Kiss at the Frank Erwin Center tonight ain't Kiss with Ace Frehley (and Peter Criss).

Kiss gums up the Frank Erwin Center tonight, but without Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, the circus rolling through town has no sword swallower (the former) or bearded lady (the Cat, man). Instead, one’s left with Abbott (Gene Simmons) and Costello (Paul Stanley).

Stanley: “Who’s on first?”
Simmons: “A $3 million endorsement from Kosher Pork Rinds.”

When I was 13 – when Abbott & Costello reruns were as common as Seinfeld in syndication – Kiss released its four solo LPs, 1978, but despite minor Simmons hit “Radioactive,” only two of them were any good, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, and consensus would probably string up the latter.

Blue-eyed soul, Peter Criss purred a retro-smitten sentimental New York City song (“I Can’t Stop the Rain”), as did Ace Frehley sonic iconic “New York Groove.” Difference is, the latter disco-era Top 40 flash, written by songwriting mercenary Russ Ballard (the Who, Argent, Rainbow, Uriah Heep), remains cool enough to land on Entourage, while its album sponsor still rocks one of the Kiss brand’s true and lasting indelibles.

Frehley’s Comet notwithstanding, the band’s original guitarist has traded on that first solo disc ever since, despite penning and singing some of Kiss’ permanent make-up: “Parasite,” “Cold Gin,” “Shock Me.” Anthrax’s late-1980s cover of “Parasite” made Frehley friendly to another generation’s metal paradigm, while his own cover of the Rolling Stones’ “2,000 Man” on Dynasty proved Spaceman Ace’s allegiance to his forefathers. “Getaway” on 1975’s Dressed to Kill could almost rep a ’65 Mick & Keith moment.

Sonic Boom doubtlessly broke new eardrums upon its October release into Wal-Mart, another Abbott & Costello Kiss classic, but Frehley’s Anomaly a month earlier revisits its great-grandfather solo bow with aplomb beyond crazy space age CD packaging and now metallurgy. Anomaly is no Ace Frehley, but it’s an unmistakable chip off the old mirror.

Opener “Foxy & Free” kicks up its still glam heels on monster truck riffs, beautifully mixed, Frehley sounding straight out of 1977 but with the guitars flown in from 2007. “Outer Space” fires the same three-stage rocket:

“It’s like I told ya, I came from outer space – that’s how I know your name. I’m sick and tired of the human race.”

Frehley’s vocal verve says otherwise, especially on a cover of the Sweet’s “Fox on the Run,” which could be a little more lithe but sounds like it was written and recorded for Ace Frehley.

Mostly instrumental, “Genghis Khan” lumbers one of Anomaly’s best tracks, the five-minute “Space Bear” bearing down even harder without vox. “Change the World,” idealist peacenik metal, pales next to acoustic-lined confessional “A Little Below the Angels,” which quotes “Fractured Mirror” from Ace Frehley, and traces the axe man’s trajectory from excess to redemption, alcoholism to “just a little below the angels,” a girls school choir towards the end as disarming as the song’s AA realism. Corny? Absolutely, especially the singer’s spoken word reply to his angels, but the buttery warmth of the song’s sentiment matches its sincere music manger.

Hard chord crunch “Sister” turns to leaden filler “It’s a Great Life” before closer “Fractured Quantum” circles back to Ace Frehley finalizer “Fractured Mirror,” two six-string peas in an crystalline instro pod. Cold winter days like today were custom frozen in time for Frehley’s first rip-n-run, “Rip It Out,” “Speeding Back to My Baby,” “Snow Blind,” “Ozone,” and “Wiped Out” emitting showers of sparks from their owner’s Les Paul.

Tonight Kiss will Detroit rock city, but Spaceman Ace remains the missing Anomaly.

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Ace Frehley vs. Kiss, Ace Frehley, Kiss

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