20 Years Ago: Kiss’ 3-D ‘Psycho Circus’ World Tour Opens
Halloween should easily be Kiss’ favorite time of year, but the band had a fraught history with the celebration night since Oct. 31, 1979, when a live TV interview made clear the band had serious internal issues.
Fast forward to Halloween 1998 and a completely different Kiss were about to retake ownership of the date. Well, actually, the same Kiss – but with lineup changes, disputes and their unmasked era behind them. Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, who had reunited two years earlier, were ready to open their Psycho Circus World Tour, in support of their album of the same name, at the Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
With the often-stated aim of putting on the kind of show the members themselves would like to see, Kiss had previously announced that the tour would be the first to feature 3-D visuals presented on the stage screens, including pre-prepared imagery and live camera feeds.
“We want to bring the fun back to rock ’n’ roll,” Simmons had said during a press conference. “There will be lots of special effects. ... It's gonna be a kick-ass rock ’n’ roll show,” Stanley had agreed. They also noted they were going to “feed 10 million people” through their tie-in with the Feed the Children charity. “Reach into your pockets,” Stanley said. “We have real tight pants on, but we reached into ours!”
The Smashing Pumpkins were the opening act and dressed as the Beatles for the Halloween-night show. After that, a circus troupe provided high-wire thrills and spills to reinforce the album theme. Finally, the curtains opened on the main event as fans put on their cardboard 3-D glasses and Kiss started with “Psycho Circus” and “Shout It Out Loud.” Both tracks were broadcast live on Fox as part of a special titled Kiss Live: The Ultimate Halloween Party, while the full show was streamed at Pepsi's website.
Watch Kiss Perform at Tour Opener in 1998
One review noted that the 3-D effects “came off surprisingly well” while “images like Ace Frehley pushing the neck of his guitar into the audience gave concert goers … the impression that the tuning pegs were about to make contact.” With both Frehley and Criss taking lead duties (Frehley twice, Criss once), the night ended with “a lengthy massive fireworks display originating from the parking lot outside.”
So far, so good. But while the vast majority of the 32,000 fans in the stadium went home happy, and many more fans had been impressed by what they’d seen on TV and online, the tour itself was less successful. Fans began noticing that most of the set list had been performed during the previous tour, with no classic tracks being added to the show. The circus performers, who'd been promised for the whole tour, were dropped after first-night rumors that they had demanded equal billing and even wanted to use the band’s dressing rooms.
With some venues not selling out, a planned second run of North American dates for 1999 was canceled. Internal tensions began to rise once more, and Kiss began the slide toward what would be their 2000 farewell tour – which, Stanley later said, was less a farewell to Kiss than a farewell to Frehley and Criss and the backstage issues they raised during the shows.