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Ace Frehley returns to House of Blues with strong band

Cary Ashby • Aug 14, 2019 at 6:30 PM

CLEVELAND — My night with Jeff Bertram to see Ace Frehley at the House of Blues in Cleveland couldn’t have gone any better.

Regardless of this being my third time seeing Frehley and his band in concert, Ace is worth the price of admission. I’ve been saying that for 20-plus years, dating back to the first time I saw “Space Ace” in concert, when he reunited with the original KISS lineup for the first show of the “Reunion” world tour in Detroit in 1996. 

Frehley truly is a rock legend. I remain fascinated watching the master at work —  hammering away at notes and in many ways, creating as many great solos as he did during his heyday as KISS’ lead guitarist. Sunday was no different. 

His bandmates (two guitarists, a bassist and drummer) were locked in as an ensemble. On top of that, the young, high-energy performers made sure they interacted with the audience. As usual, Frehley kept his chatter with the crowd to a minimum and let his guitar playing speak for itself. At 68 years old — similar to his younger days in KISS — he knows his job is doing the heavy lifting on lead guitar while his bandmates can jump around on stage and work the crowd. And the two guitarists and drummer didn’t let us down when they handled a few of the lead vocals. 

The set list was standard fare, but there were several songs that were thrilling to hear. The second and third tunes, “Parasite” and “Hard Times,” sounded as fresh as they did on the KISS albums in 1974 and ‘79. This was the second time I heard Frehley and his band perform “Strange Ways,” a deep cut from “Hotter Than Hell” and its unfailing riff and solo.

Frehley was up to his old tricks when he played “New York Groove” on his guitar with the white strobe lights — his creation from four decades ago. I caught Jeff’s eye when smoke started pouring out of Frehley’s Les Paul during his trademark “Shock Me” solo. His expression was priceless; it was fun seeing somebody experience that for the first time.

Like It was the opening act and while I tend not to comment on openers, I will say the quartet’s riffs were catchy and the group gave it their all. The lead singer’s antics with the crowd weren’t as wonderful or humorous as he seemed to think they were. Let’s put it this way: I can’t say I hated Like It. They were entertaining; yet as usual, I was grateful for a short set.

So besides Frehley and his band delivering a great show, what else made Aug. 4 such a joy? Spoiler alert: The evening only cost us gas and parking. 

First off, thanks to the House of Blues, I was runner-up in a Facebook contest and won two tickets less than a week before the concert. Jeff and I found a parking lot two blocks from the venue for $10, so that was an easy walk. There was a line to get in, but when I mentioned to a House Blues employee I had tickets at “will call,” we went straight in and snagged the tickets. Easy peasy! 

Since Jeff and I left Norwalk about 4:30 p.m., we had plenty of time before the show. The ticket worker gave us coupons for 15 percent off an item at the House of Blues restaurant, which was just around the corner. Since there was a 45-minute wait, Jeff and I decided to walk around. Sure enough, he remembered having gift cards for Buffalo Wild Wings, so we ate there instead.

This good fortune of ours being what it was, we ran into a guy named Will who told us we could get to the House of Blues by going through the restaurant. After being “wanded” by security guards, we entered the venue from near the side of the stage, which allowed us to get that much closer to the stage. My left ear was still ringing Monday night, but it was all worth it to be about 40 feet from my favorite member of KISS.

 

Set list for Ace Frehley at the House of Blues, Cleveland

Rip It Out

Parasite

Hard Times

Watchin’ You

I Wanna Go Back (Eddie Money cover)

Rocket Ride

Mission to Mars

Strange Ways

2000 Man

Rock Soldiers

New York Groove

Shock Me

Cold Gin

Encores: Detroit Rock City

Deuce

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