KISS: The live performances of a lifetime.

American hard rock band KISS are known worldwide for their facial make-up and incredible tour sets. Highly popular in the 1970s and 1980s, the band has benefited from their fans’ nostalgia and made a strong comeback, starting from the mid-1990s. The band became 1980s cultural icons thanks to their unique design and visual style, as well as their amazing live performances.

The rise to success.

Created in New York, 1973, the original KISS lineup was composed of singer/guitarist Paul Stanley, bassist Gene Simmons, drummer Peter Criss, and guitarist Ace Frehley. All of the members would do vocals on stage and in studio, creating a unique musical identity. Quickly in their starting year, the band adopted comic book character style identities and wore make-up and costumes, ending in the visual identity we all know today. The four characters were The Starchild (with a star on the eye), the Spaceman (with silver sunglasses), the Demon (with fire around the eyes) and the Catman (with cat whiskers), all recognizable by their unique facial make-up.

The band was, at first, not a top-seller. From 1971 to 1975, heir albums did poorly in the charts and good in the sales, but almost never reaching popular adoration. Their main strength in their early years was their live performances. The band’s tours would feature pyrotechnics, fire breathing, blood-spitting, smoking guitars, shooting rockets and even levitating drum kits. This made their concerts a whole unique experience, in which their music would resonate even more. KISS were some of the pioneers of elaborate live performances, and those who witnessed it with their own eyes surely remember it. After 1975, the band focused on transmitting the success they had during their concerts to their studio albums. This project finally managed to create massive popular hits in late 1975 with Alive!, their first live-album featuring their first Top 40 single with “Rock & Roll All Nite”. From 1975 to 1978, the band released their best-selling albums to date: Destroyer, Rock & Roll Over, Love Gun and their second live album Alive II. Considered by some to be the most popular rock band in the U.S.A, KISS also sold a lot of merchandise in those years and appeared in comic books, turning the band from a rock band to a cultural phenomenon.

Conflicts, reunification and legacy.

In 1978, the band released 4 solo albums for each members of the group, which cemented the band members’ personal identities and style. This was a massive commercial success, spawning the classic song New York Groove.  After the band’s attempt to be the stars of their own movie turned into a very disappointing experience, the band released another massive hit with their Dynasty album in 1979, which featured their legendary classic “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”. After these successes, the band started to fall apart due to internal conflicts, resulting in Criss and Frehley departing from the band by 1982. After these losses, the band refilled their ranks but didn’t quite manage to find the inspiration of their golden age. Losing their facial make-up and costumes in 1983, the band tried to show a different KISS, resulting in a loss of commercial success.

In 1996, nostalgia from the fans had the original members reunite with their original make-up and costumes, resulting in the very successful Alive/Worldwide Tour. After that, Criss and Frehley left the group for good, and were replaced by Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer. The group keeps performing today with their original outfits, for the pleasures of thousands of fans.

KISS is one of the best-selling bands in the history of rock music. Featured in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the American band released numerous hits that we still listen to today. The two aspects that KISS revolutionized were concert touring and merchandising, by using bigger and better stage sets and selling their identity through branded goods that the fans could purchase. Thanks greatly to them, we now have the live performances and band merch that we have today.

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