I’m a late bloomer in the world of KISS. To be honest, I just didn’t get it when I was a kid. Mostly I’m amazed at the strong impressions the band has made on so many of my friends. And now I’m slowly coming to realize that they CAN actually play! Some of the great recent video from Gene‘s shows and the DVDs that I have borrowed show their true talent. So I was excited to finally get a chance to see the Spaceman himself – Ace Frehley – right here in New Jersey, while they did a short 3-show stint in NJ/NY, We were lucky to catch it!
The evening started in a little Colombian bar in Englewood with great food and plenty of South American beer. We walked over to the venue – my first visit to the Bergen Performing Arts Center – and took our seats (and another beverage) right in front of the soundboard. The place is so small there is not a bad seat in the house. The opening band was a local one from New Jersey, the Mylars. It was the shortest opening set I’ve ever seen – 4 songs! – and included a Cars cover that had the keyboard way too loud. Their own songs were pretty good, though, and I’ve now got the CD to review for Decibel Geek very soon.
Then it was time for Ace. His touring band remains the same (since the Space Invader Tour in 2014) – Richie Scarlet on guitar, Chris Wyse on bass and, in my opinion, the MVP of the band, Scotty Coogan. His drums were solid throughout, and he doubles as an outstanding vocalist. The crowd was really into it the entire show. Some guy in our row knew every word to every song. I hadn’t seen that much leather since the last Priest tour! I actually brought the median age down, which was a nice change. And the energy level was high, considering all the gray hair – I was suitably impressed.
They started with “Rip It Out” from his solo album and then went into the KISS tune, “Hard Times.” The band was sharp, as is to be expected, considering all of the songs are 30+ years old and the band has been playing together for so long. Ace seems to be the master of understatement, sort of like he’s pulling a fast one on the crowd. But he delivered, along with the rest of the band. As I mentioned, the set was full of KISS and old Ace solo material, including the fan favorite (if not my favorite) “New York Groove.”
Coogan had his shot at the two Paul Stanley tunes “Love Gun”, which he absolutely nailed, and “Detroit Rock City”. Needless to say, he had plenty of help from the crowd on both songs, but his vocals shined through. I thought Ace‘s voice, while strong, was just OK, but his guitar playing was amazing. His solo on “Snowblind,” my favorite on the solo album, was nothing short of spectacular. After “2 Young to Die,” he and Richie played dueling guitars, sending classic rock and just random riffs back and forth across the stage, and Ace also had a solo after “Shock Me,” before leading the crowd into the sing-along of “Cold Gin.”
The band took a short break (where backstage meant behind the speaker stacks!) and ended up with the two song blockbuster “Detroit” (“not Dubuque”) and “Deuce”, complete with smoking guitar – the only special effects of the night, unless you count some lame green laser that didn’t seem to have a point! Hey – better than burning the place down! It was a perfectly choreographed 90-minute set that was also perfectly enjoyed by the sell out crowd!
“Rip It Out”
“Hard Times” – KISS cover
“2000 Man” – Rolling Stones cover
“Love Gun” – KISS cover
“Parasite” – KISS cover
“Strange Ways” – KISS cover
“New York Groove”
“2 Young 2 Die”
“Shock Me” – KISS cover
“Cold Gin” – KISS cover
“Detroit Rock City” – KISS cover
“Deuce” – KISS cover