- By Mark Savage
- BBC Music Correspondent
When rock band Kiss played their final farewell concert in New York this weekend, they ended with a gesture that will ensure their digital immortality.
As they left the stage at Madison Square Garden, the band were replaced by flying avatars who launched into the hit song God Gave Rock ‘n’ Roll to You.
The technology, originally developed for the Abba Voyage show, will allow them to stay on the road in retirement.
Gene Simmons said the band could now be “forever young and forever iconic”.
Singer Paul Stanley added: “What we’ve accomplished has been amazing, but it’s not enough. The band deserves to live on because the band is bigger than we are.
“It’s exciting for us to go the next step and see Kiss immortalised.”
The avatars were designed by George Lucas’s visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and financed by Swedish conglomerate Pophouse Entertainment, which is co-owned by Abba’s Björn Ulvaeus.
The companies previously collaborated on the Abba Voyage show, which recreates a 1970s-era Abba concert in a custom-built London arena. That show makes an estimated £2m per week.
However, Kiss’s avatars seem unlikely to be as grounded in reality as Abba’s digital replicas. The characters that appeared in New York were 8ft tall, breathing fire and shooting electricity from their fingers, while floating above the audience.
“These four individuals already have superpowers. We want to be as open as possible,” said Pophouse CEO Per Sundin.
The digital characters were created from data captured while the band performed in motion capture suits earlier this year.
However, Kiss have yet to unveil their plans for the avatars.
“We’re going to figure it out after the tour,” said Sundin. “Is it a Kiss concert in the future? Is it a rock opera? Is it a musical? A story, an adventure?”
Known for their eye-catching make-up and larger-than-life performances, Kiss became one of the biggest arena rock acts of the 1970s and 80s.
Their hits include Rock And Roll All Nite, Black Diamond, I Was Made For Lovin’ You and Crazy Crazy Nights.
They staged their first farewell tour in 2001, but have regularly returned to the road – with the current line-up including founders Stanley and Simmons alongside guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer.
It is not thought former members like Peter Criss and Ace Frehley will be part of the avatar shows.
Last summer, Simmons, 74, mused that Kiss might continue beyond their final concert in ways that “even I haven’t thought of”.
That included the suggestion of recruiting an entirely new band to dress up and play Kiss’s greatest hits.
“I have no problems with four deserving 20-year-olds sticking the make-up back on and hiding their identity,” he said.