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KISS say farewell to live touring, become first U.S. band to go virtual and become digital avatars

Gene Simmons, left, Tommy Thayer and Paul Stanley of KISS perform during the final night of the "Kiss Farewell Tour" on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP) Gene Simmons, left, Tommy Thayer and Paul Stanley of KISS perform during the final night of the "Kiss Farewell Tour" on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
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On Saturday night, KISS will close out the final performance of their "The End of the Road" farewell tour at New York City's famed Madison Square Garden. But will it really be the end?

During their encore, the band's current lineup -- founders Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons as well as guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer -- will leave the stage to reveal digital avatars of themselves. After the transformation, the virtual KISS will launch into a performance of "God Gave Rock and Roll to You."

The cutting-edge technology will be used to tease a new chapter of the rock band: after 50 years of KISS, the band is now interested in a kind of digital immortality.

The avatars were created by George Lucas' special-effects company, Industrial Light & Magic and in partnership with Pophouse Entertainment Group, the latter of which was co-founded by ABBA's Björn Ulvaeus. The two companies recently teamed up for the "ABBA Voyage" show in London, in which fans could attend a full concert by the Swedish band -- as performed by their digital avatars.

Per Sundin, CEO of Pophouse Entertainment, says this new technology allows KISS to continue their legacy for "eternity," even after their final live performance. He says the band won't be on stage during the virtual performance because "that's the key thing," of the future-seeking technology. "KISS could have a concert in three cities in the same night across three different continents. That's what you could do with this."

In order to create their digital avatars, who are depicted as a kind of superhero version of the band, KISS performed in motion capture suits.

Experimentation with this kind of technology has become increasingly common in certain sections of the music industry. In October K-pop star Mark Tuan partnered with Soul Machines to create an autonomously automated "digital twin" called "Digital Mark." In doing so, Tuan became the first celebrity to attach their likeness to OpenAI's GPT integration, artificial intelligence technology that allows fans to engage in one-on-one conversations with Tuan's avatar.

Aespa, the K-pop girl group, frequently perform alongside their digital avatars -- the quartet is meant to be viewed as an octet with digital twins. Another girl group, Eternity, is made up entirely of virtual characters -- no humans necessary.

"What we've accomplished has been amazing, but it's not enough. The band deserves to live on because the band is bigger than we are," KISS frontman Paul Stanley said in roundtable interview. "It's exciting for us to go the next step and see KISS immortalized."

"We can be forever young and forever iconic by taking us to places we've never dreamed of before," KISS bassist Gene Simmons added. "The technology is going to make Paul jump higher than he's ever done before."

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