The last time I was stoked for an opening act was when Roger Daltrey warmed up for Eric Clapton. Warmed up? More like a supernova. It was an off night for Eric at the Gwinnett Arena, but Roger came to play and brought the house down. I had deja vu this week at the Variety Playhouse when Geoff Tate of Queensryche opened with his new band Operation : Mindcrime. The headliner was none other than Ace Frehley of KISS. You know – Space Ace, Spaceman, the one with starburst patterns around both eyes.
Tate and O:M may have had second billing but they blew Frehley off the stage. I wish Tate had more than the one hour bone that was thrown to them. Yeah, Frehley had a stack of Marshalls to the ceiling and Lord knows they were LOUD. But it takes more than volume to hold my interest. Ace’s guitar solos were the same minor pentatonics, there was that tired rock god stage posturing, but no Kabuki make up (thank you). Otherwise it was pretty much KISS reincarnated.
Admittedly I am a bigger fan of Queensryche than KISS but I tried to keep an open mind throughout the show. It was very hard for me because the whole thing started wrong. There were two lines entering the Variety Playhouse, each going in different directions on Euclid Avenue. It was the usual drill – general admission, doors at 7:00, show at 8:00. The lines were not moving well and, after waiting for 30 minutes, the line I occupied was told that it was for VIP ticket holders only. No signage, no personnel directing us, no way for us to know we were Pintos in the Beemer line. There was only a handful of VIPs there, so nearly our entire line was told to go to the END of line number two. So there were some hot tempers in line. To make matters worse it was even hotter once we got inside. Hot like temperature hot and little ventilation, with everyone rushing to get a good seat or a primo spot in front. Add to the mix a larger than normal police and security presence, which made us even more edgy. But still I tried to keep an open mind about the music.
Operation : Mindcrime came on stage shortly after 8:00 and slashed through an inspired set of Queensryche favorites as well as new material from “The Key”. Geoff’s voice is stellar, hitting every high note effortlessly, enjoying the crowd vibe. No longer wearing spandex (thank you) Geoff has apparently scooped up a handful of the magic dust that Queensryche had left behind because the old stuff worked well here tonight. Even Silent Lucidity was perfect and was received well by the fans.
SET LIST : NEUE REGEL, WALK IN THE SHADOWS, TAKE HOLD OF THE FLAME, WEIGHT OF THE WORLD, SILENT LUCIDITY, DAMAGED, I AM I, BURN, RE INVENTING THE FUTURE, THE STRANGER, I DONT BELIEVE IN LOVE, EMPIRE, EYES OF A STRANGER, SPOOL.
So that was Queensryche in their glory days, this is Operation : Mindcrime.
After an hour they were gone, leaving a crowd hungry for more. I hope Tate and company return as the top bill. I will surely be at that show. There was a long intermission before Ace Frehley and band pranced on stage at 9:45.
Paul Daniel “Ace” Frehley was a founding member of KISS in 1973. It all started when he answered an ad in the Village Voice for a guitar player. He left the band in 1982, went solo, then rejoined KISS from 1996 to 2002. He has used many custom guitars that put on a light show, spew smoke, or shoot crazy fireworks. Frehley is credited with designing the iconic band logo. The two lightning bolts apparently look too much like the Nazi SS symbol, so this version of the logo is outlawed throughout much of Europe. Ace started playing guitar at age 13. He never had a lesson or attended any music school, and doesn’t know how to read music. Nonetheless, Ace is included in most top 20 lists of all-time greatest metal guitarists.
Tonight’s musical selections were Rip It Out, Toys, Rocket Ride, Parasite, Love Gun, Graveyard, Breakout, Sister, Emerald, Rock Soldiers, Strange Ways, New York Groove, Too Young To Die, Shock Me, Cold Gin. Encores – Detroit Rock City, Deuce.
I especially enjoyed Emerald, a Thin Lizzy cover. Ace dedicated Too Young to Die to A.J. Pero, the drummer for Twisted Sister who recently departed us. For New York Groove Ace used his light show guitar. As you can gather from the set list, it was KISS heavy with a sampling from Frehley’s solo career including the recent “Space Invader”.
When I purchased my ticket for Tate and Frehley I didn’t expect to see Queensryche and KISS, but I did for the most part. These bands belong to those flick-your-bic days of arena rock shows and the Variety Playhouse is just a little ol’ theater.
A random parting thought : in a couple weeks Space Ace will be Medicare eligible.
Thanks to Jackie for letting me park in her apartment lot for concerts. It is greatly appreciated.
Until the next concert, it’s time for my boot heels to be wanderin’.