Sunday, June 30, 2019

Frehley’s guitar blasts Kirby

Photo courtesy of JA Donnelly

Backed by a polished and energetic band, former KISS guitarist delivers   


WILKES-BARRE – Ace Frehley must like Northeastern Pennsylvania. On Saturday night, the former KISS guitarist and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer performed in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton market for the sixth time as a solo artist, dating back to 1985. This time, he was back at the F.M Kirby Center, where he had also played in 2016. And, like last time, he rocked the joint pretty good.

Frehley took the stage to the sound of “Fractured Mirror” – an instrumental piece which closes his 1978 solo album - filling the theater. He then opened the show with “Rip It Out,” the opening track from that same album. “Parasite,” from KISS’ second LP, “Hotter Than Hell,” followed, and chances are it probably wasn’t the first time Frehley performed the song on that same stage, as KISS had played the former Paramount Theater twice in 1974.

 “How ya doing Wilkes-Barre?” said Frehley after the second number. “You ready to rock?

The answer was ,”Yes,” and Frehley then tore into 1979’s “Hard Times,” a KISS gem that deals with Frehley’s teen years and the tough street life of the Bronx. Frehley offered an extended solo during the number, aptly displaying his lead guitar skills which have not diminished over the past 40 years.

One of the highlights of the show was Frehley’s new backing band, most of which he discovered last year while doing some shows with former bandmate Gene Simmons. Three members of the unit - guitarist/vocalists Ryan Cook and Jeremy Asbrock and bassist/vocalist Philip Shouse - had previously backed Simmons at some of his solo concerts. Frehley was impressed and hired them. The three additions, along with longtime drummer Matt Starr, give Frehley one of the best bands he’s ever toured with. The triple-guitar attack bolstered his sound and the harmonies were spot-on. Frehley was also generous to the musicians, allowing them take lead vocals on some numbers and solo. That, and their own charisma, made the concert experience even more enjoyable.

A churning performance of “Watching You” also connected with the KISS faithful and during a performance of the new “Rockin' With The Boys” Frehley frequently tossed guitar picks into the audience.

“It’s starting to get hot up here,” said Frehley, while taking off his blazer about five songs into the show. “I don’t want to pass out like I did last time.”

The comment - referring to his 2016 performance at The Kirby, during which he became ill,  had to cut the show short, and was treated for dehydration at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital – drew a chuckle from both Frehley and the crowd. On this night, however, all was well, and Frehley and the band then ripped through guitar-heavy renditions of “Rocket Ride,” "Mission To Mars” and “Strange Ways,” the latter of which featured another extended guitar solo. ”2,000 Man,” a song written and first recorded by The Rolling Stones, but has become a signature song for Frehley, also got one of the night’s biggest cheers.

“I’m looking out there and I think I see a few rock soldiers,” said Frehley, before launching into “Rock Soldiers.”  The anthem-like song, which appeared on 1987’s “Frehley’s Comet” album, remains a fan-favorite and also had the crowd singing along. And for his performance of the 1978 hit “New York Groove,” he brought out his famous lighted guitar which pulsated to the beat of the song. It, too, had plenty of fists pumping in the air.

It was during “Shock Me,” however, that Frehley showed his fans why he is the quintessential lead guitarist. Sure, he hauled out his trademark smoking guitar for a part of the solo, which made for a fun visual, but it was what he played that seemed to impress the crowd the most. It was one of the longest guitar solos Frehley has ever performed, full of both beefy riffs and quick playing. Frehley was already a guitar hero to many before the “shredders” of the ‘80s arrived on the music scene, and that’s never really been his style, but on Saturday night, at least for parts of his solo, Frehley was shredding. It was almost as if he was just having some fun showing off. And it was impressive.

The set ended with a pounding rendition of “Cold Gin,” which also featured an extended guitar solo.

Encores included “Detroit Rock City” and “Deuce,” and it is when you see Frehley tearing through the guitar parts of “Deuce” that you realize how important he was to KISS’ initial success. His sound is very much the sound of KISS “Alive,” the band’s now classic 1975 breakthrough album, and it is clearly a sound that he still holds dear and can still deliver.

Ace Frehley apparently likes Northeastern Pennsylvania.

And apparently it also likes him.

Another good show from the Spaceman.


This story also appears in The Times Leader newspaper and can be read online here:

Alan K. Stout has covered rock and pop music in Northeastern Pennsylvania since 1992. His weekly radio show, “Music On The Menu,” airs every Sunday from 9-10 p.m. on The River. Reach him at

1 comment:

  1. Very accurate. . Ace and this new band are a great combination!