KISS Ends Historic Career on a High Note at Madison Square Garden with Martin MAC Ultra

Legendary rock and roll band KISS recently ended their iconic live performance career with a historic final concert at Madison Square Garden, complete with their signature stunning live production featuring state-of-the-art Martin MAC Ultra Performance and Wash lighting fixtures by HARMAN Professional Solutions.

Formed in New York City in 1973, KISS is one of the most recognizable bands in the world, having sold more than 75 million albums worldwide and accumulating more gold records than any other US-based band in history. In addition to their impressive, recorded discography boasting 14 platinum albums, KISS is notorious for their larger-than-life live shows with incredibly immersive production.

In 2019, KISS embarked on the multi-year End of the Road World Tour but was derailed in early 2020 by the global COVID-19 pandemic. After testing the waters with a New Year’s Eve 2020 show in Dubai that set world records for pyrotechnics, a US tour in 2021, and a series of KISS Cruise performances in 2022, the End of the Road World Tour officially resumed in 2023 with hundreds of dates all over the world, culminating in KISS’s last concert ever at Madison Square Garden on December 2, 2023.

In order to bring their over-the-top final shows to life, KISS once again turned to longtime production manager Robert Long and lighting designer and programmer Michael Cooper to create an immersive spectacle of pyrotechnics and dazzling stage lighting. To ensure maximum visual impact on KISS’s final tour, Cooper built an impressive lighting rig, utilizing a large number of Martin lighting fixtures provided by Christie Lites, with the new MAC Ultra Series playing a crucial role.

“We started the END OF THE ROAD tour in 2019,” said Cooper. “The core of the show with the video pods over stage and a lot of the video content stuff is similar as when the tour first started in 2019. But since they were released in the interim, we added Martin MAC Ultra Performance and Ultra Wash fixtures, which are Martin’s new flagship models for good reason. These things are incredibly bright. It’s absolutely the best light they’ve ever made, and it’s literally my favorite light that I’ve ever used. The amount of light coming out is unreal. There’s so much light on stage. It’s out of control.”

Pushing an incredible 46,500 lumens, the Martin MAC Ultra Performance is an extremely bright moving light fixture with benchmark output across the zoom range. Michael Cooper’s design utilized Martin MAC Ultra Performance fixtures as follow spots on a custom automatic FollowMe system provided by Matt Mills.

“Using Ultra Performance as the follow spots worked out really well,” said Cooper. “Looking at the rig overhead, the follow spots were over one hundred feet from the stage—pretty far into the audience. Even with the standard lens they had, I was getting 120-130 foot candles on stage. The guys popped, they looked great. Matt Mill’s Follow Me system really dialed in our spotlight show.”

MAC Ultra Series was designed to not only deliver best-in-class output and quality in its first hour of use, but throughout its product life. The minimum LED lifetime exceeds 50,000 hours and the engine delivers over 90 percent of its initial output after 20,000 hours of full output. In real-world applications, this meant rock-solid performance and stability over the course of the entire End of the Road World Tour and beyond. 

“A KISS show is really hard on equipment,” said Cooper. “We used to do a maintenance schedule on spot fixtures and swap out filters to keep the kind of pyro dust out of everything. We did not have to do that on this tour with the Ultras. I don’t think we’ve even swapped a single one of these fixtures out for a spare. They’ve been total workhorses. They were that reliable. And even better, they all match, when you look up at the rig. Back in the day, the lamps would have slightly different color temperatures, the brightness would be different. When you look up at the Martin Ultra rig, it looked like every fixture was brand new straight from the factory. Even after we’d done 25 shows in just a couple of months. Everything looks exactly the same, they still match.”

In addition to the Martin MAC Ultra Performance and Wash fixtures, Cooper’s design also included Martin MAC Viper Performance, MAC Viper Wash and MAC Aura XB fixtures, taking advantage of the fact that the animation wheel effects would match perfectly with the MAC Ultra Performances. Cooper also acknowledged the sheer scope of KISS tours can be challenging, but working with Christie Lites as the tour’s vendor ensured a smooth and enjoyable experience for everyone.

“The Viper Washes look great,” said Cooper. “I used to beg borrow or steal to get Vipers in the rig. They’re getting a little older but they’ve been really good over the years. I also chose the Viper Performance because I could use the same animation wheel effects from the Ultra, which is fantastic. That’s one of my favorite things about it. There’s a part on the wash light where you can map out the different parts of the LED engine, which came in handy for a few particular cues in the KISS show. Christie Lites provided the fixtures and their crew did a fantastic job, along with our lighting crew chief Hippie. Together, we ended the band’s career on a really high note.”