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Shepherds Bush Empire, London 17 December 2009

If recent comments by Paul Stanley are to be believed, Ace Frehley is a washed up alcoholic barely capable of standing up, let alone performing. As the clock ticks perilously close to 10.00 tonight, with still no sign of Ace, we start to wonder whether there may be some truth to Stanley's comments.

Frehley's original stage time of 9.00 had already been put back to 9.30 and with no show at just before 10, the crowd were starting to lose patience boos were starting to break out and the natives were restless. Then on the stroke of 10, the band finally appears and launch into Rocket Ride at ear-splitting volume. The Space Ace has finally touched down in Shepherds Bush and he's here to rock.

The set is quite a bit different, and shorter, than the set Frehley played at last year's show at the Astoria. With a blizzard blowing up outside, it's appropriate we get Snow Blind from the original '78 solo album, as well as a great version of Speeding Back To My Baby, but no New York Groove.

Only two tracks from the excellent new album Anomaly are featured tonight, with Outer Space proving Ace has not lost his songwriting skills. Rock Soldiers, complete with crowd sing-along, is the only song from the Frehley's Comet era to survive.

The rest of the set, not too surprisingly, is made up of Kiss material. What is surprising is that a fair few of these Kiss songs are not the ones penned and sung by Ace. Parasite, Deuce, Love Gun and Shout it out Loud all feature, as well as the obscure Love Her All I Can from the Dressed To Kill album.

Of the songs originally sung by Ace in Kiss, only 2,000 Man and Shock Me, featuring the obligatory smoking guitar solo, make the set tonight. The reason for this, we discover half way through the set, is that Ace is suffering from a bad throat tonight, having played seven shows in eight nights. He is therefore relying quite heavily on his band members to help out with the vocals on quite a few of the Kiss numbers, and getting the crowd to do their bit too.

Although understandable under the circumstances, it's a shame as we don't get a lot of the great Ace Kiss originals we could have got such as Hard Times, Talk To Me and Torpedo Girl. And let's face it, before next summer Kiss are gonna be in town to play the likes of Love Gun and Deuce anyway.

Still all in all this was a most enjoyable show, even if Ace wasn't quite in top form. He finishes with an explosive Cold Gin and takes off back to outer space, until next summer when he is scheduled to return. If his throat recovers and he hits the stage on time, I think those shows could be out of this world.

Review by Jim Rowland

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