It’s been 50 years since the name Alice Cooper became part of the American lexicon. Although its utterance was probably preceded by expletives from fathers across the country, the arrival of the teenage anthem School’s Out, made the king of theatrical rock’s moniker a household name. That wasn’t the beginning of Alice Cooper, but it was the catalyst for projecting the band and the man into the stratosphere. Half a century, five decades, longer ago than half of his band was born. That is a long time to be “Alice”. You might think that performing the same songs, that many times might get a bit stale. You’d be wrong!
If you were anywhere near The Greek Theater in the Hollywood Hills on Sunday evening, April 24th, you have the proof that just the opposite is true. Cooper and his troupe of maniacal minstrels unleashed a 100-minute juggernaut on the the near capacity amphitheater. Cooper wouldn’t even address the crowd directly until almost the end of the encore. The group just tore into the next number as if there instruments had expiration dates. On a few occasions, the stage would darken for ten or so seconds, enough time for Cooper to make a quick wardrobe adjustment. Hit after hit was thrust out into the night, and when one finished, another began, all in perfect form.
Cooper basically invented on-stage theatrics in rock and roll. Being a master showman, he made sure that this show was awash with thematic characters. There was a 12-foot tall Frankenstein’s monster who roamed the stage on the opener, Feed My Frankenstein. A 10-foot tall baby, breaks out of the castle keep during Billion Dollar Babies and briefly torments the other performers. Cooper’s wife Sheryl takes on several different supporting roles to playact various songs. For Steven, Cooper was escorted on to the stage in a straight jacket flanked by creepy doll-headed, coverall wearing thugs. And yes, Cooper even had his head severed by a guillotine. His neck must be getting a bit sore after all of those beheadings!
Cooper has surrounded himself with one of the finest supporting casts anywhere on the touring circuit. Near the end of the set, during what you might call a Mini-Welcome To My Nightmare, each of the instrumentalists is given a moment to shine. The band sans Alice perform the intro and chorus to Devil’s Food followed by an instrumental jam set to Black Widow. This extended allows guitarists Ryan Roxie and Tommy Henriksen each to show their stuff. The jam gives way to a duet between bassist Chuck Garric and drummer Glen Sobel which turns into a solo from Sobel, featuring his signature stick twirl between each beat on the drums. Earlier in the set, her majesty, to whom Cooper would refer, “Hurricane” Nita Strauss treated the crowd to a three minute solo which she began on the upper level of the stage wearing a hood and mask. Mid-way through her individual performance, she descended the stairs to unmask herself to the audience’s delight.
Ever the showman, Cooper, as mentioned earlier never broke character and did not address the crowd until late in the sole encore number, School’s Out. This he did with one simple intention, to introduce the band members. Adding a little bit of Another Brick In The Wall to this classic, the song makes it to at least double it’s normal length. Completing the spectacle of the evening, the encore is replete with bubble machines pumping from both sides of the stage, giant balloons which explode with confetti when burst, and a metallic streamer cannon at the culmination of the number. It appears that cooper may have found the fountain of youth in his accompanists. At 74 years old, he appears as though he may be at this well into his 80’s. Whether or not that comes to pass, if you get a chance to catch one of his shows, do it sooner, rather than later. You never know when the final bell will ring and Cooper may just decide to embark on a permanent summer vacation.
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