History of rock ’n’ roll music is a rough one, and there surely are many weird stories. And for a lot of them, we can’t really say whether they are true or not. However, there is this one particular thing that allegedly happened to KISS in Belgrade, Serbia, then FR Yugoslavia. It is not confirmed, but many rock music fans from the city are sure that it happened.
Before we go deeper into this, bear in mind that this story is an urban myth, and there are only a few news articles that loosely mention the event. Also, one person involved in this story is considered to be a highly controversial subject.
The 90s were tough times for the region. The Yugoslav wars left the former republics in desolation and despair, and even though Serbia and Belgrade were not directly affected by wars, the catastrophic economic crisis and the dictatorship government also left their mark. Most of the people lived in extreme poverty, but some managed to get rich and influential by criminal activities. One of them was a man named Željko Ražnjatović, known by the nickname of “Arkan.” He was a guy who started as a simple purse snatcher in his youth. Throughout the years he became a leader of a more serious criminal organization, and ultimately a commander of a paramilitary group in Yugoslav wars, comprised mostly of football hooligans and various volunteers. Needless to say, his criminal activities not only continued, but they prospered as well during the Yugoslav wars. He was wanted by both Interpol and International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. In the year 2000 Arkan was killed while sitting in a lobby of an elite hotel. For more info on this man and theories on why he was assassinated, you can go to the Wikipedia page here.
So it was 1997, and KISS was on the “Once Wasn’t Enough” European leg of “Alive/Worldwide Tour.” On June 4 that year, the band had a show in Hall 1 of the Belgrade Fair. It was a concert more or less like any other the band has put out, although more people were expected to buy tickets, and a hall which could hold 20,000 saw a significantly smaller audience. This was most likely due to the fact that the people were still recovering from the crisis and a war, and just didn’t have enough money, or weren’t really in the mood for some rock and roll. KISS was also the first foreign band to visit Belgrade since 1991. According to the urban legend, the aforementioned mafia boss and paramilitary leader, Arkan, was (somehow) in charge of the security on the concert. After the show, Arkan found the way to blackmail the band into giving him 5,000 Deutsche Marks. Being an influential man with an army of crazy men under his belt, he managed to shut down the lights on the Belgrade airport, making it impossible for the band’s jet (or pretty much any other) to take off. Arkan and his men politely asked KISS and their management to give them the money, which in the end they did.
Except for the usual myths and rumors, there is one thing that could prove that this story is true. Eleven years and one more war later, Serbia was in a significantly better state than it was in the 90s, but it wasn’t exactly the best place in the world. So in 2008 KISS scheduled a show in Belgrade again, but they ended up canceling it due to the “political instability” in the country. It was due to the parliamentary elections which were planned for May 11, four days before the expected concert. However, there were numerous other bands and artists that performed in the city in 2008, including Queen + Paul Rodgers, and they were not afraid of any political situation at the time. Theories are that the band was worried that a similar scenario from 1997 would happen and that any kind of a potential instability would make them cancel the show, as it did in the end.
This story was mentioned as true by only some news articles (like this one), but it still to this day remains just an urban legend.