By Maria Sherman - The Associated Press
On Saturday night, Kiss closed the final performance of their farewell tour The End of the Road, at New York's famed Madison Square Garden.
But, as their fans surely know, they're never going to retire.
During their performance, the current members of the group – founders Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, as well as guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer – left the stage to show digital avatars of themselves. After the transformation, the virtual Kiss performed God Gave Rock and Roll to You.
Gene Simmons (left), Tommy Thayer and Paul Stanley of the rock band Kiss perform during the final night of the "Kiss Farewell Tour," Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at Madison Square Garden in New York.Associated Press
State-of-the-art technology was used to herald a new chapter for the rock band: after 50 years, the band will now have a kind of digital immortality.
Avatars of Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer will take the reins of the shows.
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They were created by Industrial Light & Magic, George Lucas' special effects company, in collaboration with Pophouse Entertainment Group, co-founded by ABBA member Björn Ulvaeus. The two companies recently teamed up for the ABBA Voyage show in London, where fans were able to attend a full concert by the Swedish band, performed by their digital avatars.
Per Sundin, executive chairman of Pophouse Entertainment, explained that this new technology will allow Kiss to continue its legacy for "all eternity." He stated that the band was not on stage during the virtual performance because "that's the bottom line" with this technology going forward. "Kiss could play a concert in three cities on three continents. That's what you could do with this."
To create their digital avatars, which are depicted as a sort of superhero version of the band, Kiss performed in motion-capture suits.
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Experimentation with this type of technology is becoming more and more common in certain sectors of the music industry. In October, K-pop star Mark Tuan teamed up with Soul Machines to create an autonomous, automated "digital twin" that was called 'Digital Mark'. In doing so, Tuan became the first celebrity to link his image to OpenAI's GPT integration, an artificial intelligence technology that allows fans to engage in one-on-one conversations with Tuan's avatar.
Aespa, the K-pop girl group, frequently performs alongside their digital avatars: the quartet is meant to be seen as an octet with digital twins. Another girl group, Eternity, is made up entirely of virtual characters, with no need for humans.
"What we've achieved has been incredible, but it's not enough. The band deserves to stay alive because it's bigger than us," Kiss frontman Paul Stanley said in an interview. "It's exciting for us to take the next step and see Kiss immortalized."
"We can be eternally young and iconic going to places we've never dreamed of before," added Gene Simmons, who is the bassist for Kiss. "Technology is going to make Paul jump higher than ever."
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And for those who couldn't make it to the Madison Square Garden concert, stay tuned because there's a very possible Kiss avatar concert on the way.