Milwaukee Wisconsin - Journal Sentinel
By Erik Ernst, Special to the Journal Sentinel
By the time most rock stars reach age 62, they usually have a bunch of fan favorites that are must-plays at every show.
For Alice Cooper, that expectation involves more than just keeping tabs on four decades of hits. His fans' love of carnage needs equal billing: Cooper's shows have long been presented as a morality play, with his demonic persona receiving his comeuppance in the form of an onstage execution.
A single onstage death is no longer enough to keep Cooper down. Within the first 30 minutes of his concert Tuesday night at the Riverside Theater, Cooper had his head lopped off in a guillotine and was killed by lethal injection from a psychotic nurse's oversize syringe. By the end of the 90-minute show, he had twice more suffered - and recovered from - an ultimate fate.
At this point in Cooper's career, the macabre theatrics are far removed from the controversy they created in the 1970s and '80s. Today, they play a fun, nostalgic role, cheered on by a diverse age range of fans. Cooper's instruments of torture and elaborate costumes paved the way for the likes of Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie, and his blues-based hard rock and concept albums have influenced generations of other heavy-metal artists.
Dressed in black, with his eyes swimming in dark makeup, Cooper and his four-piece band opened with the garage-rocking freedom celebration of "School's Out" - a bit of torture for any students in the crowd, since school is just starting. He conducted a crowd singalong of "No More Mr. Nice Guy" with a black cane that he threw to a fan. Sense of humor intact, he hobbled around the stage on a skeletal crutch for timeless anthem of youthful rebellion "I'm Eighteen."
The throbbing industrial thrash of "Wicked Young Man" found Cooper impaling one of his ghoulish stagehands before he was captured for a slow, straight-jacketed performance of "Ballad of Dwight Fry."
His voice hasn't been affected much by age. If anything, his weathered growl accented the gritty lyrics of "Vengeance Is Mine," "Poison" and "Under My Wheels."
After tossing shiny beads to the crowd as he sang "Dirty Diamonds," Cooper received his final execution for a "Billion Dollar Babies" doll decapitation. He returned from a blood-splattering box of spikes, lurching around the stage for a thunderous "Feed My Frankenstein."
As he scowled at the audience during the flag-waving encore of "Elected" and a reprise of "School's Out," Cooper couldn't hide his grin.
Seems like playing a monster never gets old.