The Ankh Warrior Rises: Vinnie Vincent Shreds at Creatures Fest

Feature image courtesy of Rock ‘N’ Roll Garage

By Andrew Daly

In 2018, Kiss Kruise-related footage of Vinnie Vincent surfaced, which found the erstwhile guitarist on stage for the first time in many years, but this time was special. This time, Vincent was clad in full Ankh Warrior makeup, with his signature, Jackson Flying-V slung over his shoulder.

Backed by members of Four By Fate, Vincent moved through renditions of Kiss Klassics “Lick It Up,” and “Cold Gin.” I say “moved through” rather than “ripped through” because after the performance, fans were decidedly undecided if Vincent could actually still play the guitar, at least, they were unsure if he could play at all like he used to.

See footage of the performed below:

Video credit: Carl Bollaerts

Also of note, in 2018, Vincent was set to take the stage with drummer Carmine Appice, bassist Tony Franklin, and vocalist Jim Crean for a slate of performances, even coming to the point of collecting thousands of dollars from fans for tickets, and merch related to the shows. As fans will well remember, Vincent ducked out on his bandmates, and fans, with little to no notice, or reason given.

In a 2021 interview with VWMusic, Carmine Appice spoke on the occurrence:

“Well, I saw how he came out, and that he was gonna do some gigs. And then I got a call from the promoter guy, Derek, saying, ‘You know, Vinnie wants to play. Can you connect with him?’ And I said, ‘I don’t hold grudges, sure.’ I heard that his wife had died, and I knew the guy, I mean, he screwed me, but you know, my career went on, I did great, I don’t care, you know? So, I talked to Derek and I said, ‘Yeah, I’d like to say ‘hi,’ and see how it goes.’ So, Vinnie called me, and he was telling me all this great stuff, ‘Man, I just want to thank you, I was trying to put my own band together, I needed drums, and Alan Miller, (my old manager) let me have one of your drum sets for like a month, and I never got to thank you.’ I said, ‘Wow, dude, I didn’t even know I let you borrow them. I’m just finding this out now, but I would have let you anyway.’ [Laughs].

So, we talked, and he says, ‘I want to do this gig, and Derek is going to put this together, I’d love for you to play on it.’ I said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it, man.’ I mean, with all the crap that went down, when we did play together back in the day, we played our ass off together. And we had a great conversation. And he said, ‘Well, who would you get on bass? I don’t know who to get on bass.’ I say, ‘Oh, man, you’ve got to get Tony Franklin. Tony Franklin’s the shit. He played fretless bass with Blue Murder and The Firm with Jimmy Page. He’s a monster, you know?’ So, he said, ‘Well, let me listen to those.’ So, Vinnie goes and listens to some Blue Murder, and calls me back, and said, ‘Yeah, let’s get Tony Franklin!’ And then he had that guy, Robert Fleischman who was going to sing. And then Robert bowed out. So, he said, ‘Do you know anybody else?’ I said, ‘Well, I got this guy that sings on Drum Wars with me, and my brother, who can cut it, Jim Crean.’ So, he said, ‘Okay.’ He basically trusted my judgment on that one. So, I gave him Tony Franklin and Jim Crean.

So, we got that together. And then, you know, he started giving us songs to learn, and all that. And then it started going sour, and I get a call from Derek, He said, ‘He fucked me. He canceled the gig.’ Now, Derek gave me and Tony deposits. He didn’t give Jim a deposit yet, because Jim was just coming on board. He gave the two of us deposits. I said, ‘Well, look, I’ll call Tony. We’ll give you our deposits back,’ he said, ‘That’s nothing. I gave Vinnie a lot of money as a deposit, and he’s not giving it back to me. He gave me a bunch of posters that he signed. He said, ‘sell these and you’ll make the money back.” So, the guy got fucked out of thousands of dollars. Then I heard he was doing something in Nashville, charging something like $2,500 for everyone to come in, you know? And we did a gig there. I mean, my brother, we did a signing thing for a podcast convention. And we did a speaking gig and a masterclass at that same venue, and there Vinnie was, he had a few people, like five, or eight people, who paid that kind of money to see him, I said, ‘Can he even play?’ I ended up hearing that he “played” some solos to a couple of tracks, signed some stuff and that’s it…for $2500.”

Also in 2021, in an interview with VWMusic, singer Jim Cream gave his version of events:

“I was contacted to audition for the band after Robert backed out. I demoed out a few songs for Vinnie, and he ended up really liking me and picked me from a few other big-name artists. We had everything in place and had a few dates scheduled. Everything was going well, Carmine, Tony, and I were learning all the songs, and had scheduled rehearsals in Nashville, TN a few days before the shows. Carmine and I were performing in Anaheim, California at the Metal Hall Of Fame event during NAMM when we received the news that Vinnie Flaked out, and wanted to cancel everything. I was literally on the Red Carpet being interviewed by Jimmy Kay from The Metal Voice when Carmine came up to me and said, ‘Vinnie flaked out, and blew out the shows and the whole event.’ A lot since has been said, but the bottom line is that this was a shame, because we would have been an AMAZING band and would have really put Vinnie back on the map! My thoughts of the whole thing were to help make Vinnie look good as a backing band, and show the world what a great guitarist he really is. It wasn’t about us, it was his thing, and I really wanted to help him look good. What could have been, was a great band.”

When asked if Vincent could still play, Crean was candid in saying:

“I really have no idea. Carmine had asked Vinnie if he could still play, and Vinnie reassured him that he could and that he was the best guitarist on the planet.”

Image courtesy of Braveworlds

Given Vincent’s recent history of being shall we say…erratic, it came with great shock and skepticism when Creatures fest was announced by event promotor Neil Davis in the winter of 2022. Initially, the event was to be “The Return of Vinnie Vincent.” But over time, things changed, and the stature of the event grew, and along with it, anticipation began to rise.

First, former KISS guitarist Bruce Kulick signed on, then founding member Ace Frehley joined the festivities, and finally, it was announced that drummer Peter Criss would also be taking part in the event, which sent KISS fans, and the rock world into a proverbial frenzy over the potential scenarios afoot.

Still, the public eye remained fixed on Vinnie Vincent. Would he show up? If he did, could he play? To that need, in an interview with VWMusic prior to the event, founder and promotor Neil Davis had this to say:

“No, I am not afraid that Vinnie won’t show. I’ve had a chance to get to know Vinnie, and listen, I’ve heard every story that you have as well but I wasn’t involved with any of those other things. You know, I get asked this question a lot, and I can say that I’ve done six different things with Vinnie over the last year and a half, and he’s done them all, including he did a private show for me last November. In Nashville, we had a private show, and along with every one of the events, Vinnie showed up exactly as he said he would. Vinnie did everything that he said he’s gonna do, and he was absolutely professional and pleasant about it. Now, I don’t know what went wrong with the other things, and I think in life, there are sides to every story and I’ve heard other versions. People say a story and you know, Vinny doesn’t comment, he keeps his mouth quiet. So I think a lot of times people say it must be all him because he’s keeping his mouth quiet.

I don’t know, and I can’t comment about anything in the past. What I can say is everything I’ve done with Vinnie has been consistent. Whatever I’ve asked him to do, and whatever he’s agreed to do, he’s done it. And I know he’s excited about this show, I know he’s been rehearsing, and I know he’s been practicing. I know that because he’s told me these things. I know that there will always be haters, and skeptics until he shows the world what he can do. There will be a certain amount of people that just question if he can do it, or if he will even be there. So, you know, this is his opportunity to kind of say, ‘Hey, here I am playing and if you like my music, then great. If you don’t like my music, then great.’ I will tell you, Vinnie has still got it, and Vinnie is a very aggressive guitar player. He takes over a room when he plays. It‘s mind-blowing and unmistakable. He’s not like Ace or Bruce, who are great players too, but he’s a different type of player. If you listen to the Vinnie Vincent Invasion albums, that’s some very powerful playing, and it’s not for everybody. So, Vinnie said to me here recently, ‘I can still do it, you’ve heard it. People may not like it, but by God, I am going to get up there on that damn stage and shred as they remember.'”

Admittedly, when Davis said this, there was skepticism, mostly because people simply hadn’t heard or seen Vinnie play live in what felt like a lifetime. Sure, Vinnie has huge fans of his music both in and out of KISS, and there is no denying that Vinnie was immensely talented, but the man is also a maverick and had been something of a recluse at best for over thirty years. For my part, as a fan, I wanted to believe Vinnie would come out and nail it, but as a critic, journalist, and overall pragmatic person, I found it hard to expect it.

And then, overnight, things changed when this footage began to surface:

Video credit of Almost Human YouTube

Soon after the video went viral, message boards on Reddit were alight, with one concertgoer named Sam Loomis commenting:

“I legitimately feel scammed after that catastrophe. The show starts an hour and a half late, and the first fifteen minutes are a Vinnie Vincent jerk-off shred fest. That’d be fine, except the entire show only lasted forty-five minutes. There is no live drummer, and a couple of the songs that they actually played had backing track vocals. They built this massive tank replica and promoted a recreation of the entire Rio show from 1983, and all that happened was Vinnie standing on top of the tank the entire time and a little bit of smoke coming out of the pipes. No moving tank or pyro like in the video they shared. Speaking of video, you could not take any photos or videos during it. Security was in the crowds shutting down anyone who tried immediately. I watched one person get escorted out over it. Ace and Bruce are on stage with Vinnie for “Cold Gin,” and the backing track glitches out so they had to go into “Deuce.” Ace said something along the lines of, “I can play anything, I just need a drummer.” Vinnie never talks to the crowd, just smiles and shakes hands with people at the front at the end. This was nothing like it was made out to be. The only positive thing I have to say is that Vinnie can play as good as he could back in the day. Overall though, what a joke.”

In the end, we can take the logistics, and technicalities of the event for what they were: the limitations of a small event turned huge. Neil Davis is an ambitious go-getter, and what he has achieved is nothing short of monumental in many capacities, but this isn’t Live Nation we’re talking about here. Still, Creatures Fest represents the first time Bruce Kulick, Ace Frehley, and Vinnie Vincent have shared the stage for the first time ever, and he got Peter Criss in on the events action to boot.

The most important takeaway – despite fans’ sour grapes over drum tracks being pre-recorded, and Vinnie’s lack of mic-chatter – is that the man can still play. As Davis alluded to, the past is the past, and in the here and now, Vinnie Vincent can still shred, albeit a bit sloppily, but he did prove all of his detractors worldwide wrong.

Does this erase the guitarist’s past transgressions? No. Does this mean his supposed “new record” is truly a go? Not in the slightest. But what it does mean is that Vinnie is once again active – whatever that means. All Systems do truly appear to be a go, and if an album, more shows, and further public appearances are to follow, Vincent has now gained a certain level of credibility as he moves forward.

It goes without saying that Vincent must have put in a huge world to get back to this point, but he still has a lot of work ahead of him if he wants to reshape his legacy and turn the corner from a forgotten legend to a once again relevant artist. More so, Vinnie Vincent has a long way to go before he fully gains the rock world’s trust once again, but his appearance at Creatures Fest was a major first step in changing his career’s late-stage arc and narrative.

Vinnie Vincent has always been a man who, for better or worse, has operated on his own terms, and it stands to reason that he will continue to do so. As a fan, I am hopeful for what’s next – more hopeful than I ever have been to date. So now, we know Vincent can play, but what’s next? As a fan, I am hopeful, but as a critic, and journalist, I remain pragmatic, waiting to see if the other shoe will in fact drop.

Your move, Vinnie.

Image courtesy of Creatures Fest

Interested in seeing Vinnie Vincent, Bruce Kulick, and Ace Frehley take the stage together for the first time ever? Hit the link below:

1) +/- 15 minutes shredding
2) I Love It Loud (backing track)
3) War Machine (with Bruce Kulick)
4) Deuce (with Bruce Kulick and Ace Frehley)
5) Cold Gin (with Bruce Kulick and Ace Frehley)

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