In January of 2018, I traveled to the Atlanta KISS Expo to witness the long-awaited return of former KISS guitarist Vinnie Vincent. The event was a night to remember on many levels and it was a lot of fun. So when I was preparing for my annual KISS Kruise and I heard that Vinnie Vincent would join the Kruise pre-party in Miami, I purchased my “pink ticket” right away!
I have attended these KISS Kruise pre-parties several times before and always had a great time, so this decision was an easy one. The pre-party was split between two separate places; Vinnie Vincent’s meet & greet was located in the “Official Pre-Party Hotel,” Holiday Inn, close to the harbor where the Kruise was leaving, while the live event with Four by Fate feat. Vinnie would happen at the Hangar club a few blocks away. The ticket price was amicable, $100, which included two items signed by Vinnie and a photo with him in makeup. It also allowed access to the Gathering, to witness Vincent’s live performance on stage for the first time since 1987 (or 1996 if you count playback performances). It was mentioned in advance that Vinnie would perform only two songs, but it was still going to be a historic moment for a KISS fan.
Originally it was announced that the meet and greet would be one day only on Saturday, but because of huge demand, an additional date was added for Friday, and it was practically sold out as well. My ticket was for Saturday. I arrived at the hotel at approx. 12:00 PM. and the lobby was already full of people. There were a lot of familiar faces and old friends from the KISS family; most of them had never met Vinnie before so there was a lot of excitement in the air. To my surprise, there was no merch on sale on the “public side.” The only remarkable thing was the pink “VV” cup, which you got when you bought a drink or beer, for an additional fee of course. I ended up buying three…
The meet and greet was scheduled to start at 10:00 AM, but there was a little delay. However, about two hours later Vinnie was in the house. Everyone had their numbered tickets to get in and my ticket let me in half of the line. The meet & greet was split into two separate sections: first you had to wait in line for photos with Vinnie, the there was a short break before waiting in another line to get your items signed.
The line moved quickly and I soon it was my turn to get my photo. It was kind of surreal to see Vinnie wearing make-up again. His “renewed” makeup looked a little bit strange, but it was still cool to see him like that. Vinnie had also lost lots of weight compared to my previous meeting with him in Atlanta. The photo shoot went really fast, and there was no time to talk about anything. Basically, Vinnie only stretched out his guitar with me for a quick pose, took the photo, and that was it.
After a one-hour break, it was time to get in line again. I got a “fast pass” from the promoter to get in early because I had to leave the hotel as early as possible and get to the Hangar to do my interview with Four by Fate. Inside the signing room was a merch table with VV and KISS photos (super poor quality), a couple of different CD’s (including the Warrior CD), an event poster, and a few other items. I wasn’t too interested in the stuff they had, except for the event poster, but fortunately there was an option to purchase additional signings with cash, and I decided to buy a couple since I had some extra items with me.
Vinnie sat behind the table and was surrounded by security, but this time he took time to chat with the fans. He recognized me from Atlanta, where we had a couple of brief discussions. He seemed to be excited about getting back on stage and asked if I was going to attend his (then) upcoming shows in Graceland. “Probably,” I answered, and he then continued, “Please be in touch with “this guy” (standing next to him), and he will set you up with all the photo passes, etc. you need.” I said “Thank you,” and took the guy’s business card. I also said “It’s great that you’re going to play “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose” tonight, instead of some boring standard songs.” He replied “Yeah, I want to give the fans what they want. They deserve it”. Vinnie then signed my stuff, shook my hand, and the meeting was over. It was time to leave for the Hangar.
The venue doors were opening at 7:00 PM, and before that, there was a private Four by Fate meet and greet, starting at 6:00 PM. Because of that, my interview with the band was really brief. It lasted only 15 minutes, but there was enough time to cover the most interesting things, like “How were the rehearsals with “the Egyptian Warrior?”. Based on the band, especially John Regan’s, reactions, the rehearsals didn’t go well. It became clear that Vinnie had had a lot of problems playing the songs, and eventually they had decided to drop “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose,” and replace it with “Lick It Up.” “What!!” was my first reaction, but I managed to keep my mouth shut. However, there were some dark clouds in the air now regarding Vinnie’s return to the stage.
Four by Fate’s private event started right after my interview. First, the band performed a short but exciting acoustic set, including some rarely heard Frehley’s Comet tracks like “It’s Over Now” and “Time Is Runnin’ Out.” After the set was over the band did a signing and photo session with the fans.
As the program said, the main doors opened at 7:00 PM and lots of people started to come in. The actual Four by Fate show would begin at 9:15 PM, so now was a good time to meet the merch dealers and other special guests of the event. The list of guests was impressive, including the former KISS bodyguard BIG John Harte, Lydia Criss, KISS album cover artist Ken Kelly, author/writer Ken Sharp, and guitarist/producer Bob Kulick. I purchased a couple of cool items, including Sharp’s latest solo CD BEAUTY IN THE BACKSEAT, and a cool skull scarf from “Live Love Rock On.” Thanks, Vick!
Van Halen cover-band “1984” performed at 8:00 PM, but they weren’t too impressive. Cheap wigs and spandex are not enough if the band doesn’t sound good — sorry guys. Four by Fate took the stage next. The band opened up with “Levee Breach,” a song from the band’s debut album RELENTLESS, followed by Comet classic “Something Moved.” The band received a good reception and for a reason. Four by Fate sounded sharp, and Tod Howarth is an excellent front man. His voice is still as sharp as ever, and he can easily reach all the highest notes when needed. The band performed a couple of more tunes before it was time to invite their extraordinary guest on stage.
The noise was massive when Vinnie Vincent finally climbed on stage and took his classic “Flying V” in his hands. He had a huge smile on his face, and people seemed to go just crazy to see him after all these years. Howarth then added more gasoline to the fire when he asked the crowd to welcome Vinnie, and so they did. Super noisy “Vinnie, Vinnie, Vinnie” shouts were continuously heard when Vinnie plugged in his guitar. After brief testing, it seemed that Vinnie’s guitar was entirely out of tune, so he started to fix the problem. For some reason, it took so long that Four by Fate guitarist Pat Gaspertini decided to help Vinnie out, and tuned the guitar for him.
Finally, the long-awaited moment happened. Drummer Rob Affuso opened the game with the famous drum intro of KISS classic “I Love It Loud,” and the rest of the band, featuring Vinnie Vincent followed. The song sounded great, but what was confusing was that Vincent didn’t play any leads on the song. However, Gaspertini handled all lead parts with style, whereas Vincent only played the simple rhythm parts.
As Four by Fate guys mentioned earlier, the band chose not to play “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose” because Vinnie couldn’t handle the song during rehearsals. It was easy to hear and see that many people were a bit disappointed when the band announced “Lick It Up” as the second song. However, most of the crowd went crazy again and sang along with the famous chorus. It was striking that Vincent only played the most simple parts of the song and didn’t play a single note of the leads, again.
Maybe it was the overwhelming response from the crowd which made him stay on stage for one more song. Ironically, it was going to be the old Ace Frehley song “Cold Gin.” Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with the song, and it sounded overall fine, but Vinnie was completely lost through the song. It was obvious that he had no clue how to play it, so he basically just played it by playing a straight “A” note. With no any leads, of course.
The historic part of the show was then over and Vincent left the stage. Of course, the diehards were super excited by what they had just seen, and so was I for a second. I’m sure that Vinnie tried hard, and did the best he could at the moment. He seemed to have a good time on stage, and he even interacted with the crowd and shook hands with some lucky ones in the front row. Still, after I took off the “pink glasses,” I had to admit the truth: Vinnie wasn’t great at all. I really wanted to like this show, but sometimes the reality is harsh. Vinnie’s playing was really stiff and average at its best. At times he was completely lost. Also, I find it a bit strange that only a couple of hours earlier I talked with him about “All Hell’s Breakin Loose,” and he must have to know that it was not going to happen, so why did he tell me that?
I know that it wasn’t easy for Vinnie to get up on stage after all these years, but because he did it, he should have prepared much better. This is only my opinion, but based on what I saw in Miami it’s impossible to think that Vincent is capable of doing anything more than what he did. Hopefully, I’m wrong but that’s how I felt after this performance.
After Vinnie was gone, Four by Fate played a couple of more crowd pleasers. Affuso received a noisy favor when the band played “Piece of Me,” a classic hit from his old band Skid Row. The main set was closed with “Breakout,” which was a perfect way to close the show. The next act was a KISS tribute band, KISS America. The band sounded and looked OK, but I decided to leave the venue after a couple of songs. The KISS Kruise started on the next day, so I wanted to prepare for that.
As a whole, this KISS Kruise pre-party was a great experience, and it was another night to remember. The event was organized very professionally, and everything went ahead as planned. Vinnie Vincent’s meet & greet was a big success, and so was the main event at the Hangar. Everything was practically sold out, and many of us were able to not only to see the great show by Four by Fate but also the historic live performance of Vinnie Vincent, which might remain the last he ever did…
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