October 03, 2009
The Legendary KISS Is Back On The Road And Starring At Walmarts Everywhere


KISS is back with a new record, a concert tour and a promotional blitz coming to a Walmart near you.

Yes, the guys are older now, but they're still wearing spandex, painting their faces and putting on quite a show.

"The thing about KISS is, there's a real timeless appeal to it," lead guitarist Tommy Thayer said in a recent phone interview, before donning his "Spaceman" garb and playing a concert in Montreal. "The same thing that caught people's hearts and passions in the early 1970s is the same thing I see happening with kids today. Obviously, you have to bring kids into the fold for bands like KISS to keep reinventing themselves."

The four-man rock band will unveil its first new music in 11 years as part of a three-disc set titled Sonic Boom that drops at Walmarts nationwide Tuesday. The $12 set, which includes a CD of new songs, a CD of classic hits and a DVD of live performances this year in Argentina, won't be the only value-priced memorabilia on display. Each Walmart will sport a KISS Korner in its electronics department, with KISS T-shirts, fleece blankets, M&Ms and even Mr. Potato Head figures.

A fall tour of North America is just under way, with a stop Dec. 6 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

KISS has changed personnel more than a few times over 36-plus years, with two original members, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, staying in the fold. The guys have performed with and without makeup. They've gone through a disco phase and a melancholic-medieval phase, and they’ve pursued solo careers.

But they keep coming back to a formula that has appealed to multiple generations of fans. It's partly about the music -- KISS has never enjoyed much critical appeal or benefited from radio play, yet the band's Web site says it has sold more than 100 million albums worldwide -- but its calling card is the live performance. And that means lots of blood-spitting, fire-breathing, pelvis-thrusting, laser-shooting and fireworks-blasting action, plus, most importantly, audience involvement.

Which brings us back to Walmart. The nation's largest retailer, which also has inked exclusive deals with AC/DC, the Eagles and Miley Cyrus, is relying on transcendent acts such as KISS to boost sagging CD sales, at a time when young consumers prefer to buy digital songs online -- one track at a time -- and then share them.

"They're just an iconic symbol of rock 'n' roll music," said Melissa O'Brien, a Walmart spokeswoman. "They have a following. Everyone knows the KISS logo."

Over the years, KISS has learned that its fans want the characters to keep the mystical makeup. After all, who wants their heroes to show their age? (The oldest band member, bassist Gene Simmons, celebrated his 60th birthday in August.)

In addition to the goodies for sale in electronics, Walmart will offer KISS makeup and wigs in the seasonal aisles. "This Halloween is kind of an adult Halloween, because it's occurring on a Saturday night," O'Brien said.

Halloween, huh? I must admit I've trick-or-treated as a KISS character -- twice. Maybe it's time to go again