The Chil­dren Mat­ter Ben­e­fit Con­cert

CHS Field, St. Paul, Min­nesota

Classic Rock - - Live! - Doug Brod

Rock heavy­weights unite at char­ity ex­trav­a­ganza – and Kiss’s Ace Frehley and Gene Simmons even bury the hatchet on stage.

Gene Simmons is a busy man. A flurry of re­cent ac­tiv­ity has seen the Kiss bas­sist at­tempt to trade­mark devil horns, re­lease a movie from his new pro­duc­tion com­pany, pub­lish a busi­ness man­ual, re­vive his S&M comic book and hawk a $2,000 box set. So one wouldn’t ex­pect a reunion with Ace Frehley, with whom he hadn’t played live for 16 years, to be a pri­or­ity. Yet it does in­deed ma­te­ri­alise on a beau­ti­ful late-Septem­ber evening at the mi­nor-league base­ball sta­dium CHS Field, for a char­ity con­cert to aid vic­tims of re­cent hur­ri­canes.

Alt.coun­try vets The Jay­hawks open the show with a too-short set of ca­su­ally sub­lime but­toned-down Amer­i­cana, in­clud­ing their shoulda-been-a-smash Blue, and Quiet Cor­ners & Empty Spa­ces from 2016’s qui­etly stun­ning Pag­ing Mr. Proust.

They’re fol­lowed, some­what in­con­gru­ously, by fel­low Min­nesotans, the newly re­ac­ti­vated glam-rock over­achiev­ers Flipp. Su­per­fi­cially re­sem­bling Kiss in both their bois­ter­ous an­thems and car­toon­ish theatrics, they play two songs from their 1997 self-ti­tled de­but and two from 2004’s Vol­ume – the very def­i­ni­tion of crim­i­nally over­looked.

A few min­utes af­ter a time-suck­ing au­di­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion bit un­rav­els Flipp’s oth­er­wise fre­netic set, Simmons urges the crowd to, “Open up your ears, spread your cheeks for the best ef­fin rock’n’roll band in the uni­verse.” Cheap Trick pro­ceed to live up to that hype with a 35-minute set that checks off their sta­ples Dream Po­lice, I Want You To Want Me and

Sur­ren­der, but also fea­tures a strut­ting

Long Time Com­ing from their re­cent stu­dio al­bum. Af­ter they close with an epic Gonna Raise Hell, high­lighted by a rau­cous Daxx Nielsen drum solo and Robin Zan­der’s preter­nat­u­rally iron­clad pipes, it’s shock­ing to re­alise that for two bands whose fan bases are so in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked, this marks the first time Cheap Trick have shared a bill with Kiss since 1979.

Cheap Trick are a tough act to fol­low and ex-Ea­gle Don Felder knows it, which may be why he’s in­vited Zan­der to har­monise on Take It Easy, and Nielsen’s dad Rick to up­stage him on a cover of Steve Ray Vaughn’s Pride And Joy.

Last up is the man of the hour with his re­cently re­cruited solo play­ers. Per­haps un­sur­pris­ingly, Simmons is with­out his De­mon get-up. He comes on strong with las­civ­i­ous ban­ter when he’s not rant­ing about how much bet­ter records used to sound or mis­tak­enly re­fer­ring to the pre­vi­ous per­former as “Don Hen­ley”. Tonight is also very likely the first time many in the au­di­ence have ever heard the word “schmeckle” (Yid­dish for todger) ut­tered at a rock con­cert.

It’s a good thing the Gene Simmons Band are so com­pe­tent. With three gui­tars to com­pete with, Simmons’s bass has been turned way up, which re­veals just how in­ven­tive his play­ing is. Three songs in, Simmons in­tro­duces 13-year-old drum­ming prodigy Lo­gan ‘Ro­bot’ Glad­den. He pounds out the anal sexob­sessed Nothin’ To Lose and later launches into the jail­bait an­them Chris­tine Six­teen, ar­guably ques­tion­able choices for an event called The Chil­dren Mat­ter.

Then comes the mo­ment for which the crowd has been primed. Af­ter an ag­gres­sive Call­ing Dr. Love, out steps a down-to-earth Space Ace, who launches into the fe­ro­cious lo­co­mo­tive riff of Par­a­site and slays with the solo. Though the fol­low-up, Cold Gin, suf­fers from a ten­ta­tive open­ing, the for­mer band­mates lock in on the crunchy groove of Shock Me and it’s as if years of an­i­mos­ity have melted away.

It all ends in an ex­hil­a­rat­ing sham­bles when Simmons in­vites 30 fans up, then be­rates a girl sit­ting on the steps for block­ing ac­cess, and in­sists that se­cu­rity take an ac­cu­rate count when they fi­nally as­sem­ble to of­fer gang vo­cals on Rock And Roll All

Nite. Gene, af­ter all, will be Gene.

Kiss and make up: the es­tranged Ace Frehley and Gene Simmons do­ing it for the kids. Rick Nielsen and Don Felder tackle Ste­vie Ray Vaughan’s Pride And Joy.

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