On the fourth of May, a week of rain and clouds came to an end, or at least took the day off, while a storm of a different kind was collecting at the Chesterfield Amphitheater. The kind of storm that brings the lightning of stage-lights, glinting off the chrome of instruments, and the thunder of the drums and bass roaring to the crowds.
A one-day mini-festival, Spring Fest, was packed full of classic heavy-rock sounds and big personalities that seemed sure to make waves. However, it was a beautiful day with the friendliest of folks, from the bands hanging out with fans to the crew chatting between sets with everyone. It's what you hope every concert is like, even if you know it's just not the case.
Conquest, the hometown heroes, hit the stage to start off the afternoon with a raucous set of tunes that spanned their thirty-year run. Kicking the show off in high gear and never letting up, Conquest brought a wall of sound into the Amphitheatre from the first notes to the very last.
Shifting tone slightly, the next act Illinois's Enuff Z'Nuff brought their mix of psychedelic-glam-power-pop-metal – yes, I know, that's an incredibly diverse blend, but they pull it off – to the Fest. From their biggest hits like “Fly High Michelle” to latest releases like “Diamond Boy,” Chip and the boys showed that they still belong right there, front and center on the stage and on the rock scene. If you don't believe me, head to one of their shows and see for yourself.
In the middle of the roster, the phoenix that rose from the ashes from the dissolution of Looking Glass took the stage. Michael Lee Smith, Richie Ranno, Joe X. Dube, George DiAna, and Alex Kane – collectively, Starz – hit the ground running. From “Detroit Girls” to “Where Will it End,” Starz brought a punch of classic metal to the Amphitheatre, drawing the crowd to their feet and filling the evening with an appreciative roar. After “Cherry Baby” and “Coliseum Rock,” Starz ended their set with “It's A Riot” and a little taste of “Boys in Action” to wrap up their night!
After reforming last year, Punky Meadows and Frank DiMino brought Angel back to the road with their famous white garb and screaming, guitar-driven sound. “On the Rocks” appropriately set the tone for the set, launching off the heavy, prog-influenced sound that Angel is known for. Along with Steve Ojane, Charlie Calv, Danny Farrow, and Billy Orrico, Angel delivered an incredible set, with “Feelin' Right,” “Can You Feel It,” and “Don't Leave Me Lonely” before closing out their performance with “Tower.” Like the other bands on the roster, both before and after the set, the guys in the band spent time with their fans and showed genuine pleasure at being able to do what they love.
The headliner for the night took the stage a little late due to a few technical difficulties, but it's a rock show. Things happen and you just roll with it! After the delay, legendary guitarist, songwriter, and singer Ace Frehley entered six-strings screamin' and tore right into “Rip It Out.” He jumped in with both feet and stuck the landing.
I'm going to take a personal moment to step out of this review and address a pet peeve. I've been a fan of Ace Frehley for as long as I can remember. Standing inches away from him was – as has often been the case while doing this photography/review thing – absolutely incredible. But for everyone introducing him, advertising his albums, his songs, his shows, the man's name is pronounced FRAY-ly, not FREE-ly. I've heard him say it himself. I'm sure Mr. Frehley doesn't care at this point, since I don't recall hearing him correct anyone, but I have a little bit of a forum and I say the man deserves to have his name pronounced correctly!
Okay, back to the business at hand! On the road behind his latest album, aptly titled “Spaceman,” Ace – along with his new touring roster of Philip Schouse, Ryan Cook, Jeremy Asbrock, and Christopher Williams – brought out all the hits you would expect, from the 70s right through today. From “Parasite” and “Rocket Ride” to “Snowblind” and “New York Groove,” there wasn't a moment of let-up from the band, not a single song you weren't singing along with. From the latest album, “Rockin' With The Boys” made the set list, while “Rock Soldiers” from the Frehley's Comet days was a huge hit (I heard a mom and her little girl singing this one on the way out at the end of the night). Of course, it wouldn't be an Ace Frehley show without the incredible solo, which was delivered with a modern incarnation of the classic fiery Les Paul, before the night closed out with “Detroit Rock City” and “Deuce.”
There's no question at all that Ace Frehley – and every band on this line-up – absolutely loves what they're doing. They're out there having fun, playing songs they love, reliving great times and making new memories, for themselves and the audience. Not a single person on the stage all day and night was phoning it in, and every fan was there for the ride. And it was an amazing trip at a gorgeous venue on a near-perfect day. Really, what more could you ask for?