Well, I have to start it here repeating I've been a huge, diehard Kiss fan since 1983, when I was seven. Although Mötley Crüe has always been my favorite band, my passion for music started when I first saw and listened to Kiss. "Creatures" and "Lick It Up" were the first albums I ever had and, later on, I became addicted to the band and got every album from their catalog. Ace Frehley was surely the first and major guitar influence I had in music - my worst enemy ever once said that each and every time I make an album, no matter how many times I change guitarists, I always make them sound like Ace. I take it as a compliment, and it's very, very true. After having listened to him for years and maybe knowing 98% of his solos by heart, not only I but maybe two ir three generations can say Ace Frehley is one of the most important and loved guitarists ever, even those who say he's not that good, and also those who like guitar shreders like Steve Vai. Having his contribution to Kiss's music and history as the most important card upon his sleeve, there's also Frehley's Comet and some of his solo albums, which are also somewhat special. The last time Ace had played in Brazil was on Kiss's huge "Psycho Circus" tour, in 1999. After that, nobody around here really believed he would come back to play here again. Rumors were in the air for years that Mr. Frehley and his solo band would come down here for a couple of gigs, but they never happened. Maybe the story that was told was true - Ace always asked for a much bigger amount of money to play here than he did anywhere else. Let's face it - once part of Kiss, one's all about money... But last year it was confirmed he would play a single show in São Paulo in March, and Kiss fans were really looking forward to it. If the story us true or not I can't really tell, but rumor has it that his $300 and $500 meet and greet packages sold out on the same day they were out. Some say they were only 20, others said they were 60... At the end, from what I heard, 20 extra had been sold at the venue (something I had never heard before and that us, let's say, really unfair, since there would be no real parameter to sell them... but as mentioned before, it's was all hearsay), and Ace Frehley would be seeing 80 fans after his one and only concert in Brazil. Not being able to buy one of these much sought after packages, one day before the show, I tried to meet one of my childhood heroes as he was coming from Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he had played two shows. I had been told a million stories about how "unreacheable" and "messed up" of a person Ace could be once one tried to meet him, but I then decided to give it a go anyway.
Long waiting hours at the airport that took the fans who weren't able to buy the meet and greet. About fifteen people, me included. Ace and his band (long time guitarist and singer Richie Scarlet, The Cult's bassist Chris Wyse and drummer Scott Cougan, who had played with lots of smaller acts such as Brides Of Destruction and Lynch Mob, to name a few of them) finally landed in Brazil at around 10 p.m. Chris was the first one to show up, and he was way nice to people. The next one who left the airport customs was Richie Scarlet who, at first, made sure to ignore those who greeted him. After smoking a few cigarretes, he talked to some of the fans, even though he was not really interested in doing that. In my humble opinion, "The Emperor Of Rock", as he calls himself, should have been more than greatful for fans coming to him, since if it wasn't for Ace, the truth is, he'd never really be recognized for the half a dozen medium to bad independent solo albums he has released through the years.
So, the most expected moment of the day had finally come: Ace and his wife left and people saw him. To be deadly honest, no matter how much of a legend the man is, other than in Latin America, he's not what we can really call a successful artist, but one who still lives under his old band's legacy. Ace just saw the fans and backed up, and when he realized there was no way out of passing by them (us, me included), blame it on him that what could have been a fast, easy contact with a few fans, become a real nightmare. Ace was suddenly surrounded by everyone, and he was obviously not any happy about it. The Brazilian security could barely handle the situation, and all of a sudden, people from his own crew came up hitting people, pushing and hurting the same fans that had paid good money to see him live on the following day. The situation really became critical after some kind of tour manager and Ace's wife told the crew to continue aggressing the fans physically, those who didn't mind being hit in their ribs and even in their faces just to try to get a simple picture with him - something he could have avoided if he had given five minutes of his precious time. Needless to say, when I saw that physical violence was going on, I was the one who backed off... If that wasn't bad enough, Ace's wife started screaming and offending everyone, using really bad and dirty language, which was something that honestly did not help at all. Drummer Scott Cougan talked to a couple of fans, but he was clearly not eager to doing it either. The nightmare went on with this American manager humiliating the Brazilian production, screaming all kinds of bad adjectives one can think of. Ace and his polite wife got on the car and the fuss was still on. The crew still threateaning those who were still around, the band loading their own instruments into the small truck... It was a horror movie scene that lasted around 20 minutes. Yes, that's a sad story. An artist who can't give a dozen fans five minutes of his time, and whose crew is told to beat them up in case he's "bothered" by them. If Ace's wife called people here "gorillas" (that's the slightest adjective that I'll mention here - what must be her own opinion about her husband's crew? Very sad to see that instead of retributing such a warm welcome, Ace and his band and crew even used violence. Part of this "incident" you readers have just read about can be seen (yes!!!) on this YouTube video link:
The thing is, Ace Frehley can be a legend - he surely is - but does it justify his attitude at all? I really don't think so. After such a bad taste spectacle, I really wondered if I still wanted to catch the band live. But I did, especially to know if Ace was that good without Kiss. Let's face it - Ace can make mistakes if he's with Kiss, who never strained from being one of the biggest bands on the planet. But the Space Man alone never really made it as a huge solo artist. Anyway, Ace Frehley will always be Ace Frehley, no matter what, and here's a detailed review on the show he and his back up band played at Tom Brasil, in São Paulo, Brazil, on March 5, 2017.
By the moment one got to the venue, he could tell there was something different from what was seen on YouTube, regarding both of Ace's shows in Buenos Aires, Argentina, prior to this one. The first thing that was missing was the huge stage background he used there, which happened to be the cover of his last solo album, "Origins Vol. 1". How come a venue that big and important couldn't accomodate it? That's a mystery... Also, Tom Brasil was not crowded and the show was far from being sold out - you could see diehard Kiss fans all over, but not enough people to have a full house. Thanks to the poor promotion and advertisement, to the heavy rain that fell all over São Paulo that night... and let's not forget we're talking about an Ace Frehley solo show here, not a Kiss one. Also, it was curious that both the huge stage side screens, which were heavily advertising stuff and future venue shows were simply not used. That wasn't a good move, since most people in the back usually count on them to have a better view of the bands... Since there was the VIP area, which cost way more than the regular ticket, those who couldn't afford to pay big money to be in the front, actually could barely see something. Was it Ace's fault? His crew's fault? The Brazilian production's fault? Now it doesn't matter. Ace's fans in the back simply weren't able to see him. With the "Fractured Intro" playback music bursting into the classic "Rip It Out", off Ace's Kiss solo album, for the first couple of minutes one would think it was going to be a great show. But, honestly, it wasn't that great. Ace's never been something we could call "a great singer", but a great and most times clumsy guitarist that is loved by everyone. With some (I am being kind) extra weight, Ace showed he could still play like he did in the 70's, but wouldn't bother to move around as he did on his best days with Kiss and Frehley's Comet. But his singing, well... Let's say people there (me included) were happy he could sing half a line of the verses. Bassist Chris Wyse proved to be the right choice for the band, while guitarist Richie Scarlet just did what he has done for more than 20 years - with his awesome stage performance but questionable playing, he's still Ace's personal Paul Stanley in the band. Drummer Scott Cougan was, well, the biggest disappointment of it all. Whoever remembers the awesome performance of top-notch drummer Anton Fig on the "Live + 1" EP, and even those who never got Ace's other drummers throughout his solo career, just couldn't swallow Mr. Cougan. If one thinks I am exaggerating, just think of Peter Criss's worst days in Kiss... He would have been a better choice... back then, during his worst days!!! "Rip It Out" is such a classic Ace Frehley song that it deserved to be played, at least, the best, possible way. But the question is, does it really matter to Ace himself? Probably not. Anyway, Ace Frehley kicked ass, for being the hero he is. Fans were excited about the show, since an opener like the classic and catchy "Rip It Out" was a great start. But the second song, "Toys", off his "Space Invader" solo album was a big, big mistake. As it was said before, Ace Frehley playing Kiss is one thing, but who does really have his later solo stuff? I can tell that even some loyal Kiss fans there didn't even recognize the song and, if it wasn't for Ace being the main attraction on stage, they would sound and seem like a new, unknown band playing their own material live. Anyway, Kiss fans who were there went nuts since they were seeing the one and only Ace Frehley. How couldn't one be excited about it? But Kiss fans (me included) are sometimes blind and deaf. No news, just like Iron Maiden, Guns 'N' Roses and Bon Jovi fans in South America. But thinking it all over not as a fan, things can (and have to) be seen in a different way.
To compensate for such an inexpressive song, Kiss's "Parasite" came next, and fans really appreciated it. Chris Wyse seemed to be up to doing anything to keep the show in a great level, but the rest of the band just seemed not to bother. Well, Ace Frehley did what the fans expected, nothing more or less than that. Richie Scarlet, whose stage presence is his best quality, simply looked bored to be playing there, only once in a while making the moves that granted him the gig in Ace's solo band. And drummer Scott Cougan, well... Let's say once a musician makes a mistake in a classic song, even being in a garage band, it isn't something nice. His careless playing not only ruined the song before its epic solo, but also made the whole band sweat to put things into place again and finish it. Peter Criss would have done better, even being apparently retired from music. It was clear that Richie and Chris were embarassed, but again, Ace didn't seem to care. Does he ever? If he doesn't, someone should tell him urgently that one thing is Ace Frehley misplaying his licks in Kiss, which is totally different from his solo band destroying a song he wrote for and played with Kiss. The show went on with "Snowblind", another track off Ace's Kiss solo album. That's a good song for sure and, other than the drums, that made the band play a slower version of it, it was a good moment. Ace Frehley may not care much about his band's playing, about his fans, but one thing is true - if it wasn't for him most guitarists from the 80's would have had serious problems finding someone else to steal guitar licks from - Aerosmith's Joe Perry isn't that easy to mimic after all, Slash was just lucky. Then it was time for another Kiss classic: "Love Gun". As I thought, Ace wouldn't dare singing this one, and as soon as it started I was curious about how it would sound with Richie Scarlet's limited vocal skills. To my surprise, drummer Scott Cougan performed lead vocals on it. Not only was his drumming poor and uninspired, but his singing was also nothing special. OK, he can hit the high notes, but trying to immitate Paul Stanley, especially when changing the original song vocal melody wasn't very smart. That would have been better if he only sang it as himself. So, sadly, if it wasn't for Ace on stage, who simply reproduced what the fans wanted to hear, once again, nothing more or less than that, one could easily think he was watching a Kiss tribute band. Well, as a long time fan, I cared. But the question remained in my mind: Does Ace Frehley himself even care? Although being at an Ace Frehley gig, which was supposed to be something super exciting, the sad feeling of seeing a man who was in one of the biggest and best bands ever not live up to its reputation, made me wonder one second time if it was worth being there. Well, "Rocket Ride" came next, and the show was interesting again, since Ace was on lead vocals, and there's also the killer song guitar solo. By then, one no longer paid attention to the drums, that always made the songs slower than their original versions. Maybe this and the next tune, "Rock Soldiers", off the first Frehley's Comet album, were the top moments of the whole show. The catchy, super cool song was a right pick, but comparing the band's performance there to the Buenos Aires YouTube videos, it was easy to tell the whole band didn't really care. Richie Scarlet's down to earth moves were rare, and if it wasn't for him sometimes, and especially for bassist Chris Wyse, one would think the band was dead. Ace Frehley is Ace Frehley. He has never been that much of a showman without Kiss, and he never will - no, the extra weight he's hot now doesn't really make a difference regarding this. Something else that was very unprofessional was not muting the guitar in between songs. Whenever there was a break, the loud hiss of one of the two guitars was somewhat unbearable. That's something a little too hard to understand, if coming from an artist who has been around for, at least, 44 years. Maybe hiring a better guitar tech could help...
Chris Wyse's time to shine playing his solo was nice, since he was the only one who really seemed to care on stage. Chris's solo was awesome, he's a really talented musician. But again, Ace's fans were interested in listening to Ace Frehley. Kiss fans were interested in listening to Ace Frehley. Mr. Wyse's playing ended up in "Strange Ways", another Kiss song, whose lead vocals were done by Chris, undoutbfully the best singer in the band. The drums had become naturally eram and slow at this point, and Ace himself just made sure he was there while playing the song's solo. It's a real shame that our beloved Spaceman didn't learn anything from his mentors Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons. Easy to understand the reason why Ace has said in recent interviews that he would rejoin Kiss. All it takes is a phone call from Gene and Paul. I really hope they are happy with Tommy Thayer and don't let go of him for some more several million dollars a future reunion with Ace would give them. "New York Groove", also from Ace's 1978 Kiss solo album came next, and it was another highlight, for its being a very popular song. As usual, Ace used his shiny, blinking guitar on this one, maybe one of the few visual effects he inherited from the band who made him famous. It's just a great song, a real hit, and even if you're not a Kiss fan, I dare you not to like it. Not even the slow drums and Ace's out of tune solo could lower the magic of "New York Groove". A timeless song that, if played a little bit more carefully, would have been awesome. Ace Frehley is awesome at what he does. The thing is, he doesn't care about it... That would have been unfair leaving stuff from the great "Trouble Walkin'" album out of the set, and they didn't. So many unforgetable songs like "Do Ya", "Trouble Walkin'", "Back To School" and others... but they made one more wrong move... "Too Young To Die", maybe the worst track off that album was the pick. Sung by Richie Scarlet, who is also its lead guitarist, it was only another song nobody really even remembered well. Diehard Ace Frehley fans may have found it cool but, honestly, it felt like they were out of tunes for Richie to sing. If that wasn't enough, Richie Scarlet's usual guitar solo (as expected and seen on past tours), was nothing more than a guitar duet with Ace Frehley. It felt like Richie Scarlet had been trying his best, and then Ace joined him, not knowing exactly what to play. Both guitarists were kind of playing different guitar pieces which, sometimes, didn't have anything to do with one another. The worst part of it was when they had these "double guitar parts", where Ace's guitar was so loud that one could barely hear Richie's. Honestly, it sounded ugly. We can't really know if it was intentional, or just Ace's ego making him want to play more solos. Well, it's his band after all... Kiss fans may have loved it, but if one understands a bit about music, it's just loud and clear it was something not necessary at all.
"Shock Me", off the great Kiss "Love Gun" album came next, with Ace and his smoking guitar. That's surely one of his best songs while in Kiss, and it wouldn't be out of the set. Ace delivered the performance the fans expected, and that surely drew the attention off the drums again, which almost ruined the song when the band was playing the music that goes with the solo. As expected, the predictable smoking guitar effect during Ace's solo was a highlight too. But it was nothing new, especially if one considers that the effect of having his guitar fly away as it did when he was in Kiss was substituted by a roadie taking it and giving him his regular Les Paul to finish the solo.and Ace's out of tune solo could lower the magic of "New York Groove". A timeless song that, if played a little bit more carefully, would have been awesome. Ace Frehley is awesome at what he does. The thing is, he doesn't care about it... That would have been unfair leaving stuff from the great "Trouble Walkin'" album out of the set, and they didn't. So many unforgetable songs like "Do Ya", "Trouble Walkin'", "Back To School" and others... but they made one more wrong move... "Too Young To Die", maybe the worst track off that album was the pick. Sung by Richie Scarlet, who is also its lead guitarist, it was only another song nobody really even remembered well. Diehard Ace Frehley fans may have found it cool but, honestly, it felt like they were out of tunes for Richie to sing. If that wasn't enough, Richie Scarlet's usual guitar solo (as expected and seen on past tours), was nothing more than a guitar duet with Ace Frehley. It felt like Richie Scarlet had been trying his best, and then Ace joined him, not knowing exactly what to play. Both guitarists were kind of playing different guitar pieces which, sometimes, didn't have anything to do with one another. The worst part of it was when they had these "double guitar parts", where Ace's guitar was so loud that one could barely hear Richie's. Honestly, it sounded ugly. We can't really know if it was intentional, or just Ace's ego making him want to play more solos. Well, it's his band after all... Kiss fans may have loved it, but if one understands a bit about music, it's just loud and clear it was something not necessary at all. "Shock Me", off the great Kiss "Love Gun" album came next, with Ace and his smoking guitar. That's surely one of his best songs while in Kiss, and it wouldn't be out of the set. Ace delivered the performance the fans expected, and that surely drew the attention off the drums again, which almost ruined the song when the band was playing the music that goes with the solo. As expected, the predictable smoking guitar effect during Ace's solo was a highlight too. But it was nothing new, especially if one considers that the effect of having his guitar fly away as it did when he was in Kiss was substituted by a roadie taking it and giving him his regular Les Paul to finish the solo. I know I am talking about some fancy effect production, but I am also talking about Ace Frehley. Seeing that "unfinished Kiss stage effect" felt like watching a Kiss tribute band again. Fans were excited anyway, making Ace feel as if he was God. Well, Ace Frehley will always be Ace Frehley.
Still living up to Kiss's legacy, "Cold Gin" was the next song. Apart from the drums, it was surely another highlight. Ace didn't have to sing much of the lyrics, since every single person there (me included) was singing it. That's just another great Kiss song which couldn't be out of the live set. Was anything wrong then? Absolutely. That might have been either the third or fourth time Ace Frehley asked either his tech or someone from the soundboard to turn up his guitar. Come on, wasn't it loud enough yet? It was kind of unpleasant to the ears listening to it. Does Ace really care? And I do agree with the Kiss motto "If it's too loud you're too old". Maybe it wasn't just as loud as Ace's ego though, or maybe I am really getting too old for such silly attitude. Everyone went crazy and that was the last song before the obvious Encore to follow. Ace and his band hit the stage again after a few minutes to play, of course, two Kiss classic tunes. The first one, "Detroit Rock City", was a good pick for sure. What was bad about it? Yes, the drums. And the drummer. Scott Cougan once again took over lead vocal duties and, as on "Love Gun", his attempts to sound like Paul Stanley were less than avarage. The rest of the band did very well and Ace could remind more critical fans like me why he was so important in music history. And a version of "Deuce" was another good pick, where Ace Frehley played the licks which made him what he is today, but again singing half a line of each verse. Did the audience care about it at all? I guess not. At the end, there was the band introduction, and the fake "we love you, Brazil" bullshit, but we're all kind of used to it. Ace is not the first one to say what he doesn't mean. The truth is he doesn't care. We heard it from other artists before, but due to their most times unbelievable performances, we could tell they did care. Way different from the Spaceman. Will I stop listening to Ace Frehley's music or stop loving and respecting the guy? Surely not. Because just like his fans and most diehard Kiss fans, I care. Isn't that freaking weird? Curiously, critics here in Brazil were positive... Maybe seeing “The Ace” was the only thing about it. Well, Kiss fans... just like Guns ‘N’ Roses’s fans, Iron Maiden’s fans and Bon Jovi’s fans around here... See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.
01 - Fractured Intro
02 - Rip It Out
03 - Toys
04 - Parasite
05 - Snowblind
06 - Love Gun
07 - Rocket Ride
08 - Rock Soldiers
09 - Bass solo
10 - Strange Ways (Chris)
11 - New York Groove
12 - Too Young To Die
13 - Richie & Ace Guitar solo duet
14 - Shock Me 15 - Ace Solo
16 - Cold Gin Encore
17 - Detroit Rock City
18 - Deuce