Band: Gene Simmons with special guest Ace Frehley
Venue: The Tivoli, Brisbane
Date: September 1st 2018
Photographer: Andrew Treadwell (Hang Me On Your Wall Photography)
Reviewer: Curt Ubank
Throughout the course of the 1970s, there were few bands who had the might and power of KISS’s live show. Carving out their own brand of spectacular, Make up clad, explosion filled rock, they were untouchable. With the original line up fragmenting in 1980, reuniting for several years in the late 1990’s, then promptly breaking up again, fans have clamoured to see the original line up rock the stages again. Tonight, Brisbane’s Tivoli gets half their wish granted. It’s a KISS Fans dream, Gene Simmons Headlining, Ace Frehley Opening, No make up, no boots, 100% Rock and Roll.
The venue is perfect for a unique show like this. Its small enough to feel intimate, but large enough to not be cramped, and KISS fans have come out in droves to fill it as much as they could. The atmosphere is electric as the familiar jangly guitars of “Fractured Mirror” fill the hall. Ace and the band Blast straight into “Parasite” and two things are noted of Ace’s set. Tonight he’s sharing Gene’s backing band, and his set is almost entirely KISS tracks. Nobody in the crowd seems to mind, as they all chant and sing every word back to the stage. Ace’s years of partying have taken a small toll on his vocals, with more than a few stumbles through “Hard Times”, before finally getting into top gear for the rest of the show. They blast through “2000 Man””Rock Soldiers””Rip It Out””Love Gun” and “Rocket Ride” with the swagger and charm that made Ace a guitar hero all those years ago. We also get a few of Ace’s fancier FX guitars for “New York Groove” (A halogen billboard Les Paul is always neat” and of course, “Shock Me”‘s smoking rig. Amusingly enough, the smoking guitar seemed to be set off accidentally, as Ace’s Techs handed it to him, whoops. When it came time to deliver though, everything worked like a charm. Closing the set with KISS Klassics “Detroit Rock City” and “Cold Gin”, the crowd of course, went nuts, as the space Ace swaggers off backstage.
Now, while many in the venue have seen Ace perform live without the grease paint and platform boots, Gene Simmons has never really done a solo tour. Can he rock a stage without dragon boots and chrome armour? the Answer is of course, YES. Gene and Co tear into the stage with “Shout it out loud”, with an energy and strength that many younger artists could only dream of. The band kicks straight into the second song, and its immediately clear that this isn’t a greatest hits show, with “I” from 1981’s KISS dud, “Music from the elder”. Its exciting and fun to hear, especially as it’s from an album most KISS fans would prefer to forget. The surprises keep coming, with an unreleased track from Gene’s (several thousand dollar) Boxed set “Gene Simmons Vault” called “Are you ready”. It’s a treat, and actually a damn fine track. Current KISS Staples “War Machine” and “Calling Dr. Love” have all the flash and balls of their normal KISS set versions, before we hit another pair of deep cuts, “Charisma” and “She’s so European” which of course, Gene changed to “She’s so Australian” with a horrific pantomime of an Australian accent.
This set is certainly tailor-made for KISS fans, who’ve obsessed over every album and release, unlike many KISS shows. this is especially evident with “Love theme from KISS”, a chill instrumental track from the band’s 1974 Debut, and fans lose their minds over it, its brilliant to hear live, and the band seem to love the reaction. We swap from deep cut to KISS staple and back again with “Let Me Go, Rock and Roll” “Radioactive” and “I Was made for Loving You” with Gene getting vocal help from a fan named Chrissy for that one, we even get a Little Richard cover of “Long Tall Sally” for good measure, before smashing through the last of the set’s KISS Klassics, including a killer live cover of “Plaster Caster”. You couldn’t have a fanboy’s dream set like this without one more surprise, and of course, Gene pulls his former band mate Ace back onstage, (As well as more than a handful of fans) to bring the house down with “Deuce” and “rock and Roll all nite”. As a fan who never got to see Ace perform in the full KISS line up, it’s a beautiful sight, with everyone in the room cheering out those familiar lyrics, Its a hell of a way to end a show.
To see Gene live without the Greasepaint, without drooling blood, No flying rigs and no pyro, It’s clear that the shiny armour and stage antics hamper him to a degree. Instead of hulking around on the stage, pulling poses and spreading his batwings, He’s energetic, limber, and looks like he’s 25 all over again. He’s a musician with 40 years of experience under his belt, and at least for tonight, it’s not one with a studded leather codpiece. It sure makes for one hell of a first solo tour.