The first time I saw Alice Cooper was 1980 during his Flush The Fashion tour. It was evident then that Alice was on a path of self destruction and his career was in decline. It was so bad that his albums from the early 80’s were considered his “blackout albums” owing to the fact that he couldn’t remember recording them. When he started vomiting blood, he went to see a doctor and was told he had two choices, keep drinking and probably be dead in two weeks or quit and be around to record another 20 albums.
Fast forward to now, almost 40 years, later and there have been close to 20 more albums. Not only is Alice still around, he seems to be getting better with age! With 35 years of sobriety behind him and a young 71 years old, Alice is touring with one of his best productions in years! The tour is called “Ol’ Black Eyes Is Back” and Alice seems to have a renewed vigour about him.
The show began as it often does with a giant screen with illuminated Alice eyes hiding the stage. Playing a recording of Years Ago from the Welcome to my Nightmare album and then a brief classical intro with a narrator welcoming the crowd to Alice’s Nightmare Castle, the screen dropped and Alice walked out of a thick fog through castle doors to Feed My Frankenstein. After the concert staple No More Mr. Nice Guy there were a couple rarely performed songs, Bed of nails and Raped and Freezin’. Fallen in Love was next from the most recent album Paranormal before going back to a trio of hits from the 70’s, Muscle of Love, Eighteen and Billion Dollar Babies. As usual the band played like a well-oiled machine, arguably the best band Alice has had assembled post Alice Cooper Group. Alice gives his band plenty of opportunity to shine, in particular mid show with guitar solo by Nita Strauss, band jam to Devils Food featuring all four guitarists front and center and Black Widow Jam with drummer Glen Sobel and bassist Chuck Garric playing the beginning of Black Juju going into a drum solo by Sobel. The three guitarists and Garric on bass make a formidable wall of sound during their jams, as good as they are individually, together they are a force.
There were other surprises in this new show including the song My Stars which prior to this tour hadn’t been played live since 1974. Roses on White Lace from the album Raise Your Fist and Yell hasn’t been performed live in 30 years and for the performance, Sheryl Cooper dancing in blood stained wedding gown with bouquet of roses made the performance that much better. You can never accuse Alice or his band of just mailing it in, his shows are carefully choreographed and designed to give the fans a full experience. Of course, what would a Cooper show be without the man dying on stage at least once and again for this tour it’s by guillotine. Years ago Cooper almost really did die during a mock hanging on stage that went terribly wrong. Perhaps that’s why the last few years he’s stuck to the guillotine? The worst thing that happens usually at least once on a tour is the blade gets stuck on the way down.
For the encore two of Coop’s most popular and most played songs, Under My Wheels and Schools Out. Schools Out has been performed live over 2700 times and it doesn’t get old with the fans. It’s during this song that Alice introduces the band and if it’s any indication of whom the favourite is, Nita Strauss got the loudest cheers by far. I think having such a great band is what keeps him going the way he does, and the gorgeous Nita keeps him feeling young for his 71 years. He has said that as long as people come to see him, he will keep performing. Between this and his Hollywood Vampire band with Joe Perry and Johnny Depp he appears to be busier than ever and enjoying every moment of it. Let’s hope he keeps going for a long time yet, we need Alice Cooper to keep showing the others out there how it’s done.
Halestorm and Motionless in White supported the show.
Photos by Dan Boshart