• Fri. May 24th, 2024

ALICE COOPER/ACE FREHLEY concert review

ByTaylor T Carlson

Oct 9, 2022

Ace Frehley and Alice Cooper played The Dollar Loan Center on Saturday, October 8, 2022.

All good things must come to an end, and that’s what we saw with the closure of the Henderson Pavilion, long one of my favorite places in town to see a concert. The Pavilion’s closure was for the construction of a new mid-sized arena that could host Henderson Silver Knights hockey games. Not being a sports fan, this wasn’t something I was crazy about, but was happier upon hearing concerts would be taking place at the new venue. And you better believe I was ecstatic upon hearing two of my favorite titans of the rock world, classic KISS guitarist Ace Frehley, and shock rock legend Alice Cooper, would be teaming up for a gig. Godsmack had played the venue just a week earlier.

This was my first time attending a show at The Dollar Loan Center, and while I wasn’t thrilled to hear that they charge for parking (a frustrating ordeal that’s popping up all over this town), the inside of the arena actually quite impressed me. It’s larger in here than you’d imagine! I’d could probably best describe the layout of the venue as a slightly smaller version of the Thomas and Mack Center, though this actually works to its advantage in that there aren’t any overly bad or “nosebleed” seats. The arena is also unique in that its a “cashless” facility, only accepting electronic forms of payment, including for band merch (while that’s certainly not unique to this venue, it’s the first time I’d encountered it at one in the Vegas Valley). I didn’t have a chance to check out any of the concession/dining areas The Dollar Loan Center had to offer, but will certainly mention these in a future review if I partake of them. Overall, the layout of the facility was pleasantly surprising, and while I’m still sad to see the Henderson Pavilion go, I’m glad to see we now have a larger venue that could host a wider variety of gigs than that one could.

It seems like nearly every rock fan in Vegas, as well as plenty from out of town, came to pack the venue for this evening. In addition to my usual assortment of music scene friends, other personalities attending included Murray the Magician, comedian and ex-THAT METAL SHOW co-host Don Jamieson, and even Lizzy Borden, vocalist of the Metal Blade Records band of the same name! Fellow THAT METAL SHOW alum Eddie Trunk was also in attendance, recording and streaming portions of the show online, although I never did encounter Mr. Trunk in person.

Anyway, if you’re reading this review, it’s most likely to know how the evening of rock and roll fared. And these two rock legends and their respective accompanying bands didn’t disappoint. Ace Frehley, KISS’ classic guitarist, took the stage first, with a backing band that including two additional guitarists plus bassist Zach Throne and drummer Matt Starr. The Spaceman has kept busy in recent years, giving audiences albums of original material and covers alike. Those plus his classic KISS and solo output were well represented in his set, which kicked off the evening.

As far as the setlist goes, it covered a pretty wide range of the Space Ace’s career. KISS was represented in the form of “Parasite,” “Rocket Ride,” “Detroit Rock City,” “Shock Me, and “Deuce.” “Parasite” is a bit of an oddity in that Ace wrote the song but didn’t sing it in its original studio form on 1974’s KISS sophomore effort, HOTTER THAN HELL, as he wasn’t confident in his vocal abilities back then. But he’s been singing it over the years since then and does a damn good job of it! I was also pleased to see him allow one of his guitarists to show off his pipes on “Detroit Rock City,” matching that song’s Paul Stanley vocals better than Mr. Frehley would’ve been able to. “Rocket Ride,” one of the studio cuts from ALIVE II, was a great deep cut featured here. If there’s one Ace KISS-era song that was disappointingly omitted from the set, it’s “Cold Gin,” but this era was adequately represented with what we got.

The other tracks in Frehley’s set consisted of various ones from his solo output, including “Rip It Out” which opened the set, and his cover of Russ Ballard’s “New York Groove,” both from his 1978 KISS-era solo album (all four members of KISS released a solo album in September 1978, with Ace’s unanimously being considered the best of the lot), plus “Rock Soldiers” from 1987’s classic FREHLEY’S COMET album on Megaforce Records, and a medley of covers from the more recent ORIGINS covers albums. It was great to see old and new Frehley solo output represented, with the one missing song from Ace’s more recent career I would liked have heard being “Bronx Boy,” though again, that’s a minor omission.

The stage show didn’t fail to please either, with Mr. Frehley having recruited a kick-ass band of musicians, including a reliable rhythm section of Matt Starr and Zach Throne, the latter of whom I’ve seen with many acts out here in Vegas; about a year ago I saw him doing an all-KISS set with former members Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer, as well as Slash bassist Todd Kerns. Ace himself shredded away as he always has in fine form, enough so that I can mostly forgive him flubbing some of the lyrics in “Rock Soldiers.” And yes, he made smoke come out of his guitar, because what Ace Frehley set would be complete without that? If there’s one minor complaint with the set, it’s that Ace’s performance was slightly overshadowed by that of the younger, more energetic men he shared the stage with, though that’s certainly not a knock on the Space Ace. That he’s still delivering on the live stage at age 71, especially given all his past demons, is remarkable. He’s well worth seeing live in concert still, and there are plenty of rockers younger than him I can no longer say that for.

Interesting trivia: Ace’s 1987 hit “Rock Soldiers” was co-written by Chip Taylor, the brother of actor Jon Voight and the uncle of actress Angelina Jolie. He also wrote the classic 60s pop anthems “Angel of the Morning” and “Wild Thing.”

And then, of course, comes the case of Alice Cooper. This guy put out his first album with his classic eponymous band back in 1969, and at age 74, he’s still delighting audiences with his own brand of shock rock. Last year saw the release of DETROIT STORIES, his 28th studio album (and that’s not even including his pre-Alice Cooper band work or his tenure with Hollywood Vampires!) For his current band lineup, Cooper features bassist Chuck Garric (also of the band Beasto Blanco), drummer Glen Sobel, guitarists Tommy Henriksen and Ryan Roxie, and, returning to Cooper’s band for the first time in over three decades, muscle-bound guitarist Kane Roberts, who’s imposing physical appearance certainly made an impression in those classic 80s MTV videos.

More interesting trivia: During Kane Roberts’ tenure in Alice Cooper’s band, the bass player was none other than Kip Winger, who just a few short years later founded the band Winger, who went on to massive success on the charts and MTV with anthems like “Seventeen” and “Headed for a Heartbreak.”

Cooper wasn’t necessarily the first musical artist to combine theatrics and rock music, but there’s no one better associated with it – and rightfully so. The Coop is the king of shock rock, and I’m eternally grateful this guy got his life on track following bouts with addiction in his distant past. One of the most impressive things about Alice Cooper is the differentiation the guy has made between his life on stage and off stage. On stage, he’s as shocking, edgy, and entertaining as he’s ever been. Off stage, he’s a born-again Christian who regularly participates in celebrity golf tournaments! This man is truly one of my rock and roll heroes, persevering (and staying relevant along the way!) as few others have. Sure, his musical career may have had a few missteps here and there, but you can’t deny that there are more hits than misses in this guy’s repertoire.

The theatrics were as entertaining as ever, with the backdrop resembling a medieval castle, complete with a walking platform and turret atop, making for some interesting visuals. Among the sights to see on stage were giant monster babies, a large zombified version of Cooper, a woman being pursued by Jason Voorhees (accompanying a performance of a song Cooper recorded for the FRIDAY THE 13TH film franchise), appearances by other horror icons, and of course, a guillotine. I’ve always admired Alice’s ability to juggle the theatrical and the music, with one never quite overshadowing the other. It’s the best of both worlds, and it’s as true now as it’s ever been.

Cooper has cycled through many band lineups, members, and special guests over the years on his albums and his live concert tours. While no members from the classic Alice Cooper Band that recorded the first seven albums were in this touring band (classic co-guitarist Glen Buxton sadly died in 1997), they have still contributed to the recording of Alice’s more recent records. This band, however, absolutely did not fail to please, always front and center with plenty of chances to show their stuff, something I again admire Cooper for doing, even if it is his name on the bill, first and foremost.

So, where do you begin when you have 28 studio albums of material to choose from? Cooper’s got a killer catalogue, but having so much music to choose from surely makes selecting tracks for a setlist astonishingly difficult. That said, what was compiled and performed live on this evening was a great mix of hits and deeper cuts. The classic era was represented with cuts like “I’m Eighteen,” “I Love the Dead,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” and “School’s Out” (the latter song typically serves as the final song of the evening, during which time Cooper introduces his band). The latter half of the 70s was represented with a handful of songs and jams from Alice’s first solo record apart from his classic band, 1975’s WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE, though the title track was strangely omitted despite being one of Alice’s biggest songs. And his “comeback” era in the mid 80s/early 90s was represented with Kane Roberts-era cuts “He’s Back” and “Freedom,” songs I never thought I’d get to see live with Mr. Roberts back in the band! Other songs played from this era included “Bed of Nails,” (the lone song on 1989’s TRASH that Roberts guested on), “Poison,” “House of Fire,” and “Hey Stoopid.” Opening the show was “Feed My Frankenstein,” famously performed by Cooper in the film WAYNE’S WORLD.

Like I said, selecting a setlist is no easy task for Alice Cooper when he has so much material to choose from! I could nitpick here, but he did a solid job in selecting a nice mix of hits and deep cuts. The one wasted opportunity, in this fan’s opinion, was to not perform “Teenage Frankenstein,” the opening cut on 1986’s CONSTRICTOR, one of the songs responsible for unleashing a revived Alice on the world, it too of course featuring Roberts as its axeman. I’ll make no more remarks about the setlist; these were solid selections overall.

2022 has given us many epic nights of rock and roll in the Las Vegas Valley. Alice and Ace gave us a truly killer set from their respective back catalogues with impressive backing bands. It was my first gig at The Dollar Loan Center, and it almost certainly won’t be the last. If you can catch Mr. Frehley or Mr. Cooper on their respective tours, and you’re a fan, you won’t be disappointed with what you hear.

By Taylor T Carlson

Taylor T Carlson Assistant Editor/Senior Staff Writer Taylor T. Carlson was born August 17, 1984, and has called the Vegas Valley home his entire life. A die-hard fan of classic rock and metal music, Taylor has been writing album and concert reviews since he was 16 years old, and continues to do so, having done well over 1,000 reviews. He is also a fan of video gaming and cinema, and has reviewed a number of games and films as well, old and new alike. His thorough and honest (some would say brutally honest) reviewing style has won him the respect of hundreds of music fans and musicians alike, both local and abroad, and the ire of just as many others. Despite being one of the youngest attendees at classic hard rock/metal shows around Vegas, he is also one of the most knowledgeable, having gained the unofficial nickname of “The Eddie Trunk of Las Vegas.” In addition to reviews, Taylor has written and self-published three books on classic hard rock bands, and is a regular participant in rock and roll trivia contests. Taylor also holds a masters degree in special education from the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV), and has appeared on the hit History Channel television series Pawn Stars. His dream is to be able to one day make a living from writing music books and reviews.

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