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Ace Frehley, Hounds Of Hell, These Automatic Changers @ The Studio, Auckland, New Zealand

ACE FREHLEY / Hounds Of Hell / These Automatic changers
in Sunday, 26 April 2015 at The Studio
by Daniel Fox

Thy Lord and Facemelter, Ace Frehley, had graced New Zealand with his presence for the first time in 35 years, on the 25th of April, during the Australian leg of his world tour with his touring band, comprising of Richie Scarlet on guitars and vocals, bassist extraordinaire Chris Wyse and, another legend who has been everywhere, drummer Scot Coogan. One can expect a selection spanning Ace’s entire solo career, some select KISS mainstays and a few Easter-egg covers along the way.

It is safe to say that, for Auckland, that Saturday marked an important day in our city’s history of live music. The Studio was packed to the rafters, putting on an impressive merch stand and catering to an impressive VIP package. Getting there half an hour early, I managed to secure my spot front-and-right-centre, almost directly in front of Ace and Richie for the majority of the set.

Beginning the night were THESE AUTOMATIC CHANGERS. Less so the classic, Hard Rock I was expecting, their powerful and groovy set consisted of a range of Bluesy, Psychedelic, Stonerish numbers; though the ‘classic’ vibe that was running through the night was certainly prevalent. Commendable musicians in their own right, while the setlist grew a little monotonous – one choppy Blues groove to the next – I had to admire the power they exude from their songwriting, no small amount of thanks to vocalist Solomon Cole, whose charismatic-yet-raucous voice cracked the roof. I would like to think about them as a band to ‘experience’, rather than simply watch or listen to, their infectious grooves perfect in smatterings.

Next up was I sound I did not at all anticipate; HOUNDS OF HELL were next up, playing at the other end of the Heavy spectrum with music that could only be described as bad-to-the-bone, classic Heavy Metal; think BLACK SABBATH, meeting RAGE, meeting METALLICA. Faster, heavier, chunkier and more aggressive than both the Ace band and the previous support act, they provided a much-appreciated and much-needed gap and gasp for air between what would be two stylistically-similar performances. Watching them play was equally as entertaining as listening to them, displaying magnificent guitarwork and enthralling showmanship.

After no small amount of set-up time (though not quite as tedious as the 40-minute wait between sets at a past NIGHTWISH gig in the same venue), John Howarth appears on stage, in a (successful) attempt to rile us up. Us yuppies dare not allow ourselves to be relegated to the “pussy” status the Wellingtonian crowd gave us, and I’m not so sure we were.

The Ace band appeared one by one, in quick succession, Ace of course appearing last and being met with explosive applause, especially since, by this point, the venue was 99% full. Richie adopted his front-left position on stage, right infront of me for the majority of the set, although the 3 frontmen (Scot atop his drum mountain) made a point of moving around the stage with gusto.

Beginning with KISS beauty “Rocket Ride”, the set was into full swing, with a kind of energetic stage performance I was not prepared for; Richie is one crazy piece of work, enthusiastically and maniacally engaging with the crowd, dishing out plectrums left right and center, occasionally playing pick-less. Ace sung the majority of the tracks with a powerful voice, kept well in-check given his 40 years+ playing music; while the rest of the band contributed a thick timbre of backing vocals, they each performed solo vocals on a track or two each. Ace and the band naturally played a grand spree of tracks from his new album, namely the title track, “Space Invader”, “Toys” and “Gimme a Feelin’”. Of course, there were to be more KISS smash-hits abound, such as our beloved “Strutter” and “Talk To Me”. Funnily enough, my favourite moment of the night was actually Chris Wyse’s bass solo, being a bassist, and bassist enthusiast, myself; laying down an incredibly tone and dancing across the fretboard with a medley of noodles and dextrous tapping. Come Ace’s solo, near the end of the set, he brought out his infamous glowing and smoking guitars, having designed them himself; something certainly now a mainstay of a Spaceman gig.

Considering 80% of my concert attendance so far this year has consisted of extreme heavyweights like MARDUK, MAYHEM, NAPALM DEATH and CARCASS, an ephemeral Hard Rock gig rather hit the spot. Not the greatest sound-quality for the night, but being up the front, that was hardly a discernible issue to focus on; I was too busy getting my face melted.

1. Fractured Mirror
2. Rocket Ride
3. Gimme a Feelin'
4. Toys
5. Parasite
6. Snowblind
7. Love Gun
8. Breakout
9. Space Invader
10. King of the Night Time World
11. Strutter
12. 2000 Man
13. Rock Soldiers
14. Bass Solo
16. Strange Ways
17. Talk to Me
18. New York Groove
19. 2 Young 2 Die
20. Shock Me
21. Ace Frehley Guitar Solo
22. Rip It Out
23. Detroit Rock City
24. Deuce

*Photography: Ken Harris

Ticket Price: $85 NZD


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Edited 30 January 2023

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