Live Review – Ace Frehley, Enuff Z’Nuff at Saban Theater

Photo by Bob Lee for the LA Beat.

It’s now been over twenty years since Kiss put their makeup back on and gave us that reunion tour of the original band that we wanted so badly. Boy, following a 17 year absence, we DID want it, too. The good old days of 1996- suddenly I feel nostalgic for nostalgia! It really was a good show, too. Then after a few years it all went to hell and half the band quit again, in roughly the same order they did the first time. Now we get to miss them, again.

But it’s hard to miss Kiss when they won’t go away. The Gene and Paul franchise have delivered a similar show on an annual basis ever since, with ringers in the spaceman and kitty cat positions. Can you blame them? Would anyone buy tickets to a show featuring Crazy Nights in its entirety? This is their legacy, and their life, like it or not. They can start Vegas Motown Soul bands for kicks, but let’s be clear, the raison d’etre of their first division project is always going to involve the fragile dynamics that exist between the four talismans: bat-lizard, spaceman, starchild and kitty cat.

You know who it IS possible to miss, though? The one and only spaceman himself, Mr. Ace Frehley. Ace didn’t write that much in Kiss, but almost all of his songs were highlights of the albums they appeared on. He’s a unique lead guitarist, not the most technically gifted but certainly distinctive. And he doesn’t come around very often, so the LA division of the Kiss Army was there in force to see him at the Saban Theater last Friday. Ace played with impressive strength and looked to be in fine spirits, periodically cackling at some inaudible in-joke while introducing the next number. He’s had a well-publicized journey to sobriety, and clean living seems to have done him good – he looks healthier and more vital than he has in some time. And for this round, he’s got a tight, highly tensile band, including a drummer with a really high voice, that do justice to the material.

We got most of his career highlights tonight, including a snarling “Rip It Out” and luminous “New York Groove” from his 1978 solo album, the Frehley’s Comet anthem “Rock Soldiers”, and the cream of his Kiss contributions – “Parasite”, “Strange Ways”, “Shock Me”, “Cold Gin” and “Rocket Ride.” He’s working a new album of classic rock cover tunes, Origins Vol. 1, and gave us versions of Thin Lizzy’s “Emerald” and Willie Dixon’s “Bring It On Home”. And there were some Kiss songs that he didn’t write, but to which he contributed unmistakable guitar parts: “Love Gun”, “Detroit Rock City” and the brilliant final encore of “Deuce”.

Enuff Z’nuff played a strong opening set. They’ve just released their twentieth album, and judging by their current repertoire, they haven’t deviated much from the Cheap Trick/ Raspberries roots that made them such a pleasant surprise in the late-eighties rock scene. Melody and energy are a winning combo, and if only they dressed like REM, they’d likely be college rock darlings. 

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