Michael Cavacini

An award-winning arts and culture blog.

My Last KISS

On August 21, I attended what may have been my final KISS concert ever. At this point, I’ve seen the band live more than 20 times, including five dates on its End Of The Road World Tour. If this was my last show, I went out on top because I watched the entire performance from the pit, which is in between the stage and the front row. Being in the pit was not planned ahead of time, but it was a fantastic surprise. Read on for my thoughts on my last KISS.

I arrived at the Hard Rock in Atlantic City, which is exactly where I was the night before to see Journey.

I ran into some KISS friends while waiting for my meet and greet pass to be dropped off at the box office. That’s one of the great things about KISS: it brings people together from all walks of life.

It was terrific having the chance to catch up with people I haven’t seen, in some cases, for two years or more. I also had the opportunity to meet new fans too.

When the doors opened, I roamed around the venue, trying to take everything in, possibly, for the last time.

Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena can hold about 5,000 people, so it feels full, yet it’s small enough to have excellent acoustics. Of course, if you’ve ever been to a KISS show, there’s one thing to expect when it comes to the sound: it’s loud. Thankfully, I came equipped with my ear plugs to ensure I’d enjoy the show at a volume that wouldn’t be detrimental to my hearing.

The meet and greet photos on this leg of the tour have included a plexiglass barrier between KISS and the fans. As you can see, it makes for a strange looking photo. However, I understand the band’s reason for doing it. Since this show, both Paul and Gene contracted COVID, so part of me wonders if KISS is going to do away with meet and greets entirely to be extra safe. Only time will tell. Either way, I’m happy I got my COVID-era KISS photo.

So, you might be wondering how I got into the pit for this show, especially when I had a ticket for a spot up in the cheap seats. Well, a friend of mine, who will remain nameless, asked me to wait in a particular spot before the show. I said, “OK,” not having a clue why. I noticed more people start to appear, and they were all wearing fancy badges. I leaned in and said to a couple, “What are you waiting here for?” They responded, “We’re waiting to be led into the pit.” I thought, OK, I’m sure I’m not going into the pit, but I was told to wait here, so that’s what I’ll do. Well, it was quickly becoming clear that my friend was going to include me in this group. Why? Perhaps, because my friend knew it was, most likely, my last KISS show ever and this individual wanted to make it extra special. Or, perhaps, it’s simply because there was an extra spot and my friend was just being nice. Regardless of the motive, I’m forever grateful to have been chosen for this spectacular surprise.

We were told to hang out on the side of the stage until after the KISS curtain dropped and was moved out of the way. KISS descended from the rafters playing “Detroit Rock City,” flames and fireworks were going off left and right, and we were ushered into the pit. Now, I’ve been in the pit in the past as a photographer, which gives you the chance to photograph the band from that location for the first three songs. It’s very cool. But to be there for the whole show made for a crazy, crazy night.

As with the other dates on this tour, KISS stuck to a predictable setlist of fan favorites. No deep cuts were on the menu, but that’s OK. I’ve been on three KISS Kruises, so I know what to expect at a regular KISS concert. These shows are for the masses, not the hardcore fans.

Every song was a blast. Feeling the flames on my face during “War Machine” was incredible, and seeing a small child on his father’s shoulders pointing up at Gene, who was pointing back at him, was really cool. KISS is like a sports team: generations of fans come out to see them, including grandparents, parents, and children. It makes for an inclusive and diverse atmosphere.

Gene Simmons, of course, did his fire breathing during during the show, eliciting praise from the KISS Army in the process.

Speaking of fire breathing, a friend of mine did a meet and greet with Gene before the show, and he bought Gene’s fire sword from a previous concert on the tour.

After the show, I got to see it and take some photos while holding the sword. It comes in the most heavy duty box I’ve ever seen, and the sword itself has a nice heft to it.

KISS played many of my all-time favorite songs, including “Cold Gin,” which has a kick-ass guitar riff that is simple, yet brilliant.

The band continues to put on a show that is tight as can be. It’s worth noting how awesome Eric Singer is. He’s an exceptionally talented guy who is, frankly, the best drummer they’ve ever had.

Before going into “God of Thunder,” Gene performed his bass solo and spewed blood to the delight of the KISS faithful.

Throughout the show, Paul, Gene, and Tommy worked the stage, trying to give all of the fans in attendance an equal amount of attention.

In total, KISS played 20 songs, which is a solid amount of music that makes for a show that doesn’t overstay its welcome and leaves fans feeling satisfied.

Being in the pit was really interesting. I had to avoid KISS’ photographers, as well as the video camera guys who were broadcasting the show onto the big screen for the audience to see. At the same time, I had to make sure not to block the view of the people in the front row. This sounds like more work than it was, but I’m mentioning it to highlight the unique challenges of being in the pit. As they say, first-world problems.

During the show, the incomparable Keith Leroux offered fans in the pit a cold bottle of water. This couldn’t have come at a more perfect moment, as I had been on my feet all night and hotter than hell. Speaking of combustion, Tommy’s guitar solo, featuring a litany of rockets, was superb.

I took so many photos and videos while in the pit that my phone died right after the final song. Thankfully, I was able to capture everything of note to share with you here.

I think Paul sounded fantastic during this show. I know some people claim that the band uses backing vocals, and, if they do, who cares?! The vocals and music sound phenomenal, and that’s all that matters.

Ever since this lineup of the band came into existence, it’s been abundantly clear that they have fun together. The chemistry on stage makes it feel like you’re watching four friends hanging out, bonding over music together.

If you’re noticing a lot of photos of Paul, that’s because he’s my favorite. Always has been, always will be. Paul is the most talented member of KISS, and he’s a really nice guy too. If you haven’t already done so, make sure to read my interview with Paul from earlier this year.

One of my favorite songs is “Say Yeah.” KISS whipped out this Sonic Boom classic, and it’s perfect for the concert environment because of its sing-a-long structure. Sonic Boom is one of my top two or three favorite KISS albums ever.

Here’s something cool. By being in the pit, I could see them moving Eric Singer, and his piano, into position to rise from the bottom of the stage for “Beth.” Afterward, I also saw them lower the piano back down below and four guys picked it up and moved it out of the way. Pretty cool to see up close.

KISS manager Doc McGhee walked through the pit at one point, and he was kind enough to take a quick selfie with me. Doc always makes time for the fans.

During “Tears Are Falling,” which is one of KISS’ best tracks from the 1980s, Paul pointed right at me, as I snapped his photo. It was a surreal moment between me and The Starchild.

As I’ve said before, happiness is being at a KISS concert with the music blasting and the confetti flying. Having the chance to attend five shows on this tour was the best victory lap possible. It was an awesome way to celebrate nearly 50 years of KISStory.

Even though the band is stepping aside when the tour concludes, the music will live on. Will new members wear the makeup as part of KISS 2.0? Who knows. Either way, I’m grateful to have had as much access to see, interview, and meet these guys over the past 18 years.

My first KISS concert was during the World Domination Tour in 2003 with Aerosmith. It was a short and sweet show. Unlike that tour, this one is all about KISS, and it feels like their biggest one ever. Everything is on a grand scale.

Experiencing “Rock And Roll All Nite” live, one last time, and from the pit, was euphoric. A transcendent moment of pure bliss that I shared with 5,000 people.

When it came time for KISS’ final bow, I tried to take in the moment and savor it.

Afterward, I took a selfie with Keith, but he had to use his phone since mine was dead.

Once I made it outside the arena, I met up with my friends and we took a group photo to commemorate the ocassion.

During the concert, I caught a Paul Stanley balloon, which I quickly deflated to bring home, along with confetti, streamers, a handful of Paul Stanley’s guitar picks, and an autographed photo of KISS.

If this was my last KISS, it was, arguably, the best. Because of the completely unexpected generosity of a friend, I got to watch the entire concert from the pit, an area that has been off limits to fans until this tour. And, to give you an idea of how expensive it normally is to be in the pit, the cost for a ticket that includes this privilege is $4,000. I spent just over $100 for my ticket, which I didn’t wind up using, and I got to meet and get a photo with the band, one last time, which normally costs $1,000. In other words, this good fortune isn’t because I’m special, it’s because the band and those who work for them are. For as much flak as KISS gets for being too focused on earning a buck, they sure do give away a lot of free things to people and go above and beyond to provide fans with more than their money’s worth.

For nearly 20 years, I’ve been able to see my favorite band live, and I’ve made the most of it. More than 20 live performances, three KISS Kruises, numerous interviews with all members of the band, a bachelor party where I got to sing live on stage with Gene Simmons, and so much more.

The first time I met KISS, during a meet and greet at Best Buy in NYC. (July 23, 2003)

KISS is special, a band like no other. And I will smile every time I think of the memories I’ve made as a fan, including this concert: my last KISS.

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4 thoughts on “My Last KISS

  1. Murray Lichter on said:

    Fabulous article and great music. I’ve seen kiss several times but definitely not 20. They put on a great show. I’m glad you got to go and enjoyed it in the pits! Hope you did not catch covid!!

  2. edgerules on said:

    Great blog. The band and those who work for them are very special people, indeed.

  3. Jason Neal on said:

    Great article Michael. I’m still hoping to catch them one last time but don’t know if it’ll happen. I was originally booked on KKX but, due to health concerns, had to cancel before the cut off date & thus far they don’t have any dates very close to me. So it’s nice to get a bit of an in depth take on one of their EOTR shows.

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