March 19, 2008
The Commodore Ballroom
Vancouver, BC Canada
***Live Review By Lord of The Wasteland. Pics By "Lance Romance."
As a die-hard KISS fan for 25 years, the closest I was ever going to get to see the band on a small club stage was through the old bootleg clips taken from their early seventies’ shows. While this was hardly as amazing as the Winterland Ballroom show from 1975 or the 1973 Coventry footage unearthed on the sprawling KISSOLOGY DVD series, getting up close and personal with original KISS guitarist Ace Frehley and his band of misfits was certainly second best.
Seemingly from out of nowhere, Frehley announced an all-encompassing tour of the U.S. and Canada to dust off some vintage KISS gems as well as the long-in-the-vault material from his eighties solo band, Frehley’s Comet. Since this was Frehley’s first real solo outing since 1995, there was no way I was going to miss this opportunity, so along with “Lance Romance,” an equally devoted KISS fan, we descended on The Commodore Ballroom to witness The Spaceman’s ninety-minute set.
Given his penchant for erratic behaviour brought on by various addictions, seeing Frehley clean and sober was refreshing. Now sporting a beard, Frehley and his band—rhythm guitarist Derreck Hawkins (ex-Stabbing Westward), bassist Anthony Esposito (ex-Lynch Mob) and drummer Scot Coogan (ex-Brides of Destruction)—provided the expected hits but also dug deep for some rarely played material. “Strange Ways” (featuring Esposito on vocals) and “Parasite” were stellar and “Hard Times”—devoid of the over-production and keyboards of the original from 1979’s DYNASTY—was much heavier live. “Breakout” from the first Frehley’s Comet album and co-written by former KISS drummer, Eric Carr, was dedicated to Carr and featured Coogan on vocals. Lead vocals were split about evenly through the set between Frehley, Coogan and Esposito and Frehley would often drift away from the microphone, sacrificing his vocal parts for nailing the respective guitar parts. Many of Frehley’s trademarks were utilized including the light-up guitar for “New York Groove” (here awkwardly dubbed “Vancouver Groove”), the smoking guitar during his solo and the choreographed KISS “sway” during the conclusion of “Deuce.” A medley featuring among others, UNMASKED’s “Torpedo Girl,” was a real treat that kept even some of the die-hard fans looking at each other for confirmation that, indeed, that was “Five Card Stud” we were all hearing. It all became clear, though, as everyone returned to familiar territory when Coogan yelled “Ace Frehley…lead guitar…Shock Me!!!” and Ace’s signature song ripped out of the speakers. “Rocket Ride,” “Cold Gin,” “Rock Soldiers,” “2,000 Man”…they were all here and Frehley really gave it his best to cover every facet of his thirty-five year career.
Rip It Out
Snowblind / I Want You
Into The Void
Shot Full of Rock
Medley: Torpedo Girl / Speedin’ Back To My Baby / Five Card Stud / Trouble Walkin’
Stranger In A Strange Land
New York Groove
Love Her All I Can
Cold Gin / Black Diamond
For anyone able to catch this tour, consider yourself lucky because chances are this will not happen again. Even during the eighties, Frehley’s touring schedule was minimal and certainly never covered this much material. Frehley has a new album tentatively named PAIN IN THE NECK coming out in late summer, so this was a chance for him to get his name out there again and treat fans to songs that were all but forgotten during his near-ten year return to the KISS fold. It would have been nice to have heard something from SECOND SIGHTING and throwing in “Love Her All I Can” but not including “Dark Light” was a bit odd but these are minor gripes. No one left disappointed and many were heard saying this was the best show they had ever seen. My own bias is obvious as I certainly lean towards the latter.
With KISS now as an afterthought, Ace Frehley is moving on and after being away for far too long, to quote “Rock Soldiers,” Ace is back and he told you so!
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