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Kiss performs its final concert. But has the band truly reached the 'End of the Road'?

In the 50 years since Kiss first kicked and thrashed its way onto the New York rock scene, the band has given the world sing-and-shout-along hits like "Detroit Rock City," "Crazy Crazy Nights" and "Beth," and live performances replete with blood-spattering, fire-breathing, pyrotechnics and gobs of cartoonish stage makeup.

"Their schtick lifted them up to the absolute top," music writer Joel Selvin, the author of numerous books about rock musicians including Linda Ronstadt, the Grateful Dead and Sly and the Family Stone, told NPR.

On Saturday, the memorable stagecraft that made Kiss one of the biggest selling hard rock bands in the world will come to an end, as its members perform what they are touting as their final show of their aptly titled, four-year-long "End of the Road World Tour" — at Madison Square Garden in New York. The concert will be available to watch live on Pay-Per-View.

"It has nothing to do with personalities in the band or tensions or a difference of opinion or musicality. It's purely practical," said Kiss co-founder, rhythm guitarist and vocalist Paul Stanley in an interview with the music publication Ultimate Classic Rock of the band's reasons for bringing five decades of Kiss to an end. "You can play beat the clock, but ultimately the clock wins."

The city has apparently gone Kiss-crazy in the days leading up to the occasion, with the appearance of Kiss-themed taxis, Metro cards and pizza boxes. On Wednesday, the New York Rangers hosted KISS Game Night, featuring Kiss-related activities and "limited-edition KISS x Rangers merchandise." Band members also made an appearance at an Empire State Building lighting ceremony on Thursday. Staged in honor of Kiss' swan song, Empire State emitted the colored lights associated with the band — silver, red, purple, green and blue.

Despite all the hooplah, this may not in fact be Kiss' goodbye kiss. The band undertook a previous "farewell tour" more than 20 years ago. After a brief hiatus, it started touring again on and off in 2003. Live shows and album releases flowed on from there.

In interviews, band members have spoken about continuing on after Saturday's Madison Square Garden performance in one way or another. Both Stanley and co-frontman Gene Simmons have their own bands and say they aim at the very least to continue making appearances in those formats.

"Nobody ever really says goodbye," said rock critic Selvin, citing comebacks over the years by the likes of Cher, Steve Miller and the Grateful Dead. "It's a show business strategy. You take a bow. But there's always an encore."

Selvin said artists often reappear after retiring because they can make a lot of money owing to fans' pent-up demand. For example, the pop-punk band Blink-182 is earning four times as much on its current reunion tour than it did when it last re-united in 2009, according to Far Out magazine. (The band issued a statement in 2005 saying it was going on "indefinite hiatus," only to reunite four years later.)

"Personal life interferes, you want to disappear into the woodwork for a while and then demand builds and you go back to it," Selvin said. "Steve Miller took his band apart in '99. He was just tired. And he was out for six years. And then in 2005, he put his band back together and suddenly his price was up, and there was more interest in seeing him."

Meanwhile, some musical acts simply never retire. The Rolling Stones, for instance, are embarking on yet another North America tour in 2024. The band just announced additional dates.

Selvin doesn't think we've heard the last of Kiss.

"The rule of the farewell tour is that you have to say goodbye to every hall, and sometimes you have to say goodbye twice," Selvin said. "I do not expect this to be the last time that Kiss performs, any more than 'Fare Thee Well' was the last time The Grateful Dead performed."

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Chloe Veltman
Chloe Veltman is a correspondent on NPR's Culture Desk.