Forever known as the legendary original guitarist of KISS, Ace Frehley has sustained a brilliant career in Rock-n-Roll. Often referred to as the “Spaceman” or “Space Ace,” while his tenure in KISS concluded in 1982, the end of one story launched the start of a new one in the form of his solo career. Wowing audiences back in 2014 with his Space Invader album, Frehley has remained busy since, performing live, and even finding the time to record a new album. This time reflecting on his own influences as a musician, the April 16th release via eOne Music, entitled Origins, Vol. 1, is a great collection of cover songs. Hand picked by Frehley himself to play, the material is now matched with select tour dates through the month of April. Exciting to fans, on Monday, April 11th, Frehley came home to New York to play the legendary BB King’s Club in New York City. With his strongest line up to date, featuring Richie Scarlet on guitar, former The Cult member Chris Wyse on bass, and former Brides of Destruction member Scot Coogan on drums, the band performed an assortment of music from Frehley’s lengthy history ranging from well-known KISS favorites to his tracks from Origins, Vol. 1.
Packing out the venue, an array of long time, hardcore KISS and Frehley fans anxiously awaited, and as soon as the lights went down, the first notes of Frehley’s 1978 instrumental “Fractured Mirror” ignited chants of “Ace! Ace! Ace!” The chants soon turned to loud cheers once the band appeared on the stage and the opening chords of the KISS classic “Parasite” would keep it going. A song written by Frehley, but previously performed by bandmate Gene Simmons, the audience was immediately captivated. The energy between band and spectators was infectious. In fact, before long, even those seated at tables were on their feet.
Thereafter, Frehley immediately launched into “Toys.” A former opening song on the continual 2014-2015 tours, it is still a crowd favorite and one of the strongest live numbers off of Space Invaders. Frehley and company continued with fan-favorites such as “Rocket Ride,” “Rip It Out,” “Cold Gin,” and “Shock Me,” complete with his trademark smoking guitar solo. Furthermore, each number was accented by Frehley’s brilliant guitar work and key solos that mesmerized the audience and reminded all why he has remained a fan-favorite throughout his KISS and solo career.
Full of standout moments, the highlight of the evening was Frehley’s rendition of his 1978 solo hit “New York Groove.” Once he took to the stage with his signature silver flashing Les Paul, the frenzy of the audience indicated they were aware of what was coming next. It was here Frehley and the band led the crowd in sharing the chorus and there was not a soul in the venue that was not reveling in the song about their city by a local musician who ascended to superstar status.
As with any good band, the whole is equal to the sum of its parts. This is the case with the Ace Frehley band. Aside from being stellar musicians on their own and attributing perfect accompaniment to Frehley, each handles lead vocals, and takes advantage of the opportunity to showcase their individual talent. Coogan, not only is the driving beat of the band, but also possesses vocals that rival KISS frontman Paul Stanley. This was heard as Coogan burst into KISS hits “Love Gun” and “Detroit Rock City” when there was not a fan in the house that was not singing along, word for word. Then there was Wyse, who is a much sought after bassist in the industry, performed an impressive bass solo that encompassed excerpts from his band OWL, as well as variations of the theme from the 1978 film Halloween.
Upon completing his solo, Wyse launched into “Strange Ways” originally performed by KISS drummer Peter Criss on their 1974 Hotter Than Hell LP. Here, Wyse performed a darker version of the song, one which intrigued the audience. His strong and haunting vocals allowed him to make this song his own, and his masterful commanding of the crowd makes him a band favorite. Finally there was Richie Scarlet, also known as The Emperor of Rock and Roll, a title well owned. Also a New York native, he performed “Too Young to Die,” a song he wrote with Frehley for the 1989 Trouble Walkin’ album. Scarlet, who is a mainstay on the New York scene, is a master performer and his guitar work both accompanies and rivals Frehley’s in technique and intensity. In the spotlight, Scarlet ignited the crowd with his infectious smile and hands on approach to his fans.
All in all, Ace Frehley and his band treated the New York City audience to a performance they will not easily forget. Fans go to live show for an assortment of reasons with one primarily to forget about the trials and tribulations of daily life, and for those two hours they surrender to their favorite artists and music. With that in mind, if the mood is right, they become one with the band and the band becomes one with the audience. Ace Frehley, Chris Wyse, Richie Scarlet, and Scot Coogan accomplished this with class and good old-fashioned Rock music. These four musicians not only made their fans elated, but also made their hometown of New York, where three of the band hails from, proud. While there are currently no additional tour dates on the calendar for 2016, fans of the “Spaceman” hope he lifts off into orbit again soon.