KISS hits the road, betting on spectacle and classic hits

Fri Jul 23, 2010 2:36pm EDT
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By Phil Wahba

NEW YORK (Reuters) - As the concert business struggles with top-name cancellations this summer, KISS hits the road in North America, betting that its spectacle of classic rock, pyrotechnics and fire-breathing will lure cash-strapped concert-goers looking for dependable entertainment.

The group is set to embark on its 32-date "Hottest Show on Earth" tour of the United States and Canada that starts on Friday in Cheyenne, Wyoming and ends in Fontana, California in September to promote its "Sonic Boom" album.

The fact that KISS still plays 15,000-seat venues 37 years into its career comes from providing fans with what they want and touring with regularity, even when the band's popularity ebbed and flowed, its lead singer said.

"It's about the marathon," KISS co-founder Paul Stanley told Reuters. "It's more about who lasts the longest -- if you're depressed or lose your drive because of one tour or one show, then you're in the wrong business."

Stanley says fans are now "more discerning" and artists have to give them high-quality, high production entertainment if they hope to fill arenas and amphitheaters during this economic downturn. "They want bang for their buck," he said.

KISS has been riding a wave of renewed popularity since it put its trademark make-up back on in 1996, in contrast to the early 1980s when album and ticket sales plummeted and the band was regarded as hard rock has-beens.

Several artists have been finding this summer a tough slog. Earlier this month, concert industry publication Pollstar said that ticket sales from the top 100 tours in North America had slipped 17 percent in the first half of 2010, compared to a year ago.

Organizers of the all-female Lilith tour scrapped about a third of the shows, while Christina Aguilera shelved her tour altogether.   Continued...

<p>Gene Simmons (L) the bassist of KISS performs during the Hellfest music Festival in Clisson, western France, June 20, 2010. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe</p>