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 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”

 

 

 

 

 

ACE FREHLEY in Rochester

FrehleyTroubleWalkingFI was in college at Colgate in upstate New York about an hour south west of Syracuse and I got my buddies Ken & Chris to drive to Rochester, at least two and half hours away, to see Ace Frehley at CrossCurrents (don’t look for it, it’s gone) in Rochester, NY. Ace had just released Trouble Walkin, a record I was pretty amped about and one that helped define the difference between he and the new KISS who had just released, Hot In The Shade.

I was a student DJ at WRCU, 90.1FM, at the time and had contacted MegaForce Records, Ace’s label, to see if I could interview him. As it turns out I talked with now famous rock radio mogul Eddie Trunk from That Metal Show on VH1 Classic who approved a “ten minute in-and-out interview…… time permitting”. I should have read between the lines but was so excited I believed it would happen. It Didn’t.

I remember asking Eddie “how’s the tour going?” and all he said, hurried to get off the phone…”yeah man, it’s an abortion”. To be honest, totally green in the industry at the time, I had no idea what he meant. Crazier than that was the dank smell of weed wafting out of Ace’s backstage door upstairs there at CrossCurrents — it could have been Bob Marley’s dressing room!

First few rules in A&R broached and observed unwittingly that evening: Play it cool or get bounced and whatever (apparently) the artists wants is how it goes pre-show. I was happy with the near backstage glimpse and brief interaction with what looked to me like hardened criminals / roadies. They were cooler than me to be sure, and a little scary. Ace was in good hands I figured.

ace_boston02When we got there they did have my name at the door so I got in for free armed with my small Craig cassette recorder. Pre-show we waited in what was one of these two room rock clubs with a bar room and then the show room which would make for difficult drinking logistics. We would end up in the first row, clinging to the barricade with giant-like 24-once beers that had to last us but, as it turned out, did not. By the time we drank them Ace had not come on just yet and we had to pee so bad we peed in the giant now-empty cups and poured them on the floor which seeped behind the barricade towards the stage. Ace’s roadies had to scurry with big brooms to mop it aside away from the cables and were looking hard at folks when they realized it was urine. They were pissed to say the least but we stayed cool… “wasn’t us, swear to God”.

Anyway, before that, I tried a couple of times to go and interview Ace and was sent away. The last time I explained that Eddie had set it all up and asked “So what’s the word? can we do this?” and he replied “The word is Thunderbird…..sorry, not gonna happen tonight pal” and that was it.  I had no idea what the reference was but it sounded cool LOL.

I don’t recall much about the show besides a broken bottle fight between two chicks that caused the crowd to rear back and the fact that bassist John Regan came out for the encore with like a SRV / Hendrix type cowboy hat with the round silver button things around the brim. I was so buzzed I actually for a split second thought it was SRV and we were gonna have a jam. Ironically, they launched into Ace’s only blues recording “Remember Me” and even my Jimmy Page aficionado friend Kenny was impressed. Ace was on.

Sandy Slavin was on drums in place of Anton Fig who played on the record and it was my first time seeing Richie Scarlet in the band and I gotta say he immediately fit great and the Trouble Walkin’ album documents it well. Pity: they should have cut Scarlet’s tune “Animal” but I’ll let that go some day. But for the first time in Ace’s solo career the album felt like his band sounded live — raw and rowdy. Weird how Ace almost ignores the release these days. Someone should pull him aside and remind him playing only half of ‘Trouble Walkin'” (the tune) live is a real disservice. What a fun rock record, worth a revisit KISStorians.