At The Corporation, Sheffield, U.K., April 10, 2008

ACE FREHLEY (Live at The Corporation, Sheffield, U.K., April 10, 2008)
Photo: Mick Burgess

Judging by all of the back-biting that has gone on from his former bandmates over the last few years, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there’d be a no-show from the former Kiss six-stringer Ace Frehley for his first visit to the UK since the spectacular Psycho Circus tour of 1999.

Well, Ace certainly proved them wrong. Not only has he managed to get over to Europe, but he managed to beat his ex-employers to it too. Being in one of the most successful bands of all time and playing in such an intimate venue, this is as far removed from the huge stadiums that he graced in his Kiss years as you could imagine. This was one massive treat for the UK Kiss Army and the sell out crowd was testament to his continuous pulling power outside of the Kiss cocoon.

Prior to the show, Ace had pledged to play only Kiss material and the pick of his solo work leaving songs from his upcoming solo release for future tours. True to his word, over the next two hours or so, Ace thrilled the packed crowd with classic after classic.

Kicking off with “Rip It Out” from his self-titled 1978 solo album, followed by a Punk-fuelled “Hard Times,” a song which tells of Ace’s tough street upbringing back in New York. Now this is exactly the sort of stuff Kiss fans have been clamouring for for quite some time … vintage, obscure Kiss material — and this is really one of their finest unheralded moments complete with a frantic, soaring lead break by Ace.

Following quickly came “Parasite” and “Snowblind,” complete with a snippet of “I Want You” as its outro, which was a neat touch, especially the vocals from drummer Scot Coogan. Coogan again provides some husky lead vocals to “Breakout,” which Ace touchingly dedicated to his much missed former Kiss bandmate, Eric Carr.

More recent Kiss material such as “Into The Void,” one of the highlights of the Psycho Circus reunion album, rubbed shoulders with bona fide vintage Kiss treasures such as the remarkable “Strangeways.” The joy on the faces of the lively throng was clear to see as the opening proto-Grunge riff kicked into action before bassist Anthony Esposito’s gritty lead vocals snarled and twisted their way along before Ace’s super-charged solo took matters into the stratosphere.

After Ace announced that he was heading back into the studio to finish his new album, news that met with a huge roar, he launched into a cracking medley that started with “Torpedo Girl,” with Ace at his gonzoid best, and ended with “Stranger In A Strange Land,” and stopped off at “Trouble Walkin’” and “Five Card Stud” along the way.

Although the gig may have lacked the slickness and spectacle of a Kiss production, what it did have was the raw passion of a full-blooded, sweat-soaked Rock ‘n’ Roll show. Ace has never claimed to be a great singer or the best guitarist around, and few can dispute that. What he does have, though, is a passion for music and a style that is instantly recognizable as his own. The fact that so many bands from Mötley Crüe, Anthrax, and Skid Row through to Lenny Kravitz, Garth Brooks, and even Chic pronouncing their love of all things Kiss is testament to their enduring appeal, and Ace is an integral part of their popularity regardless if it’s his Bronx drawl vocal delivery, his memorable riffs, or Chuck Berry-inspired solos, his place in Rock hierarchy is assured.

Sure there’s a few bum notes here and there and a few rough edges, particularly when the amps keep blowing out, much to Ace’s annoyance, but who said Rock ‘n’ Roll has to be clean and perfect. To the contrary, it is this edge that adds to the excitement of the show and when “Rocket Ride” lifted off he took the whole crowd with him and as he sang his signature tune, “New York Groove,” everyone sang their hearts out with him.

“I was electrocuted in ’76 on stage and I’ve never been the same since,” Ace wryly cracked as he cranked out “Shock Me” before launching into his trademark solo with smoke belching through his pick ups and when Ace called out “Still smokin’!!” you know that he really meant it. The only thing missing however, was a few rockets firing out of the end of his Les Paul. Well, you can’t have everything!!

After a rather long gap Ace returned to the stage with a barnstorming “Deuce,” including a little snippet of Kiss choreography at the end section. “Love Her All I Can” from Dressed To Kill was a hugely welcome surprise and the vocal harmonies from Esposito and Coogan were terrific.

Ace really has put together a top class band with the aforementioned Esposito and Coogan, not only looking the part with their Mötley Crüe-like biker attire, but they play and sing great too. Ace does need some back up in the vocal department and he has hit the jackpot with these two guys. Derek Hawkins also added some bite to the sound with some solid rhythm guitar playing with the odd solo chucked in for good measure.

Closing the set with a rip-roaring “Love Gun” and finally “Cold Gin” complete with its “Black Diamond” outro left the crowd breathless.

It may have been over 20 years since Ace played a solo show in the UK and nearly 10 since he played with Kiss, but the reaction from the sold out Sheffield crowd left him no doubt that he has a rabid fanbase who will be clamouring for a quick return to these shores once his new album hits the stores. As he once said himself, “Ace is back and he told you so!!”


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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