Friday, February 24, 2023

Guitar greats Ace Frehley and Eric Steckel thrill at The Coach House

Ace Frehley at The Coach House on Feb. 23, 2023.

Who: Ace Frehley, Eric Steckel

Where: The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, CA

When: Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023

Review by Robert Kinsler

Photos by Bob Steshetz

Guitar-minded music lovers at the Coach House on Thursday night were definitely in the right place. Original Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley headlined the night, while rising fret master Eric Steckel impressed with a memorable opening set.

While the so-called "Space Ace" has not been a regular member of Kiss since 2002, the 71-year-old Frehley has kept busy recording with Frehley's Comet and as a solo artist. 

From left, bassist Ryan Cook, drummer Matt Starr, guitarist Ace Frehley
and guitarist 
Jeremy Asbrock performing at The Coach House on Feb. 23, 2023.

Frehley's 90-minute outing at the Coach House allowed the New York City native to showcase material from throughout his 50-year career. Additionally, he brought along a killer band to add top-tier firepower to help drive the proceedings 
 guitarist Jeremy Asbrock, bassist Ryan Cook and drummer Matt Starr really helped fully deliver Frehley's signature hard rock material to an enthusiastic audience spanning from young children and excited teens to Baby Boomers. 

Bassist Ryan Cook with Ace Frehley.

After taking the stage, the quartet opened with the 1974 Kiss classic "Parasite," the thunderous attack set the tone for what was to come. Frehley's guitar playing was a key part of every track performed, with inventive solos enhancing a number of the tracks 
 including on the crunchy "Snow Blind" and punkish "Speedin' Back to My Baby" early in the night. 

A fun element to Frehley's set was how often his palpable attitude conjured up the classic arena rock era: "We're going to kick your ass whether you like it or not" was his simple introduction to the aforementioned "Speeding' Back to My Baby." 

Later on, during his extended 10-minute solo showcase, there was a point where smoke leapt out of his electric guitar for good measure!

While Frehley shared lead vocal duties with several members of his band, his forceful baritone was showcased on the blistering "Rip It Out" and "Rock Soldiers," the latter a particularly dazzling arrangement bolstered by a number of guitar fills.

Along with "Rock Soldiers," this writer's favorite cuts were a mighty take on "Detroit Rock City" (with Cook handling the vocal duties wonderfully), the high octane aptly titled "Rocket Ride," infectious "Shock Me" and ambitious seven-minute version of the 1974 Kiss nugget "Cold Gin."

The night ended with with a powerful version of "Deuce," a song Frehley noted "is still one of my favorite Kiss songs." 
To cap it, Frehley added: "Thank you San Juan Capistrano. You guys how how to rock and roll."

Eric Steckel in action at The Coach House.

I think I speak for everyone who arrived at the Coach House early on Thursday that Eric Steckel didn't disappoint. A bona fide guitar hero, the Pennsylvania-born singer-songwriter/guitar master along with bandmates Jos Kamps (bass) and Tony Boyd (drums) unleashed a welcome torrent of fiery blues-rock over the course of 35 fast-moving minutes. 

From left, bassist Jos Kamps, Eric Steckel and drummer Tony Boyd.

Steckel impressed with several originals including the Southern-fried "Tennessee," as well as the heavy blues-meets-rock sortie "Run and Hide." He ended his set with the fantastic "Solid Ground," an eight-minute sonic marathon that began slowly with Steckel playing his guitar alone. The song's power burgeoned and was highlighted by a thrilling duel between Steckel and Kamps, along with a ferocious finale with all three players racing in unison to a glorious conclusion.

From left, bassist Jos Kamps with Eric Steckel.

Drummer Tony Boyd keeping time.

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