I’ve seen a number of artists recently that are passed their normally ‘used by’ date, but tonight the usual careful hiding of wrinkles and disguising of chins isn’t needed, because it all adds to the image of the Godfather of Shock Horror Rock. Alice Cooper approaches his 70th Birthday (Feb 2018) with the same vim and vigour as he would have done at his 30th – 69th, bringing along a hot new band and some old friends for company.
Looking around the Leeds Arena tonight we have a big collection of old relics, ok that’s a bit harsh, let’s say “experienced gig goers” and then a contingent of younger kids wanting to know what all the fuss is about. Alice Cooper has been doing this for so long that many pretenders to the throne have been and gone, and the likes of Twisted Sister, Marilyn Manson, even the great Ozzy himself owe an awful lot to Alice as he trail-blazed the way with horror theatrics and rock music combined. Tonight, it’s the first UK date of his Spend The Night with Alice Cooper tour to play oldies and a new one from the latest release Paranormal.
The curtain drops and fireworks rain down from the ceiling as Alice stands in a black cloak, he stares out at the crowd like a Panto Dracula looking for a first bite, he dramatically throws it off to reveal a typical all black shirt, jacket and leather combo. Leaning over he grabs a cane, his black leather gloves pick out the mic from his hip holster, a twirl on the cane and we are off….
He chooses to play Brutal Planet which was the title track from an album released in 2000 as a first track, but it could have been anything as it’s really just a warm up to get both the crowd and band in the mood for what’s to come. The band were all stood waiting at the back whilst he did the cape routine, and now all 4 guitarists (Ryan Roxie, Chuck Garric, Tommy Henriksen and Nita Strauss) run around the front of the stage pulling the traditional metal guitar god poses. They have been playing together for a few tours now but Nita Strauss is still the newbie, having replaced another superb female lead guitarist Orianthi over three years ago.
They follow the opener with a big smack in the face, a classic Under My Wheels really gets the night going and Alice is spending 100% of the time at the front of the stage, pulling faces, pointing fingers, and appearing to be generally pissed off and growling at everyone. The band are a well-oiled machine, heavy in places, plenty of leather and latex on show, lots of hair getting thrown about and Nita Strauss getting the majority of the lead runs. There’s lots of movement but no question the star of the show is Cooper and whilst we can enjoy the sojourn through his career of near misses – we are really waiting for 2 things. The prop heavy Frankenstein/Necrophilia/Nurse Strangling/Guillotine Death bits and the resurrection from the dead of both Cooper and his original band for a run of the classic hits.
A couple of solo spots before we get into the meat of the event, Nita Strauss is up first and her lead solo centre stage is quite epic and remarkably quite short, however, it is an intro through to Poison, probably the biggest post 70’s hit for Alice Cooper but now some 28 years old!. Placed nicely mid set it then leads into a quite numbing drum solo from Glen Sobel as part of Halo of Flies.
This is all to enable Alice to change into his Dr Frankenstein blood spattered outfit and after he emerges from the smoking toy box the sound of Feed My Frankenstein blasts out of the speakers. Cooper using this as the start of the major theatrics and as he is then placed into the electrocution box and the sheer amount of dry ice would be enough to knock out the first 5 rows! After the sparks fly, and his apparent disappearance, a huge 20 ft Frankenstein monster puppet starts chasing the band around the stage. It’s less shock and more panto really but that’s exactly what we want. The days of Alice being a proper shock to the system are long gone and it’s entertainment we are after.
Cold Ethyl duly follows and Alice is performing unmentionable acts with a dummy clockwork ballerina. After that expelling of energy he sits at the front and we get Only Women Bleed with a few iphone lights sparkling around the arena. Then a new track from his latest album Paranormal which is called Paranoiac Personality, it fits in quite nicely although I can’t help but keep thinking of Cult of Personality by Living Colour.
This new track provides the bridge to Ballad of Dwight Fry as he is put in the strait jacket and given an injection by the crazy zombie looking nurse who proceeds to dance around him with a two-headed baby before Alice tries to strangle her, then she stabs him and then the guillotine appears. There is something a little Rocky Horror Show about all this, but it is still great entertainment, I can’t help but laugh at a proud dad with his young (8-year-old?) son on his shoulders both avidly watching this and joining in. Family entertainment at its freakiest as the fake severed head is paraded around the stage and everyone sings I Love the Dead.
The stage goes black and then the opening bars of I’m Eighteen can be heard but it isn’t the same 4 guitarists or drummer on stage anymore. Bassist Dennis Dunaway, Guitarist Michael Bruce and Drummer Neal Smith are actually there in the flesh as the original Alice Cooper Band. Alice (now resurrected) joins them in leopard print jacket and trousers that must have been one of his or Rod Stewarts old 70’s ensembles.
All these musicians are now around 70 years old and they are playing as well as people less than half their age. There are laughs all around and even Alice cracks a smile or two as they creak around the stage playing some ‘heavier than the original’ riffs.
Cooper has a crutch which he teases the front row with and during Billion Dollar Babies he swaps it for a sword with pretend dollar bills stabbed on to it. Thrusting the sword out across the front row, fans swoop out for the bills as they flutter to the floor.
No More Mr Nice Guy and Muscle of Love follow before all band members, old and new, return together for the final inevitable Schools Out, with the fireworks and confetti spilling out across the stalls.
The anticipation and expectations of this show were fully satisfied and there are a number of dates left in the UK. I would urge if you have never seen an Alice Cooper show, then you must try to get a ticket, and if you have seen it before then you probably already have one. This Rocky Horror Panto Metal Show is not ready to die yet.
Live Review & Photography by John Hayhurst of Alice Cooper at Leeds First Direct Arena on Saturday November 11th.