Legend has it that teetotaler Gene Simmons once rescued his hard-drinking ex-bandmate Ace Frehley from the bottom of a swimming pool during the mayhem of Kiss’ late-‘70s heyday. Now it looks as if Frehley -- long since sobered up -- is going to repay Simmons the favor in St. Paul.
The original Kiss guitarist has been newly added to the lineup for the Simmons-led Children Matter benefit concert at CHS Field (the Saints’ new stadium) on Wednesday, Sept. 20. This is big news within the Kiss Army, since Frehley has shared a war of words with his ex-bandmates in the 16 years since he returned to his solo career and they replaced him with guitar tech Tommy Thayer, who even wears Frehley’s old costumes and make-up on stage.
“It's getting embarrassing,” Frehley told this reporter in 2008 when asked about his old band. “What Kiss is doing right now reminds me of like what some great fighters have done in the past when they come out of retirement, when they should have just rolled up the towel.”
When I asked Simmons about Frehley and original Kiss drummer Peter Criss in a 2014 interview, he responded, “Kiss is the Olympics of rock ’n’ roll, and those guys couldn’t cut it anymore. It’s as simple as that. They lost their right to be in the band.” Simmons also trashed Frehley’s contributions to the famed “Destoryer” album in that interview, but he was nicer when I asked if he had heard Frehley’s latest solo record: “He and I have talked now and again over the years, and I wish him well. I’m a fan of his work, sure, and I look forward to hearing it.”
Frehley is going back on tour this fall with the promise of yet another new solo album, which – lo and behold – reportedly includes two songs he wrote and recorded with Simmons. Kiss’ other remaining co-founder, Paul Stanley, also guested on Frehley’s 2016 covers album, “Origins, Vol. 1.”
Whether or not Frehley and Simmons reunite together on stage in St. Paul next week will be the big question going into the show, which had already prompted a lot of questions about its unusual lineup. The outdoor concert started out as just Simmons’ solo band with local alt-country heroes the Jayhawks, then it grew to include Kiss' fellow late-'70s rock darlings Cheap Trick, and then former Eagle Don Felder and local hard-rock mainstays Flipp were added.
The charity aspect of the concert has also changed since its announcement. It is now being billed as a benefit for the flood-ravaged Houston area via the local nonprofit Matter. Tickets start at $60 for general-admission and go up to $110 and $250 for VIP packages. You can buy them via TheChildrenMatter.ngo.
Here's a memory of what Simmons and Frehley used to do together, a song the bassist sang and the guitarist wrote: