Truly, we will never see their like again. Gentlemen, it’s been a pleasure.
Keep an eye out for the full behind-the-scenes story of Kiss' final show in an upcoming issue of Classic Rock.
Kiss: Madison Square Garden setlist December 2 2023
Detroit Rock City
Shout It Out Loud
Heaven's on Fire
I Love It Loud
Lick It Up
Calling Dr. Love
God of Thunder
I Was Made for Lovin' You
Do You Love Me
Rock and Roll All Nite