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Kiss give final farewell concert in New York but legendary rockers live on as digital avatars

Gene Simmons, left, Tommy Thayer and Paul Stanley of KISS perform during the final night of the "Kiss Farewell Tour" on Dec. 2, 2023, at Madison Square Garden, NY
Gene Simmons, left, Tommy Thayer and Paul Stanley of KISS perform during the final night of the "Kiss Farewell Tour" on Dec. 2, 2023, at Madison Square Garden, NY Copyright Evan Agostini/2023 Invision
Copyright Evan Agostini/2023 Invision
By Tokunbo SalakoAP
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The legendary rocker's long kiss goodbye was finally sealed on Saturday night with an electrifying concert at Madison Square Garden in New York, so close to where it all began.

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It's never over until it's over it seems these days and new cutting-edge technology means, for legendary rockers Kiss, that time may never come.

The US band reunited for a final farewell at the weekend giving two "End of the Road" concerts at New York's famous Madison Square Garden.

Their journey began 50 years ago, when four young New Yorkers dragged their guitars, amps and drums to a loft on 23rd Street, dreaming of becoming the biggest band in the world.

While questions will forever remain over whether they achieved that ambition, there's no doubting Kiss easily became one of the world's most recognisable groups thanks to a  fantastic fusion of glamourously eccentric visuals and ear-piercing audio.

From left, Tommy Thayer, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and Eric Singer at premiere of A&E Network's "Biography: KISStory", June 11. 2021
From left, Tommy Thayer, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and Eric Singer at premiere of A&E Network's "Biography: KISStory", June 11. 2021Charles Sykes/2021 Invision

Each member adopted a specific stage identity: Simmons the demon; Stanley the starchild; guitarist Ace Frehley the spaceman, and drummer Peter Criss the catman. The band honed their act with tiny club gigs, and by New Year's Eve, landed a support slot on the bill with Blue Öyster Cult. Simmons accidentally set his hair ablaze that night while breathing fire. (It would happen many times over the years, to the point where they stationed a roadie with a sopping wet towel nearby.) 

Who wants to live forever?

Modern-day health and safety rules, and perhaps the original members' advanced years, may have put paid to previous histrionics but show appears set to carry on in the digital sphere/metaverse/virtual world - take your pick.

During their encore, the band left the stage to reveal digital avatars of themselves. After the transformation, the virtual Kiss launched into a performance of “God Gave Rock and Roll to You.”

Gene Simmons, the most famous tongue in glam-rock history, performs at 'Kiss Final Farewell' at Madison Square Garden, 2 December 2023.
Gene Simmons, the most famous tongue in glam-rock history, performs at 'Kiss Final Farewell' at Madison Square Garden, 2 December 2023.Evan Agostini/2023 Invision
Kiss lead singer Paul Stanley performs during the 'Final Farewell' concert at Madison Square Garden in New York, 2 December 2023
Kiss lead singer Paul Stanley performs during the 'Final Farewell' concert at Madison Square Garden in New York, 2 December 2023Evan Agostini/2023 Invision

The avatars were created by George Lucas’ special-effects company, Industrial Light & Magic, in partnership with Pophouse Entertainment Group, the latter of which was co-founded by ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus. The two companies recently teamed up for the “ABBA Voyage” show in London, in which fans could attend a full concert by the Swedish band — as performed by their digital avatars.

Experimentation with this kind of technology has become increasingly common in certain sections of the music industry. In October K-pop star Mark Tuan partnered with Soul Machines to create an autonomously automated “digital twin” called “Digital Mark.” In doing so, Tuan became the first celebrity to attach their likeness to OpenAI’s GPT integration, artificial intelligence technology that allows fans to engage in one-on-one conversations with Tuan’s avatar.

“What we’ve accomplished has been amazing, but it’s not enough. The band deserves to live on because the band is bigger than we are,” Kiss frontman Paul Stanley said in a roundtable interview. “It’s exciting for us to go the next step and see Kiss immortalized.”

“We can be forever young and forever iconic by taking us to places we’ve never dreamed of before,” Kiss bassist Gene Simmons added. “The technology is going to make Paul jump higher than he’s ever done before.”

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