[LIVE REVIEW] Gene Simmons W/ Ace Frehley @ Festival Hall, Melbourne 30/08/2018

There are fewer names in today’s music world that hold as much weight as that of Gene Simmons.

Having a lifetime of success with the band KISS, which he co-founded in 1973, and has had continued success as a singer, record producer, TV personality, actor, and entrepreneur.

Fast forward over 40 years and he is still a name synonymous with not only the KISS franchise but a whole persona of his own.

In 1978 KISS made an unprecedented move of having all four members release solo albums on the same day. They were heavily marketed and had the same overall design which kept them under the KISS banner. In this, the 40th anniversary year of the solo albums it was an absolute delight to have Gene visit Australia once again, being supported by none other than one of his brothers in Ace Frehley.

The night was billed as being a blast from the past spectacular and from the opening note it certainly lived up to its expectations.

Opening proceedings for the night, Ace made his entry onto the stage and jumped head first into Parasite. The mostly older crowd was singing along, although in a much more subdued fashion than in yesteryear I’d imagine.

Pulling out some absolute classics such as Hard Times, 2000 Man, Rock Soldiers and Love Gun in typically Ace fashion, he made light of having to use a lead, as he usually is rigged up fully wirelessly.

Moving through favorites such as New York Groove and Shock Me before giving the crowd a taste of his guitar genius in a blistering solo run. Amongst the electric blue lights and smoke Ace cut a figure of a guitar legend impressing the very attentive crowd. He certainly has not lost that amazing talent at age 67. Closing his set with two of KISS monster tracks in Detroit Rock City and Cold Gin one could well be forgiven for feeling a little nostalgic.

A brief interval ensued and when the house lights went out the crowd let out an intense roar. Gene came forth on the stage, cutting a striking figure as he’s towering silhouette was bathed in light.

With a booming, “Good evening Melbourne!!” he and his band featuring bandmates Phil, Ryan, Jeremy and Christopher all from Nashville Tennessee, leapt straight into the dynamic Deuce followed by Shout It Out Loud.

With a bit of essential Gene humor, he gave a quick plug to the comprehensive collection called The Vault which is now available, before delivering Are You Ready.

What happened next was something I did not expect. Having spoken about the stage musical School of Rock, which is currently playing in Melbourne, Gene then called up a 10-year-old boy named Zane to play guitar on stage with them during Calling Dr. Love. Not only was he as “rock and roll” as they come, but he played flawlessly, not missing a single note.

The crowd farewell Zane from the stage with a huge round of applause and Gene took the time to introduce the band and take some media photos.

Next up on the journey back through time, was Radioactive and one of my personal favs Charisma with Almost Human thrown in between.

After more comedic banter, Gene proceeds to introduce to the stage another performer from School of Rock named Amy,  who would perform a red-hot rendition of I Was Made For Loving You. This young lady has some pipes on her!!! Next came what I am sure was a highlight for some female VIP fans,  who were given the opportunity to get up on stage and sing Do You Love Me, with one young girl declaring her adoration for the rocker, probably old enough to be her father!!

I,  Long Tall Sally, and Plaster Caster were in the next bracket, with way more fans knowing these songs than I had anticipated Especially as some rarely if ever  have been played before.

Love Theme From KISS and War Machine followed before it was time to get the VIP guys on stage for their turn to sing along with I Love It Loud, and boy did it look like they were absolutely loving it.

Mixing up the lyrics to make it more location friendly, She’s So European soon became She’s So Australian and took on a whole new spin.

Next was Let Me Go Rock And Roll with Ace making a return to the stage, alongside his former bandmate. All of the VIP fans then got up together and joined by the band, and the whole crowd, belted out Rock And Roll All Nite, for a cracker of a finale to an amazing night. Gene made sure to say KISS would be back in 2019.

For someone like me who grew up with KISS as an ever-present icon in music, this was a night of most epic proportion. Churning out hit after hit in absolutely fine form, it was a real pleasure to watch. At ages is 67 and 69 respectively, Ace and Gene totally nailed it as they have for generations, and as I hope they continue to do for as long as possible.

Review Contributed by Jodi Maree

Gallery Contributed By Matt Allan