It boggles the mind:

Without KISS would there have been a Marilyn Manson?

A Motley Crue?

A market for rock ?n? roll action figures?

A Gene Simmons reality show?

Thirty-five years after four starving dudes in New York painted their faces and reinvented stadium rock, KISS is back.

Despite wrinkles and love handles and time and gravity, the magic of makeup and wardrobe will make it hard to tell they?ve logged more than three decades when they take the stage at Konocti Harbor this Sunday. Or that two of the four original members are missing in action.

Simmons, who turned 59 on Monday, still spews blood on this tour through his sinister Kabuki character creation, The Demon. Paul Stanley?s Starchild still rides around on a zip-wire above the masses for the rocking serenade ?Love Gun,? although one review noted he ?was only inches away from actually becoming part of the audience, when he missed the platform and almost fell into the crowd.?

At every show a massive wall of fire cannons threatens to singe every eyebrow in the first 10 rows. Judging by reviews since the Kiss Alive 35 World Tour kicked off in March in Australia, the KISS army has been packing in giant stadiums around the world. What it proves, 75 million records later, is the power of the circus in rock ?n? roll. Let?s be honest, KISS was never really much for invention when it came down to the actual music. Fairly generic rock riffs and hooks laid the base for lyrics that defy parody by parodying themselves first, from ?Lick it Up? to ?God Gave Rock and Roll to You.?

The band?s true legacy: Monsters of rock (if not musically) proved to be masters of marketing. Anything you could dream up, they could sell ? action figures, trading cards, comic books, platform boots and masks ? no band lived for Halloween more than KISS.

Now, they?re banking on the mythology of nostalgia: Powder-white faces imprinted on the brain of any child growing up in the ?70s and ?80s. Ten-inch heels dripping with fake blood. Fire-breathing pyrotechnics shooting from a guitar neck.

The worldwide Kiss Army has always been a loyal following and they?re donning the makeup and packing stadiums once again, many with their kids in tow.

More than a quarter-century later, the anthem ?I wanna rock and roll all night and party every day? recalls blurrier, happier times, as Paul Stanley told a U.K. crowd of 50,000 at the Download Festival in June:

?Things change all over the years, politicians come, politicians go, but no matter how many things are going bad ? take a little time to rock ?n roll and have a party.?

Then he proceeded to destroy a perfectly good guitar.

Check out John Beck?s culture blog at pop.pressdemocrat.com.