Review: Ace Frehley- Motor City Harley Davidson Music and Food Festival – Farmington Hills, MI – 8/28/16
About a month or so ago, I was scrolling down my Facebook feed and noticed an advertisement that caught my eye. I saw that original KISS guitarist, Ace Frehley was coming to the Detroit area on August 28th, 2016. I was so stoked. I then looked to see what venue this was going to be at and saw that it was going to be at a Harley Dealership down in Farmington Hills, MI for the 1st Annual Motor City Harley Davidson Music and Food Festival”. This was a 3 day event featuring a different headliner each night. The first night featured singer, Scott Stapp from the band Creed. The second night featured former Skid Row singer, Sebastian Bach. On the third and final night, Ace Frehley was scheduled to close out the festival. I missed out on seeing Ace the last time he was in town, opening up for Alice Cooper at DTE Energy Music Theatre (aka Pine Knob) a couple years ago. I was not about to miss him again. Ace is currently touring in support of his latest album “Origins Vol 1” , released this past spring on April 27th via eOne Music. That date was also Ace’s 65th birthday. The album, which consists of all cover songs , hit #23 on the Billboard Top 200 the first week. Ace had some high profile guests on his album. You may heard of some of them… Slash, John 5, Lita Ford, Mike McCready just to name a few. Another high profile guest on the album is Paul Stanley from KISS. This was the first time Ace has recorded with Paul Stanley since 1998’s KISS album “Psycho Circus”. This is a very good album and despite it being all covers, it’s been one of my favorites so far this year.
The day of the show has arrived. This was a free show held outside in the parking lot of the new Motor City Harley Davidson dealership. I was approved to photograph Ace’s show, so I wanted to get there a bit early just in case there were any issues with obtaining my credentials. Me and a couple friends (CJ and Christina) drove down to the event and arrived around 6pm. Ace was scheduled to go on at 7:30pm which was a bit different than the previous two nights where the headliners were scheduled to go on at 9pm. This was due to the show being on a Sunday night where a noise curfew of 10pm was being enforced. The show would have to end by 9pm to allow time for all the motorcycles to clear out by 10pm. We arrived and mingled with some of the event staff while we waited for Ace to hit the stage. As we were talking with some of the event staff, we were met with horror stories about last night’s headliner Sebastian Bach, who staff said was very difficult to deal with. They stated that Bach took the stage over an hour late leaving fans with a shortened set, but also added that he put on a good performance for the limited time he was on stage. They said that so far, Ace Frehley and his camp were a pleasure to deal with.
It’s almost time for Ace Frehley and his band to take the stage. Myself along with 4 or 5 other local photographers positioned ourselves in front of the stage waiting patiently for Ace to begin his show! Ace Frehley’s current band lineup includes guitarist, Richie “The Emperor of Rock n Roll ” Scarlet on guitar, Chris Wyse on bass, and Scot Coogan aka “The Coogiemonster” on drums. It was still bright and sunny which are not the best conditions to photograph a show in. I am sure Ace and his band didn’t like it much either. 7:30 has arrived! Ace’s tour manager John came to the microphone to introduce Ace to the stage. Ace and his band start right into “Rip It Out”, the opening track from Ace’s 1978 solo album. Once you start to hear Ace play, any KISS fan or guitarist in general will tell you that Ace’s guitar tone/sound is what made KISS sound the way they did. Sure, it did take the original 4 guys to make the magic they, but a huge factor of it was that tone of is. Next up was the song “Toys” from Ace’s 2014 album “Space Invader”. It didn’t get much of a reaction from crowd, but what did was Ace and Richie trading off riffs, throwing guitar picks into the crowd and just having a great time. Ace looked happy and in good health. Next up, the crowd got to go on a ride with Ace.. A “Rocket Ride” that is. The band sounded great on this track. While everyone was witnessing what a great job Scot Coogan does on the drums, I think it may come as a surprise to some, just how good a vocalist he is. Scot first gained attention in the early to mid 2000’s as the drummer for the band Brides of Destruction which featured Nikki Sixx and Tracii Guns. One of the stand out tracks of that album was a song called “Life” that he sang lead vocals on. He also sang back up for Motley Crue on a few of their new songs that were released on the “Red, White and Crue” compilation. Most recently, he sang on two tracks (“White Room” and “Bring It On Home”) on Ace’s new album. During this performance with Ace, you can really hear Coogan’s contributions to the background vocals. After “Rocket Ride” was over, myself and a few other photographers left the pit and relocated to different areas behind the crowd so we could get a few extra shots from a distance and still enjoy the show.
After finding a spot near the right side barricade, I continued to enjoy the show. Getting to that spot wasn’t too difficult. The seating for the VIP area in front of stage only sold about 30% of the tickets. The rest of the audience stood outside the barricade. Next up was a KISS fan favorite, “Love Gun”. Like I mentioned before, it’s all tone!!! Once Ace started the guitar solo for that song, you hear that tone and vibrato of Ace and his guitar and it’s takes me right back to being a teenager listening to the KISS- Alive II album. Song after song, Ace and his band kept the momentum going. Ace eventually took a short break while bass player, Chris Wyse did a brief bass solo. I have always thought bass, drum and guitar solos were/are a complete waste of concert time but I get why they do it. Although, I was patiently awaiting for Ace’s guitar solo spot during “Shock Me”. There are some exceptions to having a guitar solo spot. If I gotta sit through a guitar solo spot during a concert, I’d rather it be someone like Ace Frehley, Eddie Van Halen, or Zakk Wylde. Sure, their respective solo’s are all pretty repetitive at this point, but seeing and hearing them perform them again is just as entertaining as when you first heard or seen it.
Ace continued to play all the songs you would expect him to play including one off his latest “Origins Vol ” album. That one was “Emerald”, originally done by Thin Lizzy. Ace changed T-shirts a couple times during his show and was now sporting a Thin Lizzy t-shirt. After a few more KISS era classics such as “Strange Ways”, “New York Groove” and a track from Ace’s 1989 Trouble Walkin’ album, “2 Young 2 Die”.. Ace had switched to his sparkle blue, Gibson Les Paul. This meant it was time for “Shock Me” which included Ace’s guitar solo. The sun had finally started to go down a bit more which made the lighting on stage look much better. Once Ace started his guitar solo, everyone knew what was about to come.. SMOKE!!! The crowd began lifting their cell phones in the air taking photos and videos as smoke started coming out of his pickups as he played the familiar licks that we have grown to love. This (at least for me) was the highlight of the show. As I mentioned before, it really takes me back to when I first heard Ace perform that song and solo. I also have fond memories of seeing Ace and Richie Scarlet perform in the late 80’s at a club we used to have called “The Ritz”.
I had seen a copy of the setlist earlier that evening. “Cold Gin’ was supposed to be next but was likely cut due to time restraints as the show had to end at 9pm and it was now getting close to that. Me and my friend Christina made our way to the side of the stage for the encore which started out with “Detroit Rock City”. It’s no secret that Detroit played a pivotal role in the success of KISS, in the early days. It’s always pretty special to hear that song played in the Metro Detroit area. Following “Detroit Rock City”, the crowd began to chant “Ace! Ace! Ace!”, when the band launched into the final song of the night, “Deuce”.
It was sad to see the show come to an end. Other than the few solo spots from Ace and Chris, the band played for a solid 90 minutes. This is great to see, considering some bands/artists out there only play a total of 70 minutes. As Ace and his band exited the stage, me and Christina got to talk to Scot Coogan for a minute. I have known Scot since his Brides of Destruction days when I used to be one of the web guys for them. Ace, Chris and Richie had already made their way to the bus. One of my friends got to meet Ace on his bus. He said that Ace was in great spirits and that everyone in Ace’s camp was very nice deal with during the meet and greet process.
By now you have already figured out that I am a huge KISS fan. In the last few weeks, I have gotten to photograph the current KISS lineup at their recent show in Saginaw, MI. I was also able to get a photo op with the band thanks to their manager, Doc McGhee. Now I got to see the great Ace Frehley and photograph his set as well. LIFE IS GOOD!! If you get a chance to check out Ace on this tour, definitely go check him out. You can view his tour dates below.
Photos from show:
Ace Frehley 2016 Tour Dates
Sep 23, 2016 – New York, NY – Playstation Theater
Sep 24, 2016 – Binghamton, NY – Magic City Music Hall
Sep 27, 2016 – Pittsfield, MA – The Colonial Theatre
Sep 29, 2016 – Beverly, MA – Cabot Theatre
Sep 30, 2016 – Poughkeepsie, NY – The Chance
Oct 1, 2016 – Lakewood, NJ – Rock Carnival
Oct 4, 2016 – Lancaster, PA – Chameleon Club
Oct 5, 2016 – Stroudsburg, PA – Sherman Theater
Oct 6, 2016 – Greensburg, PA – Palace Theatre
Oct 8, 2016 – Clifton Park, NY – Upstate Concert Hall
Oct 9, 2016 – Tarrytown, NY – Tarrytown Music Hall
Click Image below to purchase Ace Frehley’s lastest album “Origins Vol 1”