Loud. Electric. Hot. Fun. Exciting. And loud.
In a night that was perhaps in some ways reminiscent of his KISS’ days at Coventry circa 1973, Ace Frehley played an “intimate” concert at the Viper Room in Los Angeles on Saturday evening as part of the Sunset Strip Music Festival.
Ace turned in a compact energy-filled hour and change set, filled with KISS classics, a pair of 1978 Ace solo album gems and songs from his forthcoming album, Anomaly. Ace’s playing was solid and fluid throughout and he was ever the jokester on this night, tossing in a few laughs for good measure.
Following an introduction from comedian George Lopez (of all people), Ace and band -- Scot Coogan on drums, Anthony Esposito on bass and Derrek Hawkins on rhythm guitar -- ripped into a fiery rendition of “Parasite.” Saddled with his new custom Les Paul -- featuring trademark lighting inlays, a headstock emblazoned with the Anomaly album art, and a sapphire blue finish -- Ace and band thundered away at this KISS classic with a renewed fervor. Barely coming up for air, the band then launched into “Deuce.” In a club setting marked by a capacity crowd of 250 standing-room only people, this song combination was a lethal one-two punch.
“Fucking L.A....the Sunset Strip,” exclaimed Ace, before announcing the “new single from my new album Anomaly.” Ace segued into “Outer Space” -- with its drop D tuning the track sounded even heavier live. Hawkins supplied slide guitar to match the studio track and for the solo there would be no backwards effect, but a roaring Frehley solo nonetheless.
“I haven’t played a place this small in awhile,” said Ace. “I like the intimacy....I don’t do it anymore but this song is about cocaine.” The band tore into “Snow Blind,” with Ace supplying some sinister feedback before proceeding into the song’s final verse.
Up next was the second Anomaly track of the night, “Sister,” which was loud and powerful. “Is it loud enough? Cause I can turn it up...” cackled Ace after the song.
Taking the mic from behind his drum kit, Coogan supplied the vocals for the Dressed To Kill classic, “Getaway.” Ace seemed comfortable in the background on this tune, playing a complimentary role in supplying the rhythm guitars and his solo.
A final 1978 solo album song, “Speedin’ Back To My Baby,” was next with Ace turning in more ripping guitar work. The sound was thick and heavy with his trusted Les Paul and Marshall amplifier combination.
Story time: “I saw the new KISS costumes the other day,” revealed Ace. “Tommy Thayer had lighting bolts running all down his leg....I wonder where he got that fucking idea from????” quipped Ace, motioning down to his own pants that featured his trademark lighting bolts running up and down the leg, and his guitar strap with patented lighting bolt.
“Do something original...” said Ace. ”Here’s something original....’Shock Me.’”
Ace switched guitars for his signature tune, breaking out his original Les Paul model. Following the song, the band went into the Alive II jam before Ace let loose his guitar solo. The solo was both familiar and new, with Ace turning in his trademarked Aceisms but also mixing in new runs. One thing is certain, his playing has not been this precise and vigorous in years, as Ace ran up and down the fretboard with ease and conviction. He then gave way to his patented smoke bomb pickup effect while eliciting feedback wails drenched in delay.
“Still smokin’,” laughed Ace, as he then launched into “Rocket Ride.” With the curtains closing, the audience roared and did not want the evening to end just yet. Returning after a few minutes, Ace, in between a sip of Ginger Ale, announced, “Thank you....I love L.A.\
“I’m really excited about my new record....” And with that, the band charged into the instrumental “Space Bear.” Full of power chords and riffs, the song featured some electric interplay between Ace and Hawkins.
Coogan returned to vocal duties for “Love Gun,” an “oldie but goodie” as Ace put it. A definite crowd pleaser, Ace was on target once again with his lead work.
Announcing that the evening had to come to a close, Ace brought up a special guest to help end the fun. Slash of Guns N’ Roses fame -- and a guitarist always up for a jam -- came to the stage to join in for “Cold Gin.” (A gentleman, Ace was nice enough to lend him one of his signature Les Pauls.) This had all the makings of a fun jam with Ace supplying the vocals and a triple-guitar attack. Ace and Slash traded pentatonic-fueled leads on the outro tag, and just when you thought it was over, the band segued into the finale of “Black Diamond,” before ending on a final A-power chord crescendo.
All in all, a night merging the past with the present, and one marked by anticipation -- with Anomaly being released this coming Tuesday; excitement -- Ace Frehley playing a rollicking hour-plus set in a club setting; and celebration -- Ace is now three years sober and playing at the top of his game.
Parasite /Deuce /Outer Space /Snow Blind /Sister /Getaway (Coogan vox) /Speedin’ Back To My Baby /Shock Me /Ace guitar solo /Rocket Ride /Space Bear /Love Gun (Coogan vox) /Cold Gin (with special guest Slash) /Black Diamond outro