Former guitarists Vincent Vincent, Ice Freely, and Bruce Kollek played last night for the first time ever.
At the end of Vincent’s first large-scale public performance in decades, held at the Creatures Festival in Nashville, the trio came together in ’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 instrumentalist, the Kiss alumni gave an entertaining show to the audience, as security staff walked the grounds in an effort to prevent anyone from filming the historic event.
Biggest takeaway tonight? As an electric guitarist, Vincent still owns it. And as one of rock’s great mysteries, Vincent still has it too.
His 45-minute set sure had interesting aspects, starting with the timing. Although billed as the main title in Saturday’s Creatures Fest, with ’80s favorites Vixen and Pretty Boy Floyd as supporting works, Vincent wanted to play first, and apparently also wanted to get started before the audience could get in. The ballroom doors are still closed and long lines of fans are lining outside, and Vincent is starting to play hellish notes on his guitar. His distinct style was evident, even behind closed doors.
When the doors finally opened, fans flocked—not to some PA playlist, as is usual in rock shows, but to the sight of Vincent onstage, in his full makeup “Ankh Warrior” on stage, ripping him away on Flying V Pink guitar, while standing atop a replica of a tank turret drum riser from Kiss’ 1983 Tour.
It was an unforgettable start to the show, especially considering that more than a few attendees were frankly wondering if Vincent who is prone to cancellation would really show up.
But he showed he did, with fretboard skills that apparently haven’t faded much since then lick itKiss is the only album to feature as an official member of the group’s lineup. (He was also among the undercover ringtones who contributed to guitar and songwriting creatures of the nightKiss’ 1982 album featuring Frehley on the cover despite the fact that he doesn’t perform any of the songs.)
Vincent’s penchant for extremism remains the same, too. The Creatures Fest group began playing him for 15 minutes or so on unaccompanied guitar in a choppy style, reminiscent of his extended solo features Lick it Up, which had been a frequent point of contention between him and Kiss the frontman Paul Stanley.
Although there are a few recognizable footage, including portions of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” most of Vincent’s opening 15-minute segment feels like it’s ripping into a stream of consciousness. During this clip, anytime Vincent’s playing was paused for a few seconds – which didn’t happen often – the audience cheered for more. Finally, running out of notes a quarter of an hour later, he carried his pink Flying V into a victorious position.
Guitarist/singer Shane Smith of the tribute band Kiss You Wanted the Best has joined Vincent. In a sudden movement, there was a drum track and no drummer on stage when the two broke out on “I Love It Loud.” Although the gang’s vocals were also delivered across the tape, the lead vocals sounded lively and Smith, who plays Gene Simmons in You Wanted the Best, did their job well.
However, it wasn’t until Vincent peeled off some delicious bends, wiggled the battering rod and zigzagged runs during the solo section, that the electricity returned to the room. Vincent concluded the song by licking blues metal, engaging in some calls and responding with the audience, who happily made a comeback.
Afterward, Kollek walked onto stage to big cheers, brandishing a white Gibson SG guitar and wearing an ankh-embroidered headband in a clear and elegant homage to Vincent. When he and Vincent set off in creatures of the night The ‘War Machine’ gem, the bull was like barbed wire. For the solo unit, Kulik contributed to a hot break. The highlight and most collaborative moment of the night was the Coda, which featured Kollek and Vincent playing harmonious guitar characters together.
All this time, behind the stage, you could see Frehley in the shadows, in a decent look and effortlessly cool as always in a leopard-print jacket, jeans and a pilot. The crowd, many of whom were wearing T-shirts or tattoos with Frehley’s Spaceman makeup design, went crazy when he walked onto the stage.
Freely began playing “Cold Gin” with a sprinkle of Les Pauls filled with honey around his neck. But then everything prevailed, as the technical problems began. At his brand New York, Freely quipped, “What happened to the drums track?” Everyone in the hall laughed, including Vincent. After that, Freely started playing “Deuce”. Once again, it failed to launch. Once again, he laughs and babbles. Again, Freely plays Freely: “I can play anything. I just need a drummer.”
Finally, “Deuce” descended from the ground, albeit a bit wobbly. About halfway through the first stanza, the music is straightened out. Smith and Freely exchange lead vocals to verses and Freely plays solos. After “Deuce” reached his destination, Freely said over the microphone, “Thank you, Vinny!” Then he walked over and got a fist blow from his successor, who leaned over the tank stage jamb.
For the 900 or so die-hard Kiss fans at the all-sold-out hotel hall show, it was a dream come true. It also provided a fascinating perspective on the dynasty of one of rock’s most influential guitar bands. Freely’s boomy, sassy/arrogant licks were the X factor in the original classic rock of the ’70s. Vincent’s Kiss with neon blur has been modified for an ’80s adaptation. And Kulick, who is arguably the best and most complete guitarist of the three, balances a great blend of ’70s roots and ’80s chops.
Next, they re-release “Cold Gin” with Kollek busting solos. After Cold Gin finished, Freely applauded and said, “Bruce Kollek, lead guitar!” With Freely on stage, the smiling Vincent seemed happy to lie down for a bit. During “Cold Gin,” he acted as a silent fan, pointing back and forth between fellow expat Kiss while Frehley and Kulick exchange clumsiness.
In 2022, the sight of a smiling Vincent was welcome, and the black-shirted crowd smiled straight at him. Happening in its first year, the Creatures Festival got off to a hot start on Friday night with Frehley and original drummer Peter Criss gathering on stage to perform “Hard Luck Woman” and “Strange Ways” as part of Frehley’s main group. Other artists at Creatures Fest include Enuff Z’ Nuff, former Motely Crue representative John Corapi, and Quiet Riot.
After “cold gin” reached its climax, Smith gave a final shout to Freely, Colek, and Vincent. The crowd bathed Vincent in the “Vinnie! Vinnie! Vinnie!” tour of Cheers. With the help of the Creatures Fest crew, Vincent descended the tank tower. He walked to the edge of the stage, shook hands with several fans in the front room and shared one more smile. Then, seemingly proving his skeptics wrong, Vinnie Vincent is gone again.
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