On Saturday, the members of the rock band Kiss concluded the final show of their farewell tour with a big reveal: After leaving the stage, each band member was replaced with a digital avatar, who proceeded to perform the song “God Gave Rock ’n’ Roll to You.” As the Guardian’s Michael Sun writes, “They used their encore to debut their afterlife.”
Four years since the start of the farewell tour and over 20 years since their original farewell tour, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer walked off the stage at Madison Square Garden to make room for four versions of their younger selves: Demon, the Starchild, Catman and Spaceman. This “holographic rapture,” as Burt Helm of Fast Company calls it, makes Kiss the first American band to recreate itself digitally.
The virtual performers, however, were not meant to be exact copies. Towering unnaturally large over the audience, the avatars appeared to have superpowers, like wings and crackling pink fingertips—a true “superhero version of the band,” reports Maria Sherman for the Associated Press (AP).
“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,” says Stanley in a video. “It’s exciting for us to go the next step and see Kiss immortalized.”
The avatars, created using motion capture technology, are the work of a collaboration between Industrial Light & Magic (George Lucas’ special-effects company) and Swedish conglomerate Pophouse Entertainment. This wasn’t the two companies’ first rodeo: They previously partnered to create the virtual “ABBA Voyage” show in London, which was performed by the band’s digital avatars and made over $2 million a week.
“Kiss could have a concert in three cities in the same night across three different continents,” Per Sundin, CEO of Pophouse Entertainment, tells the AP. “That’s what you could do with this.”
Though the band is the first in the United States to commit to digital avatars, Kiss “has long pushed the boundaries of technology and spectacle” with stunts such as fire-breathing, floating drum kits and blood-spitting even in their early years, as Fast Company points out.
Now, however, “we can be forever young and forever iconic by taking us to places we’ve never dreamed of before,” says Simmons in the band’s video. “The technology is going to make Paul [Stanley] jump higher than he’s ever done before.”
After Saturday’s surprise, the details of the band’s future remain unclear. While Sundin muses on the possibility of rock operas and musicals, one fact remains certain: Kiss isn’t going anywhere. “If you think you’re going to get rid of us, I’m afraid that’s not going to happen,” Simmons confirms.
In the video, Stanley says he’s sometimes asked when the band will stop. His response? “The band will never stop because we don’t own the band. The fans own the band, the world owns the band.”