Rock & Roll Hall of Famer & Founding Member of Kiss, Ace Frehley
I had last seen Ace Frehley when his band opened up for Alice Cooper in 2021 in Boston. I didn’t know what to expect, but I left very impressed. Ace interacted with the crowd, exhibited great guitar work, and the band was tight.
So, I was very excited to see his band headline at the Nashua Center of the Arts in 2023.
Ace performs a mix of Kiss songs, solo music and covers – a nice variety for the audience to savor. Speaking of the audience, it was a very enthusiastic crowd. They stood from the opening moment through the encore with Deuce.
I was honored to receive a photo pass to the show courtesy of Ace’s tour manager/personal assistant, John Ortrosky. A photo pass is typically limited to the first three songs of the evening, but John also allowed me to shoot Back In the New York Groove when Ace uses his flashing “light” guitar, and Shock Me when Ace uses his smoking guitar.
Extending the photo pass to later in the show is not the norm, so huge kudos to John for the opportunity to captured Ace’s signature concert moments.
Check out my blog post celebrating the 40th anniversary of Kiss at the debut Madison Square Garden concert in 1977.
Ace has played 31 dates in 2023 – 16 concerts on this leg of the tour that started at the end of June. I heard many folks in the audience say that he looked tired. Indeed he pretty much stayed put during the first three songs in front of his mic stand. Ace also mentioned that he hurt his leg which he said hindered his ability to move around.
I thought Ace came to life during the guitar solo for Love Gun. The song has a nice build up to the solo which appeared to infuse/inspire Ace.
One of the things I was impressed with was Ace throwing mementos into the audience. He has 48 personalized guitar pics on his mike stand that he tosses regularly into the audience. Later in the show, Ace threw out a great number of rolled up photographs that I presume were signed by him ahead of time. He also tossed in his towels – sometimes after wiping off his brow – and even his drinks (soda and water). It’s a nice gesture. People love getting a keepsake.
Remember Not To Panic
For this show I brought two cameras. The Nikon D850 and the Sony A7r-iv. I was looking forward to using the Sony to see if the banding problem was actually resolved. I used a 70-200mm lens on the Nikon and a 24-70 on the Sony.
I used both cameras during the opening act, Kore Rozzik, to dial in the proper exposure. I wound up setting the Nikon to manual mode, 1/250 of a second, f/2.8, and ISO 1600. The Sony was set in aperture priority, f/2.8, shutter speed minimum of 1/125, and auto ISO. Both cameras performed well, and I was very confident that I was ready to shoot Ace.
During Shock Me, I thought Ace would come to the front of the stage with his smoking guitar, so I got the Sony ready thinking the wider lens would be better to have at such a close range. I started taking a few test shots, and lo and behold, the shutter would not fire.
I’ve had this happen before with digital cameras. If they aren’t happy with the focus, they will not fire. It drives me absolutely crazy. No matter what I focused on, the Sony would not take a photo. I finally bailed. I put the Sony aside and used the Nikon for the remainder of the song.
After the show was over, I took out the Sony and tried to shoot some general shots. It still would not fire, so I started looking at the settings. I quickly found the issue: the shutter mode was set to 10 second delay. Ugh! No wonder why it wouldn’t take a shot. Setting it back to single shot mode “fixed” the problem.
I wish I had taken a moment during the song to look at the settings, but my mind was convinced the issue was the camera not being able to find focus. This was based on recency bias. Throughout the night, the Nikon experienced this difficulty when I turned the camera from landscape to portrait mode and my focus point was off in Lala land until I returned it to Ace’s face.
If I only had the Sony, I probably would have looked at the settings in a desperate attempt to fix the problem before it was too late. But I had my trusty Nikon, so I simply went with what I knew would work. Oh well. Jobs are full of these last-second trade-offs. Equipment brakes or malfunctions, and a decision has to be made to keep things moving forward, or, in this case, not to miss the moment that’s about to come.
The next day while post-processing the images from the show, a series of shots stood out as being very familiar. Indeed, I caught Ace in a post that was reminiscent of shot I took of him in Kiss back in 1977 at Madison Square Garden. I’ve put the two side-by-side for comparison.
I’m looking forward to my next concert with the Sony A7r-iv. I’m confident both the banding and shutter firing problems will be behind me.