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Vegas Kisstory: Over five decades, the band has made its mark here through gigs and beyond

Image
Kiss, in full regalia.
Photo: Brian Lowe / Courtesy
Annie Zaleski

As Kiss winds its way to Las Vegas on its End of the Road Farewell Tour—which the flamboyant hard rockers assure is actually, finally, their last trek—it’s a good time to look back on the group’s intertwined history with Sin City. Not only has Kiss performed in Vegas dozens of times (including twice on its first farewell tour in 2000), but the group’s footprint also includes Kiss by Monster Mini-Golf and Kiss-themed wedding packages, among other things.

In the flashy, fire-breathing spirit of the band’s best work, here’s a brief (but not exhaustive) history of Kiss in Las Vegas.

May 29, 1975, Sahara Space Center: Kiss’ Las Vegas debut, as part of the Dressed to Kill Tour, was an auspicious one: two 90-minute shows in one night—an 8 p.m. concert and a 2 a.m. night owl special—at the 4,200-capacity venue, with Rush opening both gigs. Billboard actually reviewed the concert and, besides calling Kiss a “challenger to the likes of Alice Cooper and the New York Dolls,” noted that “the four authors of Armageddon dazzled, delighted and devastated hardcore rock fanatics alongside novices in a tightly packaged electronic honor show.”

April 1, 1983, Aladdin Theater for the Performing Arts: When Kiss finally returned to Vegas on the 10th Anniversary Tour, the lineup looked much different. Guitarist Vinnie Vincent had replaced original member Ace Frehley, and drummer Eric Carr was doing the beatkeeping instead of Peter Criss. Despite an opening set from Mötley Crüe, demand for the gig was so-so: According to the mammoth book Kiss On Tour: 1973-2017, the venue sold only about 65 percent of its tickets.

January 28, 1984, Thomas & Mack Center: Kiss looked even more unfamiliar when it returned less than a year later: The Lick It Up Tour was the band’s first trek sans makeup. This gig is also notable for being among the first to take place at the now-established arena.

February 7, 1985, Aladdin Theatre The band’s third Vegas show in less than two years took place on the Animalize Tour; featured opener Queensrÿche; and was Kiss’ first trek with new guitarist Bruce Kulick.

February 7, 1986, Thomas & Mack Center: A notable Asylum Tour gig due to the fact that the Gene Simmons-produced Black ’N Blue opened the gig instead of W.A.S.P., since, according to Kiss on Tour, the latter had been banned from performing in Vegas.

April 2, 1988, Thomas & Mack Center The band wrapped up the U.S. leg of the Crazy Nights Tour in Vegas, with openers Anthrax.

June 24, 1995, Sahara: In 1995, Kiss embarked on the novel Convention Tour. More precisely, the band went to different cities and put on a 12-hour festival in hotels for hardcore fans that included a band Q&A and acoustic performance, autograph sessions and memorabilia from the vaults. In Vegas, Kiss tribute band Alive! also performed.

November 2, 1996, MGM Grand Garden Arena: This sold out Alive/Worldwide Tour reunion trek date marked the first live appearance of Kiss’ original lineup in Vegas in more than 20 years.

August 23 & October 29, 1999, MGM Grand Garden Arena The former appearance involved Kiss lip-syncing “God of Thunder” for a WCW broadcast; the latter was a short gig for an ill-fated streaming startup.

March 17 & August 2, 2000, Mandalay Bay The band’s first Farewell Tour played Vegas twice.

March 16, 2003, Rain at the Palms: Fresh off a tour of Japan, Kiss did a rare pyro- and effects-free show at the intimate, 1,600-cap space—reportedly due to squeamishness after the 2003 Rhode Island nightclub fire. “You’ve got to respect every club’s right to keep a close eye on that, because we’re talking about restricted space,” Simmons told the Las Vegas Sun at the time.

“Nobody would say to a Fourth of July event that you can’t have fireworks, because fireworks and the Fourth of July are synonymous. Likewise, fire and Kiss are synonymous. But you don’t want to do a Fourth of July fireworks show [inside] at Rain, and likewise it’s not a good idea to have a monster truck rally inside of Rain. It’s all about space limitations and sane logic.”

October 24 & 25, 2003, MGM Grand Garden Arena Talk about a smart booking: Kiss and Aerosmith joined forces for the Rocksimus Maximus/World Domination Tour—and then booked back-to-back nights in Vegas.

May 25, 2006, Mandalay Bay Events Center Kiss performed a four-song set at VH1’s Rock Honors TV special, alongside fellow hard rock luminaries Queen, Def Leppard, Judas Priest and Godsmack.

August 29, 2008, The Pearl Vegas has been back in Kiss’ tour itinerary consistently over the last decade or so—which includes this date on the Kiss Alive/35 Tour.

November 28, 2009, The Pearl Unsurprisingly, given the small venue, this was a sold-out show with opener Buckcherry.

August 11, 2012, Mandalay Bay Events Center A throwback gig in the sense that early ’80s tour openers Mötley Crüe were on the bill, in addition to Testament.

December 5, 2013, Orleans Arena Fundraising event for Boys & Girls Clubs with Alice Cooper, Vince Neil, Rob Zombie and a bevy of hair metal icons.

November 5-23, 2014, the Joint: Long before Vegas residencies were de rigueur for hard rockers, Kiss held a nine-date engagement at the Hard Rock Hotel with a new, venue-exclusive stage design and configuration. The band later culled footage from the residency for the 2016 live album/DVD/concert film/pay-per-view event Kiss Rocks Vegas.

January 8, 2015, The Joint The band returned to the scene of its residency for a private corporate gig.

KISS February 15, 7 p.m., $39-$1,000. T-Mobile Arena, 702-692-1600.

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