Detroit Rock City: A City’s Love Affair With KISS

Scott Legato

The city of Detroit and KISS have a long and deep relationship, in part because of the band’s minor radio hit but fan favorite “Detroit Rock City.” 

It’s enjoyed an exalted place in Motor City musical lore since being released as a single from the 1976 album Destroyer. While it was intended as the album’s third single, the disc’s B-side, “Beth,” was the song that took off.
No matter. The city embraced it, despite the fact the incident that inspired the song didn’t actually take place in Detroit. A film of the same name, which features a KISS concert in Detroit, was released in 1999; the Detroit Tigers often play the song as the team takes the field and the Red Wings hockey team also play it before each game’s first face-off. 
Thanks to “Detroit Rock City” and the succession of sold-out concerts by KISS in Detroit, the Palace of Auburn Hills hung a KISS banner from its rafters until its closure and the tradition was carried over to Little Caesars Arena. The city’s enthusiasm for KISS has “practically made this a second hometown” for the band, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Detroit may be home to Motown and a thriving EDM scene, but is also home to its share of rockers including Bob Seger, Iggy Pop, the Stooges, Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, MC5 and more. Its core of rock ‘n’ roll fans is loyal, and the love’s clearly been extended to KISS, despite the band’s New York City origins.
Scott Legato is a Detroit-area concert photographer and rock fan who’s not only shot many KISS concerts but at one time was asked to be their official Detroit photographer, and explains Rock City’s affinity for KISS.
“I grew up with rock n’ roll because my parents were hippies. We had a lot of great rock here, like Bob Seger, MC5, bands like that, and it’s always been a great rock town,” Legato tells Pollstar.  “When KISS did ‘Detroit Rock City,’ it was already a rock town. 
“But we’re known as a rock town with a great rock crowd,” Legato continues. “The rock ‘n’ roll bands come here and whether they’re older or newer bands, we know they are going to pack the venue. The relationship with KISS and Detroit was always a big deal; we’ve always followed the band. But ‘Detroit Rock City’ obviously helped the relationship.”
KISS performed in Detroit for ostensibly the final time March 13, 2019. Of course, it was a sellout with 14,751 tickets sold for a gross of just north of $1.57 million, according to Pollstar Boxoffice reports.