KISS fans flock to Madison Square Garden for band’s ‘final concert ever’

For the “Kiss Army,” Saturday night was a historic moment as the band played its “final concert ever,” wrapping up the “End of the Road World Tour” at Madison Square Garden in New York.

“KISS was born in New York City. On 23rd Street. Half a century ago. It will be a privilege and honor to finish touring at Madison Square Garden, 10 blocks and 50 years from where we first started,” the band said in a news release.

Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer and Paul Stanley of Kiss perform during “Kiss: End of the Road World Tour” at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 1 in New York City. Kevin Mazur / Getty Images Fans from across the country — and around the world — queued outside the midtown venue in Kiss merchandise and face paint.

Louis Otero, a Queens native, saw Kiss’ first performance at Madison Square Garden in 1977. Saturday night’s performance was the 152nd Kiss show he has attended, he said.

“This is really the end. No more touring. It’s heartbreaking,” he said.

Gary and Venus Milliken outside Madison Square Garden on Saturday. They have collectively attended 45 Kiss concerts. Joe Kottke / NBC News Gary and Venus Milliken traveled from Surry, Maine, for the show. Collectively, the married couple have attended 45 Kiss concerts, they said.

“All the pyrotechnics, the lights, just everything that they do onstage is mesmerizing, and it makes you want to see more and more,” Gary Milliken said.

The couple said they wanted to be a part of what they believe is Kiss’ last tour. “We want to make Kiss-tory, being here tonight for the very last show,” Gary Milliken said.

Though the band has had many “farewell” tours, giving false impressions that the members are retiring, fans are convinced that this time they mean it.

Mike Mooney, a fan of the band since 1975, drove from Nova Scotia because, he said, he believes Saturday’s show is “the last one.”

“Gene says he doesn’t want to be playing a concert sitting in a chair. He wants to go out on top, and that’s what they’re doing,” Mooney said.

Tributes to the bass guitarist and vocalist Gene Simmons were innumerable outside the venue — including Mooney’s full costume, replete with a wig, makeup and an outfit.

Mike Mooney, dressed as Gene Simmons, takes photos with Kiss fans outside Madison Square Garden before the final concert of the band’s “End of the Road World Tour.” Joe Kottke / NBC News Joey Spiotta sported a signed Simmons tattoo on his forearms. Spiotta went to his first Kiss concert as a 7-year-old and has attended every tour except one — which he missed because of a case of pneumonia.

“To be here for the last show in New York is priceless,” he said.

On Thursday, the band commemorated its grand return to New York by visiting the Empire State Building, officially proclaiming the day as “KISS Day.” The building was lit with the band’s colors, and exclusive merchandise and memorabilia were available throughout Manhattan.

Many Kiss fans have followed the band since its emergence, and they are passing on their love to a younger generation.

Ralph and Chloe Strom, a father and daughter, traveled from Springfield, Massachusetts, to experience the concert together. Chloe Strom said that most of her friends don’t know the band but that she likes how it expresses itself.

The Wexlers, a couple from Brooklyn, brought their children, Ezra and Gabriel, to experience Kiss because they are both musicians and “grew up on rock ’n’ roll.”

Some fans said they believe the band will continue to perform in “some capacity” after the final tour date. Regardless, the turnout for Kiss’ potentially final show was a sign that rock ’n’ roll is still alive.

Joe Kottke

Joe Kottke is a researcher at the NBC News Network Desk.

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