Ace Frehley is an iconic figure. Larger than life, the space ace from Jendel. All my life I’ve seen him depicted on album sleeves, posters, bubblegum cards, comic books and action figures. Ace is a quintessential part of so many peoples’ childhoods - a cosmic, heroic figure. But how does a lifetime worth of iconography translate to the small stage, in the flesh? Stripped back to the songs themselves, could it be that Ace is just a man?
'Rocket Ride' kicks things off. The band is tight but loose and Ace is on form. The set draws upon a mixture of Ace’s solo catalogue, Frehley’s Comet and KISS classics, with all of the band members sharing vocal duties throughout the night. The show really comes alive when Ace takes the mic though - when Richie Scarlet or the others sing lead the show veers a little too closely towards cover band territory with each member seemingly doing their utmost to upstage Ace, hamming it up and throwing big rock shapes.
Ace keeps the banter to a minimum; some brief quips about the 70’s pepper the set before diving back into 'Snowblind' and 'Love Gun'. Midway through the set the show hits one of many peaks, with '2,000 Man' and 'Rock Soldiers' hitting back to back. Ace is clearly in his element now - comfortable with the material - and the crowd comes alive in unison. Then we get a bass solo no-one was waiting for. 'Talk to Me' and 'New York Groove' get the ball rolling again as the set builds towards Ace’s party piece, the flaming guitar solo. Pentatonics drenched in smoke and delay fill the room, squalling and diving - It’s discordant, it’s beautiful, it’s Ace fuckin Frehley. The Spaceman has landed.
The main set climaxes with 'Rip It Out' from his 78 solo LP, but the band swiftly return to the stage to power through crowd favourites 'Detroit Rock City' and a crushing version of 'Deuce', featuring the solo that scored Ace his gig in KISS all those years ago. 40 years on and it still utterly rips.
The whole night has an aura of celebration about it, with the crowd’s fondness for Ace readily apparent. He’s the perennial fuckup and underdog, but we want him to win - and tonight he does. Let’s face it, no one feels that way about Gene Simmons.