ACE FREHLEY – Helsinki 2.12.2009

by VILLE KRANNILA

From what I can remember, this marked the first time Ace Frehley has played in Finland as a solo artist. With Kiss he visited here twice during band’s reunion and “Psycho Circus” tours in the 1990’s. Ace left Kiss again in 2002 and 20 years after his last solo album “Trouble Walkin’” the legendary guitarist has released his new CD “Anomaly.” It’s a great collection of hard rockers by the man who wrote the book and once again it beats the other original Kiss members’ recent solo records to the ground.

According to the man himself, he quit drinking several years ago and thus was finally able to finish the album. And now the first world tour for Ace, and a real test to whether his stamina and playing capabilities would still be intact. His current touring band constitutes of Scott Coogan (Brides Of Destruction) on drums and vocals, Anthony Esposito on bass and Derrek Hawkins on mostly rhythm guitar.

The show was scheduled to begin at 9 PM, we were there few minutes before knowing already by the reports from earlier shows that Ace would probably start half an hour late, which is exactly what happened. The familiar intro of “Fractured Mirror” started playing through the speakers and after couple of minutes, which seemed like a long time, Ace Frehley & the band blasted on stage with Kiss classic “Rocket Ride.” The sound seemed alright from the start, although Ace kept motioning up few times during the show. Immediately after “Rocket Ride” we got another Kiss number “Parasite”. One of surefire live hits since the Kiss Alive days, this tune always gets the crowd going and tonight was no exception.

After this Ace spoke briefly, this usual stuff about being happy to be there and then introducing the next song as “from my first solo album, this song is about cocaine. I don’t do that anymore…but it’s still a good song!” “Snowblind” isn’t among my faves, and tonight this already slow song seemed to be dragging even slower than usual.

Luckily my favourite track off the new CD “Sister” was up next, it’s actually a tune Ace wrote and demoed already in the early 1990’s but great to finally have it both on record and on the live show. One of his best songs, ever in my opinion. Quickly followed by another “Anomaly” highlight, “Outer Space”, I noticed these new songs got good response from people suggesting Ace might be better off recording more new stuff and not let it take another 20 years. After Ace anthem “Rock Soldiers” and a good take on “Speedin’ Back To My Baby” a Kiss rarity in the form of “Love Her All I Can” got its airing. Scott Coogan sang lead vocals, again not my favourite but I’m glad they keep on playing stuff like this.

“This is a song I covered…by the Rolling Stones” – our long time favourite “2000 Man” would be up next, but Ace & the band first teased the crowd by playing a short segment of “Satisfaction”. “Nah, that’s not it..I’m talking about 2000 Man!” Track worked great, it’s a cool live number with a trademark Ace solo and audience was lapping it up.

The Sweet-cover “Fox On The Run”, also from the new album saw the first major hick-up of the evening as Ace completely forgot the solo, he turned his back to the audience and looked help from the drummer who just smiled back at him. Ace played some notes that had nothing to do with the song, the band kept on going and they got through it. Ace’s voice also cracked couple of times on the high parts. At the end he laughed and said “That was okay except I totally forgot the solo, hahaha!”

Ace’s biggest solo hit “New York Groove” on the other hand, was delivered smooth and perfect. We didn’t get “Back in the Helsinki groove” at the end, but I suppose that was a part of the Kiss- thing anyway. Soon it was time for the “song I wrote after I got electrocuted.” “Shock Me” and the long awaited Ace’s guitar solo, it started off with Ace being very dissatisfied with the sound. I didn’t notice anything but guitarist walked back and talked with his technician for a few seconds, then came back and shook his head. Solo continued and had those usual elements from Kiss Alive records plus some added stuff. Not too long, just enough to let the crowd know Ace still had the chops. I wondered whether he’d break out the smoking guitar in a place as small as this but lo and behold it appeared! Plenty of smoke and Ace throwing shapes before solo was concluded with a snippet of “She.” Excellent stuff! “Still smokes,” said Ace afterwards with a small grin on his face.

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The band began to play the familiar melody of “Shout It Out Loud” and there were plenty of fists raised in the air. Ace and Scott handled the lead vocals and the arrangement worked nicely, the ad-libs were dropped mostly from the end. For someone who’s used to hearing them from any number of Kiss live recordings, this might have seemed a bit weird but otherwise it was a spot-on performance.

Everyone left the stage and people kept chanting Ace’s name for what seemed like several minutes. Probably just two or three but somewhat unusually long time still. Encores kicked off with the opening track from Ace’s solo debut, “Rip It Out.” It has a great rocking riff and a solid drive, many claim it’s Ace’s best solo tune and I wouldn’t disregard that although I’d pick “New York Groove” for its melodic intensity. Anyway, “Rip It Out” got warm reception and next song even better one as the band launched into more than familiar Kiss anthem “Love Gun.” Players did it faithfully, Scott Coogan didn’t try to ape Paul Stanley but did a solid work with vocals. However, hearing Ace rip out the lead break was really awesome. I could see the kids at front with Kiss make-up were in total awe. Ace may be sloppy with his playing but there is just something magical about his solos, no doubt about it.

One more song to go and unsurprisingly we got the all time Ace classic “Cold Gin” – this song have been played by Kiss with each and every line-up but it never works like it should except with Ace. Ironically Ace didn’t sing it originally but it now sounds the way it should – “down the corner at the liquor store” – who else could deliver that line with such dark humour and conviction than Ace Frehley? The song concluded with the ending of “Black Diamond” and then they were gone. The whole show lasted roughly 1,5 hours.

In the beginning of the tour, they had opened with “Shout It Out Loud” and ended the regular set with “Deuce.” The latter song got dropped and SIOL moved to replace it as closer. Overall the set-list was a success, the obvious Kiss classics and several cuts from Ace’s solo debut got the best reception but so did the one solitary selection from Ace’s solo years past Kiss, “Rock Soldiers.” The song was a surprising highlight and crowd sang it well.

Ace’s guitar playing like I mentioned before was top quality stuff and he’s one of the few guitarists out there who’s style is completely unique and unmistakable. His singing was as good as ever, some bum notes mostly on the high parts but this is usual, nothing to complain here. It’s good Ace didn’t attempt to sing “Detroit Rock City” and left most of parts originally sung by Paul Stanley to Scott Coogan who did them well. The other members of the band brought Mötley Crue’s Nikki Sixx to mind in both looks and gestures, ironically Coogan actually once played in the same band with Sixx. All did good work supporting the main star.

To sum it up, it was great to see Space Ace back in action and in good shape. Don’t hesitate to go should he come to a town nearby!

Setlist:

• Intro: Fractured Mirror
• Rocket Ride
• Parasite
• Snowblind
• Sister
• Outer Space
• Speedin’ Back To My Baby
• Rock Soldiers
• Love Her All I Can
• 2000 Man (Inc.Satisfaction)
• Fox On The Run
• New York Groove
• Foxy And Free
• Shock Me
• Ace Solo (Inc.She)
• Shout It Out Loud
encore:
• Rip It Out
• Love Gun
• Cold Gin (inc.Black Diamond)

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About Ville Krannila