News : ALICE COOPER ROCKS AT CANADA’S CASINO RAMA
Until a few days ago, I had never seen Alice Cooper in concert. I should have. After all, I grew up with Alice. I started collecting his dangerous music on vinyl when I was a skinny young kid. I really didn’t understand it back then; it was too adult, weird and unsettling.
Alice’s covers were dark and threatening, and the subject material was perverse. Our parents absolutely hated the very idea of Alice Cooper, and the musical style was nothing at all similar to the simple, hooky Top 30 tunes I listened to on my transistor radio (CFJR: “10,000 watts that sound like a million!”). We heard crazy hand-me-down stories of his legendary on stage antics—his Grand Guignol mayhem—from kids with older siblings who were “in the know.” Obviously, all of these things made obtaining those records more compelling. Fathomable or not, I’d spin those albums anyway, all the while conjuring up verboten images of glistening snakes, lurid ghoulish makeup and staged slaughter in my mind’s eye, but until this past weekend I have never had the good fortune to see it for myself live. Through no fault of my own, I grew up in a small town and any city large enough to play host to a major concert was too far away. By the time I finally moved to the big smoke, I was exclusively seeing bands in small clubs and refused to go to the big stadium shows, but at home I never strayed far from my ’70s rock roots, and BILLION DOLLAR BABIES, etc., would still get regular rotation on the turntable. I never forgot the Coop.
So naturally, when the opportunity to see Alice Cooper live at Casino Rama presented itself, I jumped on it like a beagle on a dropped cocktail wiener...despite small apprehensive stirrings hovering at the back of my brain. After all, the guy is in his 60s! How credible will he be now, how vital, how relevant? Did I wait too late?
The venue itself was promising. A huge, attractive, nicely-tiered theater with a big broad stage. The deepest seats were pretty far back, but there didn’t seem to be any wide angles that would hamper a clear view from the sides. Hanging in front of the stage was a huge painted canvas depicting a skeletal Alice, hovering over a midnight graveyard, with glowing eyes and a taloned claw reaching out for the audience. Considering this is a Fango piece, this met with my approval.
After a fashionable 15 minute delay, the lights dimmed and music was soon heard coming from behind the canvas, accompanied by a slick monologue, courtesy of the late, great, Vincent Price, extolling the virtues of a particularly lethal arachnid. Then the canvas tore away to reveal the band, with Alice on a platform towering two stories above the stage in the shadow of a blinding spotlight, sporting six extra arms, darkened eyes and a rock & roll sneer.
I thought “Black Widow” was a great choice to begin with, and the crowd’s enthusiastic response validated my sentiment. The other three journalists and I had a four-song window to shoot with, and we had to do so through a forest of high-held devil signs and cell phones on camera mode.
It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall when the song choices are being made for a tour. Cooper has about 24 studio albums to pull from, reaching back as far as 1969, and considering they rocked through 21 originals that evening, a lot of ground was covered (including a new song—playfully indicated by the large white words “NEW SONG” written on the back of Cooper’s jacket—called “I’ll Bite Your Face Off,” which was written in blood on the front of his shirt).
This is no aging rocker mellowing in his autumn years. Alice worked the stage hard with the energy of a man one third his age, running center, left and right, giving equal face time to each section of the audience while expertly twirling canes, batons and leather crops. Despite the cold stares and threatening stances, Alice knows that all good horror needs a balance of light and dark, resulting in several clever moments of tongue in cheek humor.
Playing on the irony of performing “I’m 18” in his 60s, Cooper armed himself with a crutch throughout the entire song, sometimes brandishing it high in the air, other times using it to torment guitar player Damon Johnson. A “ROCK PHOTOGRAPHER” was kicked around on stage by the band and eventually impaled (which sentenced Alice to the guillotine at the end of “Wicked Young Man”). “Feed My Frankenstein” saw Mad Scientist Alice release a 12-foot tall monster with a lip-syncing articulated mouth. Cooper waved a sword, a huge Canadian flag and poor Cold Ethyl around the stage, and I’ll go on record as saying that the Canadian flag was the only thing Alice held that evening that was treated with respect. The others were eventually flung violently onto the set or tossed into the audience. The endless supply of guitar pics from Tommy Henriksen and bass player Chuck Garric met similar fates to the joy of the appreciative stage-side fans. Long time Alice Cooper collaborator guitarist Steve Hunter kept to himself at the far right of the stage for the most part, while newcomer Glen Sobel drummed from on high.
Other notable favorites played were “Only Women Bleed,” “Billion Dollar Babies,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and one of my personal favorites, “Clones,” from the 1980s new-wave-influenced FLUSH THE FASHION. But the highest point of the show was the closer: Alice’s global anthem “School’s Out,” with a portion of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” spliced into the middle. As expected, an encore was demanded and Alice complied with another welcome power anthem, “Elected,” followed by the only full-length cover of the evening: “Fire” (THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE).
I heard a couple of comments from passing fans on the way out lamenting that although the show was good, it wasn’t as theatrical as ones that they had seen in the past, something that Alice echoed himself back stage. “This tour is less theatrical as most of the shows, because most of these shows will be outdoor metal festivals, so we took a lot of the really intricate theatrics out and put in the broader things, the bigger things, because when you’re playing for these headbangers, the more subtle things are a bit lost on them,” Alice explained, not without affection.
Revisiting the experience I just had, I couldn’t help but wonder: It gets more theatrical than this? I personally couldn’t imagine a more perfect show, with the exception of the absence of “He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask),” but maybe, just maybe, that’ll be on the set list for the next tour.
“Under My Wheels”
“Billion Dollar Babies”
“No More Mr. Nice Guy”
“Is It My Body”
“Halo of Flies”
“I’ll Bite Your Face Off”
“Muscle of Love”
“Only Women Bleed”
“Feed My Frankenstein”
“Clones (We’re All)”
“Wicked Young Man”
“Killer/I Live the Dead”
“School’s Out/Another Brick in the Wall”
by David Goodfellow
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