Working as a New York City taxi driver in the early 1970s, Paul Stanley vividly remembers one cab ride transporting a couple to see Elvis Presley perform at Madison Square Garden (MSG). “They thought I was crazy because I said ‘One of these days people are gonna come here and see me and my band,’” said Stanley on stage at The Garden Saturday (December 2). “And here we are.”
Stanley’s early premonition was already realized decades earlier when KISS played their first concert at MSG on February 18, 1977. Following their breakthrough album Alive in 1974 and a row of successful releases in the mid to late ’70s through Love Gun and their second live album Alive II, by ’77 the Starchild, the Demon, the Spaceman, and the Catman finally made it to The Garden.
That year, KISS also performed in Japan for the first time, just four years after releasing their eponymous debut, then returned to MSG later in 1977 for a three-night run in December. They went back in 1979, 1985, 1990, 1996, and again in 1998 after the release of Psycho Circus, which featured the original lineup again with guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss, but the band’s successive tours didn’t bring them back to the venue until 2023 when KISS decided to leave one last mark on their career, and their hometown.
Ending 50 years of touring, it’s been a while since KISS’ first show at the Popcorn Pub in Sunnyside, Queens, New York on January 30, 1973. Ending on a more mammoth scale, the band—founding members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley and longtime guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer—performed one last time with their final two concerts in the city on their End of the Road farewell tour at MSG on December 1 and 2.
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For the final show, fans of multiple generations wrapped around the entirety of MSG, from 7th to 8th Avenues, to see KISS live one last time. The air was electric around MSG, and bittersweet since everyone knew it was “goodbye” to a massive era of New York City and rock history.
“It’s one of the most iconic bands in one of the most iconic cities at one of the most iconic venues,” said longtime KISS fan Troy Fleckenstein, who traveled to New York City from Michigan for KISS’ final show with his wife Galla. “We love New York and visit regularly, and it just made sense for us to be here tonight.”
His face painted like the Demon, Jesus wasn’t shy to pose with passersby, placing his hand on their throat in true Simmons fashion. Originally from Mexico, the longtime fan said “KISS is everything for us, for all of my life, history—everything. I grew up with all this.”
At 8 p.m., the live pay-per-view broadcast of the concert started after a half-hour performance by the Los Angeles-based Amber Wild, who served as the only opening act of the night. Formed in January 2023 by Stanley’s son Evan, who also fronts the four-piece, the band kicked off the evening with a sleaze-rock set of six songs pulled from their debut Breakout // Silver.