The release of Killer in 1971 was a defining moment in my love affair with rock and I’ve waited 40 plus years to see Alice perform with what remains of the original Alice Cooper band, Glen Buxton having passed away in 1997.
A three way bill was opened by the excellent, and somewhat overlooked Tubes. It was a great pairing – Alice and Fee Waybill were born less than 2 years apart, both are originally from Phoenix, and both pioneered their own irreverent brands of rock theatre with larger than life stage personas.
A bizarre venue camera policy meant I unfortunately missed the opening of their set, but as they ran through an all too brief ‘greatest hits’ – including ‘Prime Time’, ‘Love Is A Mystery’, and ‘Talk To Ya Later’ – with Waybill’s alter-ego Quay Lewd making a rapturously received cameo on ‘White Punks On Dope’, it was clear the band’s enduring enthusiasm and charisma continues to translate to impersonal arena settings.
The Mission – goth roots apart – were an altogether less obvious choice for second billing, with Wayne Hussey looking every inch the semi-retired expat with neatly coiffured, steely grey, locks and perma tan. Their set majored on volume over stagecraft and song writing subtlety, but at least a handful of punters – who left after their set – seemed ecstatic at the band’s, for me thankfully brief, appearance.
And so, to the main man, who just never disappoints. At 69 you might expect the Coop to be slowing down, but there’s never a let up through a two hour set that is an object lesson in how to keep an audience transfixed. It’s the old showman’s adage ‘give ‘em what they want’. And Alice just keeps on giving.
For the first half of the show the props were pretty much limited to back drops and lights, but the band constantly careered around the stage (clearly under orders not to stand still, or strike a single pose for more than 10 seconds) flanking Cooper, two on either wing, across the front of the stage like the four horsemen of the apocalypse, garbed out like Marvel characters, and with guitarist Nita Strauss providing the eye candy counterpoint.
It was a 100 mph blast through nuggets from albums as diverse as Brutal Planet, The Last Temptation, Flush The Fashion and Dirty Diamonds, with Alice ‘conducting’ a killer version of ‘Halo Of Flies’ a personal highlight.
As the pace cranked up in the second half of the set, the more visual props were rolled out in the shape of ‘[Feed My] Frankenstein’, ‘[Cold] Ethyl’, and ‘Nurse Rosetta’, and naturally a guillotining, with ‘Paranoiac Personality’, ‘Ballad of Dwight Fry’ and ‘Killer’ being neatly segued together.
But the highlight was, of course, the ‘reunion’ of the original Alice Cooper band (aided by Ryan Roxie) for ‘I’m Eighteen’, ‘Billion Dollar Babies’, ‘No More Mr Nice Guy’, and ‘Muscle Of Love’. They got a tumultuous reception and looked beyond thrilled to be up there, with Smith and Dunaway in particular, putting everything into a performance that suggested that a ‘full’ gig would simply be beyond the bounds of their remaining stamina.
In truth, it was more poignant than revelatory, and felt like a circle being completed, rather than a new chapter commencing. Which brought us to the finale of all finales – both bands on stage for School’s Out. And as if that wasn’t enough, there were bubbles, ticker tape, giant confetti filled balloons, and streamers. No one does it better.
Setlist: Brutal Planet / Under My Wheels / Lost In America / Pain / Department of Youth / The World Needs Guts / Woman of Mass Distraction / Poison / Halo of Flies / Feed My Frankenstein / Cold Ethyl / Only Women Bleed / Paranoiac Personality / Ballad of Dwight Fry / Killer / I Love the Dead / I’m Eighteen / Billion Dollar Babies / No More Mr. Nice Guy / Muscle of Love / School’s Out
Review by Pete Whalley
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 20 September 2020.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 22 September 2020.
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