With an appropriate amount of fanfare and a surprising run on tickets, one of the true fathers of metal breezed into my town this past weekend. So, balcony seat in hand, I attended the Alice Cooper show.
Going in, I remembered an interview I had read with Cooper regarding the state of his stage show within the last couple years. Cooper more or less said that he had scaled it all back, and not entirely because of his age. He said at the time that he was just interested in playing rock and roll now; it had become too arduous to shock today's crowds. There had been too much envelope pushing and lyrical controversy for Cooper to get a word in edgewise.
So, I knew not to expect the giant Cyclops, the giant Spider, or the giant anything else. I was relatively sure I wouldn't even see the guillotine. And so I did not. That did not, however, make for a mediocre show.
Where Cooper has made sacrifices in the giant creature department, his songs still stand up, and he surrounds himself with musicians who have the same passion as he does. While Cooper never made his money on his singing prowess, his voice hasn't suffered or faltered over the years. For what it's worth, Cooper still plays with swords, passes out necklaces, gives away his cane and other items, and even passed out some cash (I can't confirm that the cash was legit; for all I know, it was a one billion dollar bill with Alice's smiling face on it.) It all still seems fresh.
The show began with the curtain down, and a shadowed act of Cooper coming to the stage with a sword above his head. Suddenly, there was a second shadow, which stabbed the first, and as the first shadow fell the curtain fell and there was Cooper, triumphantly holding the limp dummy and raising a fist above his head.
From there, the show took off. Within minutes, the crowd was up as Cooper busted into “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” which was arguably the best song of the night. A bombardment of crowd favorites followed, including “Lost in America” (a personal favorite,) “Under My Wheels,” “Is It My Body?,” “Be My Lover,” “Feed My Frankenstein,” “Dirty Diamonds,” so on and so forth. Name one, it was probably in there. Also, the new tunes “Vengeance is Mine” and “(In Touch With) Your Feminine Side” made an appearance.
In the middle of all that though, the show slowed down for the theatrics. As the lights came back on, there was Cooper beginning the strains of “Welcome to My Nightmare.” The lights became much more selective in who was highlighted and how they played into the second act of the show. Slowly, zombies (for lack of a more accurate term,) shambled out onto the stage, giving minor chase to Cooper as he waded through a number of slower, more theatrical numbers (“Steven,” anyone?) His chase was highlighted by the selective use of a couple more dummies he could throw around, and a melodramatic plot concerning his wife, his child, the death of his child, his incarceration by straitjacket, on and on it went. I’m glad to have seen this, as it is this kind of show is a large portion of Alice Cooper’s legacy. Still, if I’m being honest, it could have been shorter. I admit that it was starting to lose me by the end. Whereas the beginning of the show seemed fresh, this was a touch stale. Not unbearably so, but a little.
Just as the play was becoming a shade too long in the tooth, out came the gallows and an ovation from the crowd, culminating in Cooper’s apparent hanging. The band led the crowd in a sing-along of “I Love the Dead,” and then the lights fell again.
When they returned, there was Cooper, dressed in a white jacket and top hat, and the crowd erupted at the sound of the school bell. When “School’s Out” was done, act three of the show began. After a short pause, the encore began with “Billion Dollar Babies,” continued into “Poison,” (which for some reason, I kept thinking of Venom’s “Poison”), and eventually “I’m Eighteen.”
After a brief moment to introduce his band and his daughters (who played a number of the zombies and his “wife,”…who knew?) Cooper went on to don a jacket with the stars and stripes on it, and finished his show with an excellent “Elected,” complete with party balloons, swordplay, and a faux Obama versus faux McCain wrestling match. Make note, this is the second time in two weeks I have seen not-Obama and not-McCain fight for my amusement, though the GWAR version was slightly more grotesque.
In the end, a pretty damn good show, even with the melodramatic, could have just read the cliff notes, drawn-out act two. It’s rare that I get a chance to see one of the fathers of metal, and it’s always a pleasure to see a show by someone who feels like they just have to play and not prove themselves anymore. Clearly after nearly forty years, Alice Cooper is pretty comfortable with himself and his act, plus he enjoys his music. Not much else I can ask for.
Just a stray thought....At the beginning of the season, I attempted to predict the rough outcome of each NFL team's season. Wow, was I off. Except for Carolina's resurgence, a number of my picks look like crap. What a strange season it's been. For the record, I am not buying the Bills: sorry Buffalo, but beating San Diego doesn't count as a quality win these days. Also, I am starting to drink the Titans Kool-Aid. I know their opponent's record is crap, but there's something to be said for 7-0, and for the fashion in which they're 7-0. Could they beat the Giants or Pittsburgh in January? Dunno yet.