KISS says goodbye to 2020 with many, many explosions (and killer music)

KISS’ gets close to the real deal with live streamed concert. But can we KISS virtual shows goodbye in 2021?

Iconic rock band KISS lit 2020 ablaze with record-setting pyrotechnics during their first-ever concert in Dubai.

KISS 2020 Goodbye” acted as symbolic catharsis for everyone sick of 2020’s shit. (Yes, I’m cursing in articles now. New Year, New Me.) But more than that, it was the first high-profile return to concerts in their pre-pandemic form: the stage set was the same one KISS had been using during their most recent tour. Everything was the same. Except what wasn’t.

The show lasted just under two hours, with the band plowing through hits including “Detroit Rock City,” “Beth,” “I Was Made for Loving You,” and of course they closed out the night with “Rock and Roll All Nite.”

Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons’ voices were in top form Stanley hosted the show like an affable Manhattan public high school coach, reminding the worldwide audience that we are “all in this together.” The trite trope that has become synonymous with celebrities encouraging us to do our part in overcoming the pandemic somehow felt truly sincere coming from the Queens-raised rocker.

Performed at Atlantis, The Palm, in Dubai, KISS used more than 50 cameras for their New Years Eve livestream. The setlist varied minimally from their End of the Road world tour that has been moved to later this year. (What a relief it is to not say “next year” anymore.) The focus, instead, was on the extreme theatrics KISS has become known for, only this time they did it bigger than ever.

During the concert, the band achieved the Guiness World Record for highest flame projection in a music concert and for most flame projections launched simultaneously in a music concert. A third record is pending for highest grossing PPV rock concert.

The stage faced the resort towers, with socially distanced tables in the beautifully landscaped field in front of the stage. More audience members watched from their hotel rooms. This was only obvious because KISS made a point to gesture and yell to them, pulling them in on the excitement.

As fun as this concert was to watch, I could not shake the eerie feeling that something was off…not about the band or the music which was on point. The experience of watching a fully-produced concert from home rather than live and in person is naturally unsettling. Live music is meant to be just that — live.

There’s an unsettling difference between watching a tape of a fully-attended live concert that happened already versus a ‘concert’ designed for the screen. When you remove 90% of the audience and put a band on a stage, that lack of energy creates a void that’s hard to overcome.

That is not a problem unique to KISS, and I blame no artist for the challenge. Every artist has been struggling with how to connect with fans through screens. KISS succeeded in creating an immersive experience with pyrotechnics, Melanie Martinez did it by creating what I can only describe as what one would expect the world to look like inside a gothic cupcake with sprinkles. Other artists have eschewed the “concert” pretense altogether, choosing instead to stream to fans directly from their living rooms over facebook.

I hope as we enter 2021, we can KISS goodbye to the horribleness of last year (again, LOVE saying that), and the notion that any kind of live streamed concert is a suitable stand-in for one of the most important experiences in life: live music.

Matt Bailey
Matt Bailey

Matt Bailey is podcast producer and writer located in the Northeast. Since 2013, Bailey has produced more than 160 episodes of his own online radio show, Talk For Two. In 2016 alone, he interviewed Kevin Bacon, Crystal Gayle, Bob Barker, and Gilbert Gottfried, among several other stars. As a Correspondent for The Music Universe, his focus is Broadway, country music and concert reviews.