Ace Frehley  |  Pic: Cole Maguire
Ace Frehley | Pic: Cole Maguire

Astor Theatre

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A very dyed-in-the-wool rock’n’roll crowd swarmed into the Astor Theatre last Thursday. It had been a good five years since Ace Frehley, Kiss’ iconic and original lead guitarist had performed in Perth. Arguably (or perhaps not) the coolest of the band’s classic line-up, Frehley’s larrikin ways have always made him popular with Australian audiences, and while there were a few young faces at this show, the majority of this audience were clearly big fans of Space Ace going back some decades.

With an artist straight outta the history books, support slots are always an honour for younger bands, but can also be incredibly hard to pull off. Psychonaut (of whom guitarist, Mark DeVattimo once donned Frehley’s clobber in a Kiss tribute band) and Legs Electric did well to pull solid sets out of their own bags of rock’n’roll tricks, the latter clearly silencing the sections of the crowd who appeared to initially think that girls couldn’t rock.

With a spirited intro from tour manager John Howarth, Ace Frehley and his band tore into 1977’s Rocket Ride, from the studio side of Kiss’ Alive II album. It’s a rollercoaster of a tune at the best of times, but while the tempo seemed to vary, Frehley and his band kept it on track in a blaze of blistering blues-based solos and all ‘round drummer-geddon. Casual-as-fuck at all times, Frehley led the band into Gimme A Feelin’ from his recent album, Space Invader. ‘We’ve had some great audiences on this Australian tour’, said Frehley by way of working the crowd up. ‘Even Hobart kicked ass!’ Another new song, Boys Toys, followed and while the reaction to his more recent solo material was enthusiastic, it must be said that it wasn’t anywhere near what it was when he played classic Kiss material such as Parasite, Love Gun, King Of The Night Time World and Strutter  (featuring drummer Scot Coogan on impressively Paul Stanley-like vocals) or 2000 Man, a sloppy Talk To Me and Strange Ways (sung by bassist, Chris Wyse, who also contributed a strong, but perhaps unnecessary bass solo) or any of the songs from his 1978 solo debut (Snowblind, New York Groove).

Still,  the likes of late Eric Carr-penned Breakout and Too Young To Die (both featuring dual guitar solos featuring Frehley’s long-time/occasional foil, Richie Scarlett) were sturdy and let’s not forget, LOUD. This was old school and so it was appropriate that the show ended with Shock Me (including a signature, smoking guitar solo) and the first song that Frehley ever jammed on with Kiss, 1973’s Deuce.

Ace Frehley is worshipped as a guitar legend by fans yet perhaps derided by aficionados who state he’s a long ways behind technicians such as Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai or Joe Satriani. But the fluidity and feel of his playing certainly launched a great many rock’n’roll hearts back in the day and it did so again on this very night. It was just so… him.

Look, it’s rock’n’roll.