Festival Hall, iconic to the Melbourne and Australian music scene, was set, yet again, to host some of music’s biggest names. Although it was only half of the iconic Glam Rock outfit known as Kiss in the names of Gene Simmons and Ace Frehley. Melbournites were still in treat for an amazing night of rock and roll. Patrons were made to wait a tad longer than expected with doors opening some half an hour later than anticipated but once those doors opened the 1,000 plus crowd flocked to their seats escaping the brisk chill of one of Melbourne’s last winter nights.
Ace Frehley is rarely used to playing an opening slot but tonight was special. He was supporting Gene Simmons. Both with their own bands. To be honest I didn’t really know what to expect as I took my seat but from the opening note from Ace’s guitar till the very last I was not disappointed. From the opening note the spectators ditches their floor seats and all elected to stand and migrate to the front barrier. Within seconds the venue filled with anticipation.
Starting the set with an original and 2 Kiss songs, he followed with a warm and rowdy reception to a Rolling Stones classic from 1967, 2000 Man. Unexpected, the energy in the room rose with a fabulous rendition of the blues rock classic.
2 originals proceeded and the energy in the room maintained and then Ace cracked out a fan favourite with Love Gun. He didn’t introduce the song as one of his but written by a good friend known as Paul Stanley. That sent a personal warm feeling through my heart that even after 45 years each member still loves and acknowledges the hard work of the other. In what was already a rocking room, again rose, with sing-alongs.
Keeping the sole spotlight throughout the set Ace shredded and ripped his way through another 4 kiss songs wowing the crowd with continuous rifts. At one point his guitar matching his shredding with lights on the guitar flickering faster and faster the harder he went. Was really a spectacle. After that his guitar sparking up into smoke. The highlight of his set watching his fingers bob and weave through the smoke. At this time the band had left the stage but you would never have noticed. Ace’s presence filling every inch of the stage.
The crowd yet again high on energy were wowed again with another Kiss classic. A personal favourite of mine Detroit Rock City leaving everyone satisfied for what was to come.
An excellent feature of the set was how different it was. Many bands choose to harmonize vocals as a major selling point to their music. Why harmonize vocals when you can harmonize your guitars instead? Ace wowing the crowd with incredibly nerve touching solos and beautiful harmonies with each of his members at times during the set really showing why he has been a staple of the world music scene for so long.
Leaving the stage a light chant of Ace Motherfucking Frehley echoed around my seated section.
The rousing set of Ace Frehley left the crowd waiting eagerly for Gene to grace the stage and boy did he not disappoint. He may not have been The Demon tonight but he was still the same boisterous personality.
Starting with a Kiss song, Deuce, he bought his A game. Stopping after the first song to thank the crowd for being there and what they’ve contributed to Kiss over the years meant the world to him. “We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you, Thankyou” had the crowd super appreciative of the night they’d already experienced. Gene shocked the audience and myself by playing my favourite song. Whipping out a big gun early the crowd went into a frenzy for Shout It Out Loud, Gene not even needing to sing some sections as the crowd took over. I was truly satisfied having heard that.
Again Gene took another break to promote GeneSimmonsvault.com which contains unplayed Kiss songs as well as the next track they were playing Are You Ready. The first of his originals was taken wonderfully with the crowd.
Gene started his first of many inclusive things for the night bringing out a 10-year-old boy. Some on-stage banter between Gene and his other band members, he asked Zayne, the boy, to say something Aussie to the crowd, he followed with “it’s so lovely to be here and try and please you all, thank you for having me” Gene then stopped him and corrected the boy in how to appropriately introduce yourself to a crowd by saying “Hello Melbourne, how you going tonight” with your arms outstretched wide. The kid listened and did and the crowd all but doubled their roar. Gene looking at the boy and saying, “See what happens when you listen to me, you go far” together they then played Calling Dr Love. What a wonderful gift to give to such a young person.
Radioactive felt like the most well appreciated of his solo work with the crowd not stopping the energy. Stopping again though to thank Reece for “being the best Australian”. There was a large comedic event where what seemed to be a very drunk patron had stood up on his chair to wave to Reece, while looking in the wrong direction, and Gene trying to get his attention ended up being widely laughed upon.
Like previously with Zayne, Gene had invited another member of his School Of Rock on stage. A female vocalist this time to sing I Was Made For Loving You. Unfortunately, she didn’t perform the song to its very lofty standards. It was hard to sing along too with no real consistency behind the vocals. Still wonderful to see a member of Kiss perform their most famous song.
Gene called a whole brigade of female patrons to the stage to sing Do You Love Me. Once again the energy was radiating from the stage and amongst the audience. Over 100 people looked to have joined him on stage some of them just taking the chance to dance. Sadly another major downside was following this song a young girl took the mic and asked if she could sing a song with her favourite artist. Gene asked, “What song” and she replied with Love Gun. Trying not to be obviously rude, Gene stated that that had been played by Ace in the previous set. She proceeded to waste time trying to decide a song and it resulted in some not very pleasant remarks from the crowd. Gene doing his best to save the poor girl he said he’d love to sing the final song of the night with her. When that moment came she didn’t return to the stage.
Doing his best to revitalize the disgruntled crowd, Gene played a couple of originals before playing what was the most unexpected song of the night. An instrumental from their very first studio album, the crowd, confused for a minute while the band played Love Theme from Kiss, were left confused no longer when it led into a very powerful performance of War Machine that had the crowd chanting and pumping their metal horns into the air in time with the beat. Suddenly the energy was back in the room.
Next was I Love It Loud, and there was a clever word change in She’s So European to “She’s so Australian”. For now what the crowd had been waiting for all night long. Ace Frehley joining Gene on stage for 2 wonderful songs. The first was Let Me Go, Rock n Roll, and as the night finished with the spectacularly swamped stage of maybe 200 people this time, Gene and Ace rocked away the cold of outside with Rock and Roll All Nite. It’s not very often you get to see music’s legends, but to be treated to 2 in one night as well as 21 Kiss songs throughout the set, I’m sure every patron will join me and thank them for a wonderful night.
The most interesting thing to come from the night though was Gene’s very open promise that Kiss will return next year to Australia for a very special tour. Satisfied with the night I’m sure everyone will now be eagerly awaiting an official announcement about just when we’ll get to see the legendary rock group in Australia again.