Former Kiss guitarists Vinnie Vincent, Ace Frehley and Bruce Kulick performed together last night for the very first time.
At the end of the reclusive Vincent’s first large-scale public performance in decades, which took place at Creatures Fest in Nashville, the trio reunited to ’70s Kiss classics “Deuce” and “Cold Gin.” .
Despite having to overcome technical difficulties with a backing drum track that was used in place of a live musician, the Kiss alumni delivered a crowd-pleasing show, as a security team paced the ground in an attempt to prevent anyone from filming the historic event.
Biggest takeaway of the night? As an electric guitarist, Vincent still has it. And as one of rock’s great enigmas, Vincent still has it too.
His 45-minute set certainly had some questioning aspects, starting with the timing. Even though he was billed as the headliner of Creatures Fest on Saturday, with 80s favorites Vixen and Pretty Boy Floyd listed as supporting acts, Vincent wanted to perform first, and also apparently wanted to start before the crowd. can’t even get in. With the ballroom doors still closed and long lines of fans lined outside, Vincent began unleashing hellhound flurries of notes on his guitar. His signature flair was unmistakable, even behind closed doors.
When the doors finally opened, fans rushed in – not for an AP playlist, as usual at rock shows, but for the sight of Vincent onstage, in his full stage makeup. “Ankh Warrior” Kiss, shredding on a pink Flying V guitar, while standing atop a reproduction tank turret drum riser from Kiss’ 1983 tour.
It was an unforgettable start to the show, especially since several of the attendees openly wondered if the cancellation-prone Vincent would actually show up.
But he showed up, with inning skills that apparently haven’t gone away much since. lick it, the only Kiss album on which he appears as an official member of the band’s line-up. (He was also one of the underground ringers who contributed guitar and songwriting for creatures of the nightthe 1982 album Kiss which features Frehley on the cover despite not playing on any of the songs.)
Vincent’s tendency towards maximalism also remains intact. The Creatures Fest set began with him playing about 15 minutes of shred-style unaccompanied guitar, reminiscent of his solo features from the Lick it Up tour, which were a frequent point of contention between him and Kiss frontman Paul Stanley.
While there were a few recognizable bits, including bits of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” most of Vincent’s 15-minute opening track felt like a stream of consciousness. During this segment, every time Vincent’s playing paused for a few seconds – which didn’t happen often – the audience wanted more. Finally out of notes after a quarter of an hour, he brandished his pink Flying V in a victorious pose.
Bassist/vocalist Shane Smith from the Kiss You Wanted the Best tribute band later joined Vincent. In a surprising move, there was a drum track and no drummer on stage when the two launched into “I Love It Loud.” Although the gang vocals also came out on tape, the lead vocals sounded live, and Smith, who plays Gene Simmons on You Wanted the Best, did his job well.
Yet it wasn’t until Vincent pulled off a few tasty turns, whammy-bar moves and zigzag runs during the solo section that the electricity returned to the room. Vincent concluded the song with licks of blues-metal, engaging in a call and response with the crowd, who happily responded with courtesy.
Afterwards, Kulick took the stage to cheers, brandishing a white Gibson SG guitar and wearing a headband decorated with the Ankh symbol in a clear and elegant tribute to Vincent. When he and Vincent embarked on the creatures of the night gem “War Machine”, the riffage was like a razor’s edge. For the solo, Kulick contributed a warm wah-wah break. The highlight, and by far the most collaborative moment of the evening, was a coda featuring Kulick and Vincent playing harmony guitar figures together.
All the while, behind the stage, you could see Frehley in the shadows, looking fit and as effortlessly cool as ever in a leopard print jacket, jeans and aviators. The crowd, many wearing t-shirts or tattoos with Frehley’s Spaceman makeup design, went wild when he took the stage.
With a honey-burst Les Paul around his neck, Frehley began playing the “Cold Gin” riff. But then everything went silent, because the technical problems started. In his New York drawl, Frehley joked, “What happened to the drum track?” Everyone in the ballroom laughed, including Vincent. Then Frehley started playing “Deuce”. Again, launch failure. Again, laughter and chatter. Again, Frehley being Frehley: “I can play anything. I just need a drummer.
Finally, “Deuce” took off, albeit a bit wobbly. About halfway through the first verse, the music picked up. Smith and Frehley swapped lead vocals on the verses, and Frehley played sour solos. After “Deuce” reached its destination, Frehley said into the microphone, “Thank you, Vinnie!” then approached and received a punch from his successor, who leaned down from the top of the tank’s stage prop.
For the nearly 900 die-hard Kiss fans at this sold-out hotel ballroom show, it was a dream come true. It also offered a fascinating perspective on the lineage of one of rock’s most influential guitar bands. Frehley’s bluesy, jaw-dropping/swaggering licks were the original line-up’s classic ’70s rock X-factor. Vincent’s neon blur modernized Kiss for the ’80s. And Kulick, arguably the best and most well-rounded of the three guitarists, balances a tasteful mix of ’70s roots and ’80s chops.
Then they revived “Cold Gin”, with Kulick going wild on the solos. After “Cold Gin” ended, Frehley clapped and said, “Bruce Kulick, lead guitar!” With Frehley on stage, a smiling Vincent seemed happy to relax a bit. During “Cold Gin”, he served as a silent cheerleader, pointing fingers between fellow expatriates Kiss while Frehley and Kulick traded riffs.
In 2022, a smiling Vincent is a welcome sight, and the black T-shirt clad crowd smiled back at him. A freshman event, Creatures Fest kicked off Friday night with Frehley and original Kiss drummer Peter Criss reunited on stage to perform “Hard Luck Woman” and “Strange Ways” as part of Frehley’s headlining . Other Creatures Fest performers included Enuff Z’ Nuff, former Motely Crue frontman John Corabi, and Quiet Riot.
After “Cold Gin” peaked, Smith gave Frehley, Kulick and Vincent one last shout. The crowd bathed Vincent in a round of “Vinnie!” Come! Vinnie!” cheers. With the help of the Creatures Fest staff, Vincent descended from the turret of the float. He walked to the edge of the stage, shook hands with many fans in the front room, and shared one more smile.And then after seemingly proving his skeptics wrong, Vinnie Vincent was off again.
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