Legendary rock band Kiss have embarked on a voyage into the wonderful world of virtual reality, launching new artificial avatars during the encore of their latest show. The launch of the digital doubles marks a new era of immortality that will see the band preserved for many years to come.
We're increasingly seeing beloved musicians reimagined in virtual form, gifting new generations the chance to experience the music that, until now, they'd never had the chance to witness. For better or worse, Kiss is here to 'Rock and Roll All Nite' for all eternity, catapulting their sounds into the future. (If you'd like to explore the world of VR from the comfort of your own home, take a look at our collection of the best VR headsets).
The announcement came as a surprise to fans who attended the final farewell concert at Madison Square Gardens in NYC. As the band exited the stage in a flurry of smoke and pyrotechnics, the stage was enveloped in a sea of black and fans waited in anticipation for an encore, but it wasn't quite what they'd expected.
As the gentle introduction of 'God Gave Rock 'N' Roll To You' emanated from the stage, from out of the fog emerged the silhouettes of four reborn characters. Towering renditions of Demon, the Starchild, Catman, and Spaceman appeared before the crowd in what I can only imagine must have been a spiritual experience for any Kiss superfan. But how could this be possible? According to digitised Starchild, it was the "love" and "power" of the Kiss army that immortalised their souls into virtual avatars.
Of course, the birth of the avatars was also the work of Industrial Light & Magic – a San Francisco-based visual effects company founded by George Lucas. The rebirthed avatars are suitably fantastical in design, featuring a winged Gene Simmons and a rebirthed Paul Stanley with lightning hands – the very essence of glam rock. The setting and character design is quintessentially Kiss, with elaborate costumes, flame-filled special effects and colourful neon accents that bring the stage to life, embracing the fantastical elements of Kiss' iconic image.
While I admire the creativity of Kiss' new era, I'm still slightly on the fence about virtual rockstars (it still feels a little dystopian to me). Created in partnership with Swedish company Pophouse Entertainment, which already owns the successful ABBA Voyage experience, it seems that beloved 70s bands are getting digitally immortalised left right and centre – a fact that's equally disconcerting as it is alluring.
Whether you view it as a cash grab, or simply a parting gift to a passionate fanbase, the new era of digital bands is an increasing trend. I admit that I find it hard to dissociate the concept from anything other than an immersive cinema experience, but with the popularity of ABBA Voyage, it's clear that there are fanbases that transcend generations, hungry to relive the golden days of music.