Former KISS guitarist Ace Frehley played to a packed house at B.B. King’s for his second straight show last night, thrilling the crowd with solo hits, cover songs, and of course, KISS classics.
The guitarist, who left KISS in the early ‘80s, has lost nothing in his almost 40 year career, and his two night stand at B.B. King’s proved that even without a new album to tour behind, he still draws the adoration of rock and roll fans everywhere. Ace has just published a book, No Regrets, but other than Eddie Trunk’s pre-show introduction, no mention or push was made for the book at all last night.
Rather, the almost two hour concert was strictly about rocking out, and no one rocks out harder than Ace. Opening with Rocket Ride, the long-haired, sunglass-wearing ‘Spaceman’ was as electrifying as ever, with his signature alien-like amplifiers filling B.B. King’s small stage from top to bottom and side to side. The volume up front was just slightly short of deafening, and even those in the back probably woke up this morning with their ears still ringing.
Backed by a young and enthusiastic band, even if Ace’s body shows some wear and tear, his fingers and guitarwork were as youthful and energetic as could be. Searing guitar tones cut through the underground venue like a laser through steel: sleek, sizzling, and absolutely unstoppable. KISS’s over-the-top stage show spectacles often overshadows the brilliant musicianship of Ace and Paul Stanley, but last night’s show was a chance for Ace and his talent to shine, and the guitarist absolutely owned his spotlight.
While the setlist was identical to the previous night’s, even fans who attended both shows couldn’t possibly have cared because it was picked to perfection. The night opened with a mix of solo and KISS favorites like Snowblind, Rock Soldiers, and new(-ish) song Sister, before delving into deeper cuts like Hard Times and She. Like Ace’s 2009 concert at the Nokia Theater (read my review of that show here), he also included a cover of the Rolling Stones 2,000 Man and Hello’s New York Groove, an obvious pick for the local show.
Ace was less chatty this time around as compared to the 2009 show, but he still joked around and played to his hometown crowd, saying he loved New York but hated taxi cabs. One of the trickier parts of the B.B. King’s venue is pillars which block lines of sight, but video screens on both sides of the stage gave close up views of Ace’s guitar mastery even for those stuck in the back of the room or deep in the crowd.
To a large degree, the crowd was as much a part of the show as Ace and his band, with wild cheers for each new favorite song, and fans singing along to every word of the hits. As the night drew to an end, the setlist grew increasingly intense, with a vicious Shock Me followed by Ace’s signature smoking guitar bombs and a grinning “Still smokin’, motherf*ckers!” The band encountered some technical difficulties on Shout It Out Loud, but quickly overcame them as B.B. King’s classic disco ball lit up the floor.
Wrapping it all up, the band returned for a four song encore of Deuce, Rip It Out, and a slamming Love Gun which saw Ace’s drummer handling the lead vocals to hit Paul Stanley’s wicked falsetto. Cold Gin marked the final song of the night, but milking it for all it was worth, Ace let the audience sing the first verse, and tagged the soaring outro solo from Black Diamond onto the end for a slamming, dramatic finish.
It’s tough to pick out exactly what distinguishes a simply talented musician from a full-blooded rock star, but whatever it is, Ace Frehley has it in spades. Between an earsplitting volume, natural ease with his instrument, and the dark shades over his eyes which seem to be the modern day equivalent of his Spaceman makeup, being at an Ace concert is to be face-to-face and ear-to-amp with some of the rawest, most powerful music ever written, as played by one of the industry’s finest honed professionals. KISS fans in particular are lucky to be able to experience both the modern day band in all its pyrotechnic glory as well as the intimate shows Ace takes on the road, perhaps the only example of such staggeringly different approaches to the same music.
Ace fans still have one more chance to catch him in the area when he plays Long Island’s Mulcahy’s this Sunday, as well as attending a book signing event at the Midtown Barnes & Noble on November 3rd. As always, stay tuned to the Hard Rock Examiner for further information on tickets and all local rock and heavy metal news by subscribing at the top of this page, or follow me attwitter.com/NYROCKEXAMINER.