Was Vinnie Vincent Ready to Return?
When Vinnie Vincent staged a return to the spotlight at a Kiss Expo in 2018, it was perhaps the most positive career step he’d taken in nearly a quarter of a century.
His early ‘80s work with Kiss descended into lawsuits and press jibes. Vinnie Vincent Invasion, his next band, then collapsed in acrimony. He subsequently disappeared until making headlines after being arrested in 2011. Nevertheless, when he returned to public life, Vincent received a warm welcome from people who’d never doubted his talent as a guitarist.
There could be no denying that Vincent had a story to tell, and not an easy one, at that. But it appeared that he was ready to allay fans’ fears when he told the Expo crowd: “I’m OK now. I wasn’t OK for a long time.” To prove his point, he surprised the audience by picking up an acoustic guitar and performing alongside former Invasion singer Robert Fleischman.
In another interview, Vincent said he went back to basics to resolve his issues. "My life became small. I wanted it to become as small as it could be. I became very happy, very content. I play about seven hours a day. I take care of my dogs. I write; I record. I do everything I’ve always done. I’m just not out in the public doing it.”
Watch Vinnie Vincent and Robert Fleischman Perform 'Back On the Streets'
Next came an almost unimaginable reconnection: Vinnie Vincent showed up at one of former Kiss bandmate Gene Simmons' Vault events, and they appeared to have a good time.
“We eventually settled everything that we had between us, all the problems, about seven years ago,” Vincent said in a separate interview. “I do dearly respect Gene and Paul [Stanley] with all my heart; I love them and I always will. They gave me this. With the good came the bad, but the magic that we have together never dies."
Then Vincent confirmed was writing a memoir, which he said would make difficult reading. “I've been away 20 years, not by choosing, but because of events that happened. So, those events will be really talked about in uncomfortable depth — because it's cathartic, number one. Number two, the fans deserve to know; and I deserve to tell it. And it's nice to be back, but you can only be back unless – the meaning of being back, the reason and the meaningfulness of being back can only depend on the resolve of the past. That book is my resolve.”
This resolve appeared to as genuine as the welcome he’d been given on his return. So, when Vincent announced that he was going to play a show – his first in nearly 30 years – and that it would be an acoustic performance with Robert Fleischman, the news was also welcomed.
Watch Vinnie Vincent and Gene Simmons Reunite on Stage
Sadly, that’s where the wheels seemed to pop off.
Those who felt something wasn’t right about the comeback were proved correct. First, the program was adjusted to include a so-called full-shred section, despite Fleischman having expressed doubts over his ability to join in. It also seemed to be contradict a previous statement saying that Vincent had chosen an acoustic set because he’d been enjoying playing that way so much. Then one show became two and, after that, they were postponed from December to February. The promoter said they "needed extra time to add and confirm additional guests for the show. We wanted to make sure it's done right."
Next, Fleischman quit, citing "insulting" behavior on the business side, including his name being displayed smaller than the other musicians in the band on the show poster. “I said to myself, ‘I’m not going down this road again,’” Fleischman added. “Unfortunately, some people don't learn from their past. Well, I do. I'm not going to hop on that train ever again.”
Fleischman was replaced by Jim Crean, apparently as a result of efforts by drummer Carmine Appice, who'd been confirmed to play the shows alongside bassist Tony Franklin. The singer later revealed that he didn't interact with Vincent. “I have never met Vinnie; I don’t know him,” Crean said. “I only got through his managers and lawyers.” Finally, the shows were canceled, several days after tickets were removed from sale. A statement from Vincent’s promoter said the backstage team were “shocked” at the development and were taking legal action.
Tragically, it seemed to be the same old story from Vinnie Vincent.
Before the drama over the shows, there had been other warning signs that perhaps the guitarist wasn't fully focused on his music. He made an attempt to trademark the name “Vinnie Vincent’s Kiss,” leading Simmons to argue that his former colleague was "about to get into some more legal problems." Later, Vincent appeared at another Kiss Expo in makeup similar to the Ankh Warrior mask from his Kiss era – an image owned by the band.
Watch Vinnie Vincent Perform With Four By Fate
Then, in October, he made a guest appearance on stage with the band Four by Fate to play electric guitar in front of a live audience for the first time in three decades. The results were disappointing at the very least, according to witnesses.
“Vinnie's always been like a showoff kind of guy, and he just stood there,” Appice said, after watching clips of the show. “He looked like he was scared to me. I asked him, 'Can you still play? You've been out 30 years.' He goes, 'Yeah. I've been playing in my house. Yeah, of course, I can still play.' I said, 'Okay. I believe you.’” Admitting to bewilderment over how the February shows came to be canceled, Appice added: “All this other crazy stuff was going on with singers and this and that, and the promoter. It's too bad, 'cause it would have been fun.”
The drummer also owned up to concerns about what would happen to his former bandmate next. “I always thought that if Vinnie messed this up, or whoever messed it up, I don't know if there'll be another chance – 'cause this is his comeback," Appice said. "He already canceled it once. And if gets canceled again, nobody's gonna care anymore. [They'll say] 'I'm not gonna go even buy a ticket. He's not gonna show up. Or something's gonna happen.' But I was looking forward to it. … We were gonna play the Vinnie Kiss songs, which would have been fun.”
Meanwhile, Fleischman offered another viewpoint soon after the cancelation was announced. “I think this is good,” he argued. “[L]et him put together a band and show that he would be proud of. Vinnie was told he would have a week of rehearsal and then two or three days at the venue where he was going to be playing to rehearse, but some of the musicians involved couldn't make it, and that they could only be there the day before the show to rehearse all the songs. That, right there, is a disaster.” Accepting that it had all been “an up-and-down escapade,” Fleischman added: “Now he's free to go and put together something for you, the way that he would be proud of. Good for you, Vinnie.”
Watch a Face-Melting Vinnie Vincent Solo from the '80s
Vincent’s talent is undeniable, as Simmons has been happy to admit: “That’s why he was in the band.” So, if this latest stumble has nothing to do with talent, then it must be something else. There was the fact that the promotional material for the shows used pictures of Vincent from the ‘80s, even though he’d comfortably fielded questions about his current appearance in one of those 2018 interviews. Perhaps it all felt too good, too soon, and he took his eye off the ball. In short, maybe Vincent just wasn't ready.
For example, talking about writing a book isn’t the same as going through the journey of analyzing one’s life. Maybe if he does that next, gaining a different perspective along the way, it might yet work out. He perhaps should also take Fleischman’s advice about returning to the stage in his own way. After all, there are plenty of fans who want to see him make a proper come back.
Still, they’ve been hurt in the wallet and the heart and, for some of them, it’s happened too often and for too long. The ball is in Vinnie Vincent’s court, but he doesn’t have another 30 years to send it back.
Kiss Lineup Changes: A Complete Guide
Kiss Released One of Rock’s Most Hated Albums