JAM Magazine Concert Reviews

February 28, 2016
The Bomb Factory
Dallas, TX USA
Review by David DiPietro
Photos by Michael Insuaste

Ace Frehley

Ace Frehley Brings The Boom To The Bomb Factory

KISS guitarist Ace Frehley has been an extremely influential figure in hard rock guitar circles for the last 40 years. Musicians as diverse as Eddie Van Halen (nearly a member of KISS in 1979), 'Dimebag Darrell of Pantera and James Hetfield of Metallica, have many times cited him as a seminal influence.

As KISS's lead guitarist from 1973-1982, Frehley was a streetwise Bronx combination of Johnny Thunders and Johnny Ramone. While not a technical virtuoso, the feeling and power in his licks and solos was a main factor in Kiss' heralded halcyon days of the '70s.

Frehley's concert at the Bomb Factory in Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas only underscored that despite being sacked from KISS almost 35 years ago, his 'Space Ace' aura remains, undiminished and widely appreciated.

"Fractured Mirror," an instrumental from his 78 solo album, was a surprise and an inspired choice for a show intro, with its acoustic simplicity, which gradually built to an inspiring earth-shattering crescendo. They took the stage and kicked into "Toys" from his 2015 LP Space Invader.

The last show I attended at the original Bomb Factory, which recently re-opened was a dismal sounding concert by a watered-down Black Sabbath (Tony Martin on vocals) and a then-tired and un-loud Motorhead in 1994. All I can say about the venue is, it is no longer a dump. I did not recognize it, in a good way, and the sound was far superior to 22 years ago.

"Rocket Ride," (one of the best songs ever written about the singer's penis) had the sound dialed in, nice and loud. "Parasite" sounded better than it did on the Hotter Than Hell album, but with Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise producing the 1974 album, that was not a difficult task to accomplish.

Frehley's backing band was tight and solid. Never much a vocalist, he made a good decision with who in the band sang what sang classic KISS tune, all of which made up the majority of this night's set.

Rhythm guitarist, Scot Coogan had Paul Stanley's heavy metal Tenor down pat on and inspired "Love Gun," another classic song about a cock. KISS may have indeed invented Cock Rock. When I closed my eyes (or rather, they closed themselves), it sounded like Tarrant County Convention Center, 1977.

When KISS did the solo albums in 1978, Frehley's was easily the best as well as the highest selling and he mined a few nuggets off of it tonight. "Snow Blind" sounded superb, with Frehely taking the lead vocal as he did on the album. The solo break, on his trademarked cherry sunburst Les Paul, was riveting.

A surprising cover of Thin Lizzy's "Emerald" (maybe not that surprising, given his latest album is classic covers) was nailed.

"Strange Ways," as many longtime KISS fans know, contains one of Frehley's most over the top and original solos. As he was obviously sober (indeed, the best condition I have ever seen him in since '77), it is needless to say it was flawless.

Frehley's biggest solo hit, "New York Groove," must have annoyed Simmons and Stanley when it was the only song off of the 78 KISS solo albums to chart. It may have also inflated his ego and led him to leave the band 3 years later. Tonight it had a triumphant swagger and cadence and the Bomb Factory crowd ate it up.

"Shock Me," was no shock and it is always a delight to hear. Especially when Frehley is sober and hammers the solo home. He did tonight. The song itself, which is about a KISS gig in Florida '76 when he was nearly electrocuted to death onstage, encapsulates KISS' unique (and I feel accidental) ability to compare and contrast the humorous and the tragic.

I am not trying to state that Fellini or Bergman should have done a film about "Detroit Rock City," but it is a stoned thought. It would have to be shot in black and white with chiaroscuro lighting.

The tune DTRC itself came next and foreshadowed the show was reaching a zenith. It was an exile-rating adrenalin rush as, per usual.

ACE FREHLEY "Parasite" Bomb Factory Dallas, TX 2016 Tour

The song was never a hit and in 1976 and was not considered nearly the hard rock anthem it is now. This was a damn good version, Frehley spitting out sparks on the fret board. Not that this is complicated stuff, but like a band, say, UFO, there is a definite lilt in the time and cadence of the playing, not a typical 4/4 or 4/5 gal-avant.

I of course predicted (the classic, but overplayed) "Rock and Roll All Night," as an encore, but Ace and company eschewed it for the harder rocking and more powerful, "Deuce." The opening cut on the breakout 1975 Alive! album. It rocked the house and had many reluctant air guitarists (myself for a few embarrassing seconds), breaking down.

What can you say critically? Ace has stuck to his guns. He had substance issues. He may or may not have been delivered a raw deal from Stanley and $immons,

But what matters now is does he rock?

The Bomb Factory crowd of about 1,000 would vote on this Super Tuesday in the affirmative.