Monday, October 26, 2015

Ace Frehley - Mississippi Moon Bar, September 11th, 2015

Where were you on Christmas 1977?  I was at home celebrating with my family and the one real thing I remember was that as a nine year old boy I got "KISS Alive II" as a Christmas gift.  That album started this thirty-eight year frenzy that has been my obsession with the band.  It was so much fun getting new KISS albums and listening to those old vinyl albums over and over again.  There are many confessions I can make about KISS and now is the time to start...

When I was young my cousins and I always wanted to be members of KISS we had our favorites and we always took on those roles.  As a young lad and a huge fan of Ace Frehley I wanted to be that persona despite the fact that I could not become him but I could live vicariously through Frehley.  I had tons of records, including the four solo albums (of the four solo albums Frehley's was by far the best) and I was devastated when I heard that the band and Frehley parted ways in 1982.

I don't remember the first time I saw KISS in concert but it was after Frehley and Peter Criss left the band but I believe it was either on the "Creatures of the Night" or "Lick It Up" tours however I do know that I saw the band seventeen times live (the last time being 2012).  What is interesting is that at no time had I ever seen Frehley live with KISS even after he rejoined the band.  I saw a menagerie of members of the band during that time but much to my chagrin I was never able to see Frehley.  That really upsets and saddens me at the same time because Ace Frehley is THE reason I wanted to be a member of KISS and the reason I was such a huge KISS fan.

In the thirty-seven years and nine months since I obtained that first KISS album the chance to see Frehley came to fruition.  The Mississippi Moon Bar located in the Diamond Jo Casino in Dubuque, Iowa has brought in so many high-caliber acts it was of little surprise to learn that Ace Frehley was taking the stage on September 11th, 2015. The Mississippi Moon Bar is a live music fans dream, its intimate, it had killer acoustics, great staff, ambiance and it attracts killer acts like Frehley.  Performers like BB King, Slash, Pat Benatar, Foreigner, Cinderella and numerous others have graced its stage.  I was excited to learn that I would get to hear Frehley on stage at the MMB because I knew with its acoustics that place would be LOUD.

As I write this I can tell you with some honesty that the blood that came out of my ears proved to me that it would indeed be loud.  Maybe not blood, or wax, or water or even brain matter but had the ringing in my ears lasted longer I would have gone mad.  Frehley came out swinging much to the delight of the crowd that I would have guessed would have known Frehley by his work with KISS but I was astonished how many knew the entirety of his catalog.  That last statement isn't indicative of anything Frehley has done wrong rather the area where the MMB is located hasn't really seen radio stations that played much of his work after his days in KISS.

Frehley came out exactly like I thought he would:  Loud and with authority.  Having worked myself up to the stage about as close as I could before the show began, I was ready for the power that Frehley would bring forth.  It was insane, Frehley owned that stage and he captivated those in attendance.
L - R Chris Wyse (bass), Scot Coogan (drums), Ace Frehley (guitar / vocals), Richie Scarlet (guitar)

Frehley has created a band that is really extraordinary.  The three men that make up the band with the legendary Frehely are seriously beyond belief.  It's incredible to watch this band perform because they meld so well with each other and more importantly, Frehley.  While it would be possible to compare the band with Frehley's former bandmates it is unnecessary because they stand on their own and do not require comparison.

Richie Scarlet (guitar) is one of those performers that seems to be a talent that fits inside the band like a hand fits in a glove (no OJ jokes please).  Scarlet takes command of his position on stage and demonstrates through his performance what an immense talent he is.  Scarlet is one heck of a stud on a stage and still shines through the shadow of Frehley.  I really like this guy and his talent!

Drummers are a thrill a minute kind of performer.  They are the energy behind the band, I think they could be described as the nuclear reactor that actually powers the band.  Although I doubt Scot Coogan glows with an irradiated green hue, the man dominates that drum set.  He destroys that drum set and based on the drum stick that I recovered (after Coogan threw it in the crowd) the man hits the drums so hard that he smashed the very wooden fibers that makes up the sticks.  As if I could be more impressed by Coogan he broke out lead vocals that were great on a song or two.  He is truly an elite talent.

Chris Wyse - bass guitar
Frehley has amassed a band full of exceptional talents but when he picked bass player Chris Wyse to be part of this band, it was a stroke of genius. I recently wrote about Wyse and his band OWL (HERE) I explained what a massive talent Wyse is and I sincerely think that following this performance Wyse could be my personal pick as the best bassist in rock today.  When Wyse began his bass solo I began to tell those around me to be prepared to be amazed and about thirty seconds into the solo I looked back and their mouths were agape with amazement.  The man is seriously a blast to watch on stage, and after the show he took time to chat with us and he is engaging and an incredibly talented person.

Ace Frehley
The man of the hour or the last forty plus years, Ace Frehley, was greeted with one of the most impressive responses by a crowd at the Mississippi Moon Bar in some time.  The man came out hammering the crowd with song after song of classic KISS songs as well as a bunch of his greatest hits.  I was seriously impressed by the number of people that knew every single song he performed which proves to me how important Frehley has been to music history.  I preach quite often about music history but when you listen to a few hundred people singing along with "Back in the New York Groove" you realize that he does have an impact on music history. 

Frehley proved some long standing beliefs to me that he really was the backbone to his former band.  Yes it is true that THEY have remained iconic but throughout the multiple performers that have graced the stage of that band in Frehley's place, none are better.  I felt like that kid in 1977 listening to Alive II all over again.  Frehley has a presence about him similar to what I felt when I saw the late great BB King on the same stage.  I was impressed watching how he held himself on stage and I appreciated the skill that I was watching.  I was further impressed by how much leeway he gives Wyse, Coogan and Scarlet.  It is quite apparent how much he respects those three, I highly doubt many others would ever be that open to allowing that honor to their bandmates.

When I went to the Mississippi Moon Bar on the fourteenth anniversary of the attacks on September 11th I never expected that Frehley would mention the events of the day, but he did.  To me that shows quite a bit about the man himself doesn't it?  Certainly he would have been affected in some way as he is from New York City but I didn't expect it.  Believe it or not that simple act solidified in my mind what a legend he truly is.

Everyone has heroes, and for me one of mine was Ace Frehley.  I was in a different world watching Frehley perform, I truly was.  The man is a legend and his band is truly one of epic proportions, it was a great thrill to watch this larger than life man perform in Dubuque, Iowa.  As a kid I always wanted to see KISS and I always wanted to see Frehley perform therefore with hindsight being 20/20 I could still kick myself for never seeing him perform with them just one time.  It was a mind-blowing experience for me when Frehley literally stood in front of me as he powered up the "smoking / glowing guitar" and based on the way every person seemingly hit the deck in search of a guitar pic, or an errant drumstick there were just as many others that were just as excited.

As we age we can only hope that we all have our heroes that we can see in person even one time but at the same time we can bank those memories for a day where we need that happy time.  Through music, and through live performances I have had the opportunity to see so many of my childhood memories in person.  Growing up in a small town I had opportunities to see few of my heroes in sports and music, but as I get older the opportunities have increased twenty-fold.  Reflecting back on seeing Ace Frehley visit the Mississippi Moon Bar I see myself in the third-person as I remember that first KISS album, that first Ace Frehley solo album, that first Frehley's Comet cassette and the way I absorbed every lyric.  I think to myself how cool it was that I was able to see Ace and the boys that night with two of my cousins that I attended so many concerts with and I realize how my fresh memories will be reflections to an EPIC night of music.

On September 11th, 2015 I attended an Ace Frehley concert at the Mississippi Moon Bar in Dubuque, Iowa to fulfill a lifelong dream of seeing one of my greatest heroes perform live.  Through the years I have been able to look back fondly and with trepidation at times to my past heroes but that early September night I was nine once again.  If you have the opportunity to see Ace Frehley live, do it.  My mind was blown and I loved every minute of it!  To Chris, Scot, Scarlet and of course Ace, THANK YOU, that was one of the greatest nights of music I have ever seen.

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