On a chilled late September night, Metal Eddie and I went to see a performance by one of the greatest guitarists in all of rock and roll---Ace Frehley. Anyone who reads The Rock And Roll Guru knows that KISS is my all time favorite band. So when the opportunity to see Ace Frehley at a small club on a Friday night arose, there was no way I would miss out. The original guitarist for KISS performing on a small stage? I had to see this show!
Metal Eddie and I arrived with enough time to get inside and see all three opening bands. Sometimes that’s a good thing, other times, not so much. On that evening, it was a mixed reward. Three bands took the stage before Ace would come out. Brand of Julez, Rahway, and Knucklebone were the openers, each band different in their own way.
Brand of Julez was just not for me. They weren’t terrible, but it was apparent that they were unpolished and still have a lot of work to do in order to develop a stage presence. Their music was decent, but the lyrics and vocals lacked, and their interaction with the crowd needs some work. Opportunities like the one they had that evening will certainly help the band hone their craft.
Rahway was up next and I fell in love with the band from their opening note. Metal Eddie dismissed them as a Buckcherry wannabe band, but I had to completely disagree. Rahway is a fantastic and fun band that clearly enjoys what they are doing. Singer Nick Hade is an exceptional front man. He has a terrific voice and he worked the crowd well. The humor was left to the large presence behind the drum kit, Steve Cardenas, who had the crowd laughing in between the amazing songs. Rahway is a band that I am definitely going to keep my eyes on, as they have huge potential. Their music is a cross between 80s hair metal and modern hard rock. Those influences blend together to make an exceptional party band that I would listen to over and over again.
Knucklebone was the final band of the evening before the main event. I had witnessed a Knucklebone performance once before and it was clear that the years of hard work and experience have paid off for this band. Knucklebone has matured from a decent early opening act to a club headliner in their own right. In the five years since I last saw them on stage, the band has developed a presence and a talent that has catapulted them into something big. In the brief time they had, they were able to rock a packed house and really warm the crowd up. I can only imagine that their headlining shows must be amazing, and I may have to take myself to one in the near future.
After all of the opening bands had performed, Metal Eddie and I split up. Not on purpose. The crowd pushing toward the front of the stage got larger and larger and tighter and tighter, and finally my claustrophobia kicked in and I had to move to the back of the general admission area. Metal Eddie stood his ground, as I knew he would, and we waited for Ace to take the stage from different vantage points.
As I waited in the back, my disease of attracting drunks at concerts flared up. Enter too drunk and dumb girl. Both were obviously intoxicated, but at least dumb girl could stand on her own two feet and be somewhat reasonable. Too drunk could do neither. While waiting for Ace to grace the stage, I felt a cold arm wrap around my shoulders like a close friend would do. I looked to my left and saw too drunk with dumb girl. Both were jumping up and down like excited little children. Too drunk was swaying back and forth and ready to fall over. He screamed at me over and over, “We’re gonna see ACE!!!” I politely nodded, slipped out from his grip and quickly moved to my right. At first it was a few steps, but as he and dumb girl continued to jump around and touch other people in the crowd, I moved to the far right. I did not want any part of an altercation mere moments before Ace Frehley performed.
Ace certainly took his sweet time coming to the stage and this did not go unnoticed by many in the crowd. Metal Eddie texted me his displeasure, and a few guys nearby were vocally complaining as well. Apparently, Ace is notorious for coming out late. The fans next to me had seen him a couple of times and said it was always the same. As impatient as I was, I just knew it would be worth the wait.
Finally, minutes before 11pm, the lights went out and the sounds of “Fractured Mirror” hit the house. The band walked onstage, the crowd roared their approval, and “Toys” kicked off the night. It was an interesting choice for an opener and not one that I expected. “Toys” is a solid song from Ace’s latest album, but I was surprised it was the opening song of the night.
As “Toys” was performed too drunk started more controversy to my left. He bounced into everyone around him, much to their annoyance, jumping up and down like an overexcited puppy. I had a feeling that it was only a matter of time before someone was going to knock him out.
“Gimme A Feeling” was the next song and it was nice to see Ace open with two songs from the new record. “Gimme A Feeling” is one of my favorites from Space Invader so I was really pleased to see it performed live. And as the song was played, too drunk got into it with one of the guys. He wrapped his arms around the wrong guy, and the guy pushed him off. Too drunk went all gangsta throwing his hands forward and saying “what’s up?” pretending he was ghetto cool. What an idiot! Then he took his shirt off like it would scare people. Seconds later, security was on him and too drunk was escorted out of the building. I guess he wasn’t seeing Ace after all. Dumb girl didn’t even miss a beat. She didn’t follow him out of the building, she just moved forward into the crowd to enjoy the rest of the show. Too drunk might want to reconsider his romantic interests in the future.
And from there, the night rocked on. “Rocket Ride” was the third song of the evening and the crowd reaction said it all. Classic Ace Frehley is very much beloved. The timeless beauty was followed by “Parasite” and “Love Gun,” which had the crowd roaring. Ace performing classic Kiss songs was simply amazing to see. Drummer Scot Coogan took vocal duty for “Love Gun” and when I closed my eyes, I swore it was Paul Stanley’s voice that I heard.
Richie Scarlet was back on the road with Ace and he took over vocal duties when it came time for the much beloved Frehley’s Comet hit, “Breakout.” It was amazing to hear that song in concert, and it was wonderful to see Richie Scarlet on stage with Ace. The two had great chemistry and looked like they were having a lot of fun together.
The setlist was flat out amazing, as “Breakout” led to “Snowblind,” “Rock Soldiers,” “Strange Ways,” and “New York Groove.” Ace was gracious and even included a song from Trouble Walking, “2 Young 2 Die.” I’ve always felt that Trouble Walking is one of the most underrated Frehley albums. It may also be my favorite one. So to hear any song performed live from that record was an absolute delight.
“Shock Me” and “Rip It Out” closed out the main set in style. Seeing Ace perform in that club setting was better than the last few times I had seen KISS. And as much as I respect Tommy Thayer, he is no Ace Frehley. Seeing Ace live made that clearly evident. The man still has the talent and the ability to continue to be one of rock’s best guitarists.
The encore was the real treat of the night for me. A blistering version of “Detroit Rock City” was performed first and that was followed by what could be the best version of “Deuce” I have ever seen. Frehley and company added a sweet musical jam into the middle of the song. The extra solos and musical work brought “Deuce” to a new level of greatness and my appreciation for the song increased after that performance. “Deuce” had become stale due to seeing KISS perform it the same way time and time again. Ace brought a fresh approach to the song that was much appreciated. It was also an exceptional way to end a fantastic night.
Ace Frehley was amazing in concert! I would absolutely slap my hard earned money down to see him perform again and I can only hope that the opportunity will arrive sooner rather than later. Ace is an amazing live act and his performance at the Starland Ballroom could be one of the best live shows I’ve seen in years.
Gimme A Feeling
New York Groove
2 Young 2 Die
Rip It Out
Detroit Rock City