KISStorian remembers ACE @TheAvalon ’94

ace94It was back in the winter of ’94, there’s a reason I remember it well …it was Ace at The Avalon and he was slippin’ & slidin’ on a “Rocket Ride” to hell.

I left the show seriously concerned about Ace. Believe me, at the time it seemed there was no way that KISS would ever re-unite. In hindsight, it’s possible their doing so may have saved Ace’s life.

Reports from Ace’s booze-soaked ‘Just For Fun Tour‘ must have had Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley starting to think it’s ‘now or never’. Especially so when intel on the subsequent Criss/Frehley ‘Bad Boys Of Rock Tour’ pairing had similarly dark forecasts for both the Cat & Spacemen.

But whose kidding who? Whether Gene & Paul had always known they would reunite at some point or not, both Ace & Peter’s camps we’re aiming at the same reunion Yahtzee. As it turns out, the perilous road bender worked, forcing KISS’s hand, one way and another. ace-avalon

Anyway, by the time Ace finally hit the stage an hour late, The Avalon was a scene of KISStoric anguish. It was f’ing freezing outside, but it was hotter than hell in the club as the low ceilings in the over-packed room drove the temperature up. As folks got restless, pre-show chants of “Fuck You!” bubbled up, rivaling the fading “ACE!! ACE!! ACE!!!” flurries as Rock Soldiers started to suspect Ace was “around the corner at the liquor store” (or worse).

We later found out from the Avalon booking agent that Ace had had to be carried up the Avalon’s long backstage stairs by a couple of guys. Rumor is Ace’s ‘team’ couldn’t find him and didn’t realize that he had been passed out in the back of their Ryder truck, parked right outside on Sheffield.  Had they not found him, he may have frozen to death.

After the opening tune “Rip It Out”, Ace stumbled to the mic bewildered and said (no bullshit) “I don’t think I’m gonna make it”.  He was partly referring to how hot it must have been on stage but, given the situation, it was a ‘loaded’ statement.avalon

Again people started cheering and jeering Ace simultaneously. Anguished cries came out from all over …”We Love You Ace!” …”You Can Do It Ace!” …as well as “Fuck You Ace!”. It was as close to a KISS Army mutiny as I have ever seen.

KISStory tells us that although Frehley has ‘Trouble Walkin’ , he usually lands on his feet. In this case, he gets bye with a little help from his friends because, had the original four not come to terms a couple years later, I fear ‘Mr. Excitement’ may have taken a rough trajectory post ’94.  But perhaps it is as the Spaceman himself suggests in the tune “Immortal Pleasures” off Space Invader — he’s always been “protected by the powers”.  Maybe the Talisman are real?

 

 

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KISStorian sees ACE FREHLEY’s true ‘Origins’ @ HOB Chicago

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Since the dawn of civilization people have made pilgrimages to pay homage to their Gods and gather with the tribe. That is the feeling before, during and after an Ace Frehley concert. You’re back in the ‘New York Groove’ and in your rock & roll happy place (space) with Ace at the controls.

Such was the case a couple of weeks back when Ace made an earthly appearance at House of Blues here in Chicago. Night orbits with Ace over the years in the Chi have been bumpy rides at times (Avalon, Cubby Bear, China Club, Dome Room) but I am happy to report that Ace’s head, band, and space are in a great trajectory at present, no matter how semi-dazed & confused the captain may be from the excesses of rock & roll.

What struck me about this show is that Ace really did take a deep dive into his true ‘Origins’ by choosing to do the stuff I think he is most comfortable playing, perhaps enjoys most. It was basically a few key Frehley solo cuts, a couple covers off the newbie ‘Origins’, several non-Ace KISS tunes and then of course the core Frehley-penned KISS classics delivered with renewed zest & love. A set of KISStoric Ace ‘feel goods’.

ace_hob52016’s stellar incarnation of ‘the Ace Frehley Band’ may in fact be Ace’s best live line-up ever. The addition of rock cosmonaut Chris Wyse on bass is nothing short of an Ace masterstroke. (Great bass solo Chris!) With Wyse’s well-honed hammer, drummer Scot Coogan‘s old school pocket, guitarist Richie Scarlet‘s razor rhythm attack and Frehley running the Les Paul warp drive, the band delivered cool grooves, cosmically faithful renderings and good vibrations all the way from Jendell!

A Tip of the Chicago Firehouse hats to hometown boy Coogan for kicking ass on every level required to do Ace proud. I get the sense now several years in that Scot may be the band leader in a sense. If  he’s not, he’s certainly the a heart & soul Rock Soldier that the KISS Army  need thank for his considerable tour of duty.

ace_hob2There were some fun moments during the show too. A couple of times we caught Ace watching co-guitarist Scarlet and being amused by the ‘Emperor of Rock’s’ mega antics stage left. For one thing, Scarlet has discovered a new move in which he whips his guitar with his scarf instead of picking it LOL.. During “Rock Soldiers”, Ace noticed ironically that his “old buddy Richie” was now rocking out stage right at the perfect time for Frehley to point at Scarlet when he sang the song’s lyric “and Satan on my right” laughing after he did so. Richie also took the liberty, while visiting the ‘windy city’, of dedicating “Bad Boys Are Comings” off Trouble Walkin’ to “Mr. Alfonso Capone”.

img_4857Early in the show, like four songs in, Ace wandered back to the kit between songs and was talking to drummer Scot Coogan when people starting yelling “ACE!! ACE!! ACE!!”. Eventually Frehley returned to the mic and said calmly “hey …I didn’t go anywhere?”

img_4821For the intro to “Shock Me” Ace inquired “Who do you thinks gonna win? ….Hillary or Trump?”  He paused for comic effect and then said ‘”Who Fucking Cares!!! … nothing would SHOCK ME!!!”

At one point Ace asked us, very subdued, “Is it loud enough? …. yeah? … why not make it louder?” He then brought us all on back home, back to ’74, when he shared a revelation of sorts before going in to “Parasite”. Oh what a cool moment it was when Ace informed us that he had written the song about “this girl that used to follow KISS around from city to city” and oh to meet that girl with the ‘Parasite Eyes’.

Ace is one of the few rock icon who has never changed his true stripes or sold out. Masked, unmasked, loaded, sober or otherwise, Frehley is a ‘National Treasure’. To me Ace is the American personification of Jimmy Page meets Keith Richards. When it comes to KISStory, you can never count Ace out, no matter what hand he’s holding.

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KISStorian podcast #1 w/ PHAT KISS

PhatKissMy first podcast is with Jon Baumann (aka Stan Pauley) of Chicago’s PHAT KISS to talk amps, ramps, tramps, inception and food, now live on SPREAKER!  Join the Phat fray with Stan and the lads! PHAT KISS on Facebook IMG_3845

Purple Ace

I took this pic at HOB Chicago on the ‘Anomaly’ tour and it’s yet another Frehley ‘anomaly’. I believe Ace’s guitar started smoking during either the “Shock Me” extended outro solo or “Cold Gin” ….while the whole band was still on stage!! Everyone in the crowd went ape shit and so did the band, as is witnessed in the pic with bassist Anthony Esposito rockin’ out behind the Ace. I am not aware of another instance when Ace’s guitar smoked when he wasn’t alone on stage. To outsiders this may all sound rather trivial, if not down right Spinal Tapish, but to KISStorians, it’s KISStory. Trippy purple haze, the 2000 Man is like the headless horseman of rock & roll in this shot – AWK!

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back to the future ’96

In ’96 when KISS hit Chicago for the first time on the death-defying Reunion Tour with the fab four in tow, I got tickets for both shows out at the Rosemont. (More smoke than a Bigfoot drag race!!) Anyway, my mom snagged this comic strip by Dave Toone that Sunday in the ‘Trib. Sadly, it appears I must have colored it with crayon at some point thereabouts because, well, in ’96, this Dave was 28 years old. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. All in the life of a KISSTorian I guess? Scan0033Scan0034

KISStorian attempt on the Space Bear @ Dome Room ’95

It was August 8th, 1995 – and Ace was back, again. It seemed he was coming through a lot around then ….China Club, Cubby Bear, The Avalon.  We were there and I gotta say I miss those times on my Ace timeline, when you had no idea what might happen.

That aside, this was an ultra-weird venue for an Ace Frehley show. It was downtown in the tourist district as it were and the Dome Room was really just a dance club: a bullshit, over-priced pick up joint that felt like the live set from Purple Rain. It was lightly attended in ‘Ace in Chicago’ terms largely because the venue was not on rock fans radar and, even if you did know about it, was basically “not our scene man”. We almost got arrested outside the correctional center pre-show…long story.

Anyway ….Ace and his band were loose, rockin’ and surprisingly dialed if characteristically sloppy.  I heard “Sister” live for the first time that night….seemed pretty fresh in Ace terms: like Parasite met the 80’s on an octane bender, very Ace.

At one point we all lost track of my (then) girlfriend. She was gone. WTF? (No cell phones then kids). We waited till  the floor cleared post-show to see if she emerged but still no sign of her? We waited a bit longer and then had no choice but to walk out of the club only to find her sitting on the front steps apparently fine and pretty charged up.

So yeah, get this ……she had been “ejected from the club when I tried to steal the Space Bear for you!!”

Uh …. you fucking what?  ….are you crazy! She quickly confirmed….”When they left the stage just before the encore I climbed up when the lights were low and snagged the Space Bear off Ace’s amp ……but they saw me … the roadies …. they we’re fucking pissed!!!!…. they grabbed me and picked up and took me backstage, past Ace and the band and all the way to the backstage door and threw me out!! One of the guys said “you’re lucky your alive bitch” and slammed the door. Ahh, I see, you’re ok….. holy shit babe.

“Now do you know how much I love you?” she asked laughing along hilariously with our drunken friends. I replied delicately, all things considered, I guess still in shock? ….. “to be honest babe, I’ve got mixed feelings”