Ace Frehley Blasts Into Starland Ballroom, NJ 9-25-15

What can be said about Ace Frehley that has not been said already? The man who has done so much with a Gibson Les Paul musically, while a member of the mysterious men with the face paint, KISS, starting in 1974. Frehley, in his own right, is like a guitar God to those first picking up the instrument. He has influenced a lot of great guitar slingers, in the likes of Anthrax’s Scott Ian, David Sabo of Skid Row, Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready, his successor in KISS, Tommy Thayer, and even the late, great Dimebag Darrell Abbott — all these fantastic guitar players, Ace Frehley had an influence on to pick up that six string. Having spanned his guitar sound across the USA through most of 2014, Frehley took the time in 2015 to tour Australia and Europe. Now in continued support of his 2014 album Space Invader, Frehley and his talented band return to The States for more shows.

Amidst his latest journey, he came to the Garden State area during a Holy week in the New York City, especially on the evening of Friday September 25th. With the visit from the Holiest of Men, Pope Francis, in New York’s Madison Square Garden, trying to leave the city was a difficult task, with police blockages on each street leading to the World’s Most Famous Arena. Although, within the eyes of the Rock Gods and fans, Frehley was worth bucking the traffic into Sayreville, New Jersey to see him at Starland Ballroom. The venue that holds 2,500 standing room capacity has seen many unbelievable and influential musicians come and rock the roof off the place. Sustaining moments of a scary Mother Nature events such as Hurricane Sandy in 2012, their damage was so bad, many thought Starland Ballroom’s doors would close forever. Thankfully, the owners of the venue came back strong in the Spring of 2013 and continue to rock the state of New Jersey with their frequent shows, which now included a visit from Space Ace himself.

Knucklebone, the band with the job of performing just before Ace Frehley, was the third band to perform this night. Knucklebone comes to the music scene from West Orange, New Jersey, a quick half-hour trip to Starland Ballroom. Knucklebone is made up of Ronnie Caporelli on lead vocals and guitar, Drummer Steve Riker, Charlie Muccigrosso on lead guitar and backing vocals, and on bass, filling in this night, Ray Powers for the absent Fred Perrotti. They began their set at 9:30 PM, starting off with “One Swift Kick” from their 9-song album, On the Rocks, released in 2013. Their music is very guitar oriented, fun, party Rock -n- Roll. Once they got going, they followed with “Want Some More” and then as they continued into their set, those who may not have seen Knucklebone before became new fans this night. They already had their hardcore fan base in attendance wearing their support on their chests, both male and female, holding up their beverages for the live music they were putting out on the Starland Ballroom stage. Knucklebone continued to perform tunes from their album in their half-hour time frame with “Push,” “Back on My Feet,” “Two Way Street,” and the audience input track “Last Call for Alcohol,” where Camporelli got the crowd singing along, getting them into the show saying to them, “When I say Last Call, you say for Alcohol,” and the audience followed along.

At last, it was now the headliners time. Fans waited for at least forty minutes, watching the show announcements on the projection screen in front of them, blocking Frehley’s stage crew from the view of the audience. Then at 10:45 PM, as the intro music to Ace’s instrumental piece “Fractured Mirror” ended, tour manager, John Ostronomy came out and introduced the band; Drummer Scot Coogan (Brides of Destruction, Lita Ford), already taking his spot behind his drum kit, and Bassist Chris Wyse (The Cult, Owl) doing the job for the rhythm section. On second guitar, fellow Gibson slinger, Frehley’s long-time compadre, Richie Scarlet, who has worked with Ace in Frehley’s Comet from 1984 and then a few of Ace’s solo efforts in the late 1980s with Trouble Walkin’ as well as a couple of Ace’s solo albums in the mid-1990s. Lastly, coming out front and center, the Spaceman himself, Ace Frehley. They then blasted into “Toys” from his most recent album release, Space Invader. The set change wait was well worth it for the fans watching in the audience, as Frehley and his cohorts went into “Gimme a Feelin’” and “Rocket Ride,” that was on Frehley’s 1997 studio effort, 12 Picks, but originally appeared twenty years earlier on KISS Alive II in 1977.

Frehley, Wyse, Scarlet, and Coogan then went back in time and played the classic KISS tunes everyone knew so well and love with “Parasite” and “Love Gun” with vocals from the singing drummer, Coogan. With Coggan’s vocal pitch, when he sings this one live, he emulates Paul Stanley’s voice so on point. Scarlet then took over on lead vocals for “Breakout,” then title track “Space Invader” came next on the set list and the men went back into his early career, from his first solo studio album, while still a member of KISS, performing “Snowblind.” Up next came “Rock Soldiers,” the first single from the Frehley’s Comet era in 1987. Born and raised in Queen, New York, Wyse joined the Frehley band fold just last year in 2014. Showing off his proficiency on the bass, he performed his own solo mid-show, before going into vocals on “Strange Ways,” sung by Peter Criss on Hotter than Hell (1974).

One of Frehley’s most beautiful guitars, which has taken change over the few solo tours he has done in the past years, is the lit up guitar that he brings out during “New York Groove” recorded by the group Hello in 1975. “New York Groove” is a definite fan interactive song when performed, “I’m Back… Back in the New York Groove,” with hand claps throughout the piece. Scarlet returned to lead vocals, dedicating and performing “Too Young to Die” to John Bonham. “Shock Me” came next, followed by Frehley’s smoking guitar solo just before going into “Rip It Out.” That was the finale, that is until the encore which included “Detroit Rock City,” with lead vocals from Coogan and finishing the night with “Deuce.”

Frehley is reportedly in works of another studio album, and other than a few festival signings, no shows really on tap for him and his cohorts. Although judging by the packed house at Starland Ballroom, it is obvious fans will be waiting for his next return, live with another album accompanying it.

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