When Kiss finally completed the final concert of their final tour on Saturday night – four years after it began, and more than two decades since their first “farewell” tour – they used their encore to debut their afterlife, courtesy of digital avatars.
As Kiss walked off the stage at Madison Square Garden, each of the four band members were replaced by a suite of flying, fire-breathing avatars of their younger personas, towering on screens above the crowd to perform a rendition of God Gave Rock’n’Roll to You II.
The avatars were designed by George Lucas’s special effects company Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and financed by Swedish conglomerate Pophouse Entertainment. The two companies previously collaborated on Abba Voyage – a popular, lucrative virtual show in a custom-built London stadium that reportedly makes over $2m a week.
“This is the sneak peek as the band [Kiss] crosses over from the physical world to the digital,” Grady Cofer, visual effects supervisor at ILM, told Fast Company. The effect – which “appeared three dimensional and much larger than life” – combines LED projections, lasers, heavy metal smoke and pyrotechnics, and the avatars can be tweaked in real time to simulate audience interaction. “We want to give fans a sense of the many forms this band could take in the future.”
No details have been announced yet for Kiss’s plan with their avatars. “We’re going to figure it out after the tour,” Pophouse CEO Per Sundin said. “Is it a Kiss concert in the future? Is it a rock opera? Is it a musical? A story, an adventure?
“These four individuals already have superpowers. We want to be as open as possible.”
Kiss’s current lineup – including founders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, both in their 70s, as well as later members Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer – appeared in a promotional video posted hours after their last show, featuring behind-the-scenes footage of the motion-capture technology used in the avatars.
“People say, ‘Well what are you going to do when you stop?’” Stanley said in the video. “Well, the band will never stop because we don’t own the band. The fans own the band, the world owns the band.
“We can be forever young and forever iconic by taking us to places we’ve never dreamt of before,” said Simmons. “The technology is going to make Paul [Stanley] jump higher than he’s ever done before.”
“And it won’t hurt!” Stanley added.
The band have long toyed with their future post-retirement. Several of their gigs have appeared as virtual reality experiences through former music startup MelodyVR. Last year Simmons mused that their music could live on through a new cast of band members.
“I have no problems with four deserving 20-year-olds sticking the makeup back on and hiding their identity,” he said in a 2022 interview.