Rockbrats Wonders: About Ace Frehley’s Final Kiss Show in Make-Up at Auckland 1980

Who would’ve thought that guitarist Ace Frehley would perform in make-up for the final time at Auckland, New Zealand in late 1980 ? Nearly 9000 miles is a long way from the NYC bars of 1973 when the Spaceman Make-up was still in its earliest stages. But so it came to pass, that after the hugely popular tour of Australia in November, KISS would jet over to New Zealand from some shows. Western Springs Stadium is located to the West of Auckland in the suburb of Western Springs. History buffs will find it interesting that the Stadium dates back to 1929 and has been used for Athletics, Cycling and is currently being used as a Speedway, and for Rugby Union during the football season. Rock geeks will find it interesting to know that many big acts have played this venue over the years including Zeppelin, the Stones, McCartney, Bowie, AC/DC and Bowie. However New York’s finest commanded the stage for the final show of their ‘Unmasked’ World Tour at this venue on a warm Wednesday evening of December the 3rd, 1980. Frehley, along with his band mates and crew would have no idea that it would be the final time Ace performed live in concert with Kiss under his trademark Spaceman persona ! Sure the re-union of 1996 saw him don the big white boots once again, but that was different. This was the end of an era. For the band were soon to embark on the doomed The Elder project and their popularity would momentarily take a hit. With the murder of Lennon some five days away, the world of rock n roll was about to be shaken upside down. Frehley would in fact (rock) soldier on for some time and officially depart in 1982, but this night is a significant night in Kisstory. The set-list was similar to the songs played live on the Aussie tour: Detroit Rock City, Cold Gin, Strutter, Shandi, Calling Dr. Love, Firehouse, Talk to Me, Is That You, 2000 Man, Ace Frehley’s Guitar Solo, I Was Made For Loving You, New York Groove,  Love Gun, God of Thunder, Rock N’ Roll All Nite, Shout It Out Loud, King of the Night Time World, Black Diamond. It would be seventeen long years (1997) before KISS performed live for their New Zealand fans once again – strangely not scheduling any shows there following the 1995 ‘Kiss My Ass’ Australian Tour. 1980 was a different time for Kiss – a very different time in rock n roll in general. There is an excellent soundboard show of this gig doing the rounds which is well worth chasing down. It’s a good show. Frehley’s guitar work is amazing – as is his working of what has become his signature tune – New York Groove. It is apt that Frehley’s final song he performed – Black Diamond – would be one which was written from the earliest KISS days of 1973. In the hectic and heady years that followed – they rose from the roach-infested rehearsal rooms of the Big Apple to pretty much conquering the world’s biggest stages. Stages like the Western Springs Stadium – where a true rock n roll icon took (what was to be) his final bow – with the band that made him a superstar.

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