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35 Years Ago: ‘The Return of Kiss’ Tour Hits a Snag

In February of 1978, Kiss ended a grueling five-year touring cycle that helped them become one of the biggest bands in the world. Yet, when the foursome returned to the road a year and a half later for a jaunt dubbed ‘The Return of Kiss,’ they found their position in the rock hierarchy was anything but secure.

The tour was to follow one of Kiss more audacious stunts, the release of four solo albums after the conclusion of their ’78 dates in support of ‘Alive II.’ They’d then issued a disco-fied hit ‘I Was Made for Lovin’ You’ in advance of the May street date for ‘Dynasty,’ with concert dates set for the entire second half of 1979.

These concerts would be the biggest and boldest yet from a production standpoint, even while reflecting those solo efforts through the individual band members’ costumes. Each contained colors from their respective solo albums — so Paul Stanley’s costume was purple, Gene Simmons’ was red, Ace Frehley’s was blue and Peter Criss’ was green.

The ‘Dynasty’ tour also saw the introduction of several new effects in the Kiss live concert arsenal. It was during this tour that fans first got to experience Simmons flying in midair. Frehley’s guitar, meanwhile, was tricked out with a new rocket-shooting stunt as well.

But something had changed since the last time Kiss toured the United States. Audiences had begun shifting away from the band’s classic and bombastic presentation. By this time, both punk and disco had gained solid footholds in the country. All of a sudden, the Kiss circus seemed somewhat out of step. Markets that had once been surefire sellouts were canceling gigs or downgrading to smaller venues.

Watch Kiss Perform ‘Calling Dr. Love’ in 1979

“It wasn’t a good omen when our first show was cancelled,” Paul Stanley dryly notes in his book ‘Face the Music.’ “The bottom got pulled right out from under us.” Audiences were beginning to dwindle, and so the scale and scope of the tour was lost on many.

It was the only Kiss tour to feature tunes from all four original members’ solo albums. But the band also included their sturdiest tunes to date, closing out most nights by playing ‘Shout It Out Loud,’ ‘Black Diamond,’ ‘Detroit Rock City,’ ‘Beth’ and ‘Rock and Roll All Nite.’

In Los Angeles, an additional night at the Forum was scaled down to the 10,000 seat Anaheim Convention Center in Orange County. A rambunctious fanbase that had once painted its faces in anticipation of the spectacle to come seemed in large part to have been replaced with families. It seemed that Kiss’ outsized marketing — not to mention their new dance-influenced hit — brought in new fans, even while costing them some of the diehards.

By the end of the ‘Dynasty’ concert series, change was in the air. The market had turned, as had people’s musical tastes. And Kiss, for the longest time, seemed lost. They would eventually resort to taking off the makeup, but not before trying a weird concept album.

In a larger sense, nothing was ever quite the same again. The final show of this tour, held December 16 at the Toledo Sports Arena in Toledo, Ohio, would be the last gig featuring all four original members until their 1996 reunion.

Next: A Complete Guide to Kiss' Lineup Changes

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