After catching a few KISS shows last month during their “End of the Road” tour, I couldn’t help but feel like my experience was less than complete. Don’t get me wrong, they still put on an incredible show, and I’ll go and see it every last chance I can (assuming they come back around again before it’s all done). Still, I had an insatiable craving for more of what made KISS the phenomenon they are. Adding to it all was how much my son enjoyed seeing his first-ever KISS show. I was determined to get out there and see as much of this legendary band as I could.
Sunday night, that came in the form of seeing original guitarist Ace Frehley live in concert. The Space Ace came through Central New York and performed in a cozy community center in the town of Homer (roughly 30 minutes south of Syracuse). It couldn’t have been more different than a KISS show. No pyrotechnics, no makeup, no bombast. This was straight up, in-your-face hard rock, and I loved it!
Before we hit the road for the show, I checked out the venue online as I typically do (to get an idea of what kind of atmosphere I’ll be heading into). I was surprised to see this building looked much more like a church. As it turns out, that’s precisely what it was, or used to be, at least. Currently, this building is called the Center for the Arts of Homer. It provided one of the most small-town community vibes that I’d been to in a long time, and yet was sold out and filled with people excited to see the legendary Ace Frehley perform in their town. While it was a three-hour drive away, I’d definitely check another show out there if the right occasion presented itself.
The evening kicked off with a set from Like It, who comes off as a hybrid of Steel Panther and Tenacious D. Hard rock that’s a bit rude, tongue-in-cheek and never risks taking itself too seriously. They performed for about 45 minutes to warm up the crowd and get everyone ready for Ace and his band.
After Like It finished their set, the stage was changed over for Frehley and we waited as backing tracks played until “Fractured Mirror” (from Ace’s 1978 solo album) began playing over the PA. This is the indication that the show’s about to begin! As the band entered the stage, they opened the set with “Rip It Out” (also from Ace’s ’78 album) before diving into a handful of KISS songs including “Parasite,” “Hard Times” and “Watchin’ You.” Next up, they paid tribute to Eddie Money with a cover of “I Wanna Go Back” (as covered on Frehley’s 2018 album, Spaceman).
As the band poured through KISS classics, Frehley was tossing guitar picks into the crowd at a fairly steady clip. Fans had crowded the stage the moment the show began. This venue provided a uniquely intimate experience, as the curved low stage with no barrier essentially put Frehley amongst the crowd for his entire performance.
This was the last date on this leg of his tour, but Ace has roughly a dozen dates left this year to wrap up 2019. I would highly recommend checking them out if they come through town!
About mid-set, Frehley whispered to his bandmates. This led to a quick audible from the setlist, swapping out “2000 Man” for “Love Gun.” After this, he tore through “Rock Soldiers,” a classic from the 80’s Frehley’s Comet days. This was a lead into two of my favorite Frehley staples, “New York Groove” and “Shock Me”, followed by a long guitar solo including his signature smoking guitar.
The standard set closed out with “Cold Gin” before an encore performance consisting of additional KISS classics “Detroit Rock City” and “Deuce” to close out the night.
It’s been over 20 years since I’ve seen Frehley perform live (1998’s “Psycho Circus” tour was my last show), and it’s been a very long wait. After seeing how strong both Frehley’s performance, as well as that of the rest of his band was this evening, I’ll be making it a point to try and catch a show next time he comes through town!
- Rip It Out
- Parasite (KISS song)
- Hard Times (KISS song)
- Watchin’ You (KISS song)
- I Wanna Go Back (Eddie Money cover)
- Rocket Ride (KISS song)
- Mission to Mars
- Strange Ways (KISS song)
- Love Gun (KISS song)
- Rock Soldiers
- New York Groove (Hello cover)
- Shock Me (KISS song)
- Guitar Solo – Ace Frehley
- Cold Gin (KISS song)
- Detroit Rock City (KISS song)
- Deuce (KISS song)
Ace Frehley + Band