Alice Cooper Makes a Ghoulishly Good Valentine's Date
Don't Be Afraid of the Boogeyman: Alice Cooper brings the heat.
Photos by Violeta Alvarez
Alice Cooper Bayou Music Center February 14, 2015
Sure, it might not have seemed like a traditional date-night destination.
But scores of couples in the nearly-sold out Bayou Music Center chose to spend the most romantic evening of the year watching a man strangle a nurse with the arms of his straitjacket, attack people with a whip, and run a paparazzi guy clean through with a sword.
He in turn would be electrocuted, beaten, bloodied, jabbed with hypodermic needles, turned into an actual Frankenstein monster, fondle a snake, and then -- of course -- get beheaded.
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Happy Valentine's Day, Houston!
Though he's been crisscrossing the world as the opening act for Motley Crue's farewell tour (which picks up again soon), tonight's show was billed as "All Alice, All Night."
Emerging to familiar opener "Hello Hooray" and resplendent in a black-and-red striped suit. It was the first of numerous costume changes that would see the star of the show dressed in black leather, a Steampunkish overcoat, silver studded military jacket with Nazi-ish hat, and bloodied operating gown (though, sadly no white tux and tails).
Fans got a 95-minute ride on the dark rollercoaster of Alice Cooper, now running for more than 45 years, with his sneering vocals intact. And while his shock-rock spawn like Rob Zombie, Slipknot, and Marilyn Manson may have more contemporary cachet, the now 67-year-old Cooper proved his act was no nostalgia ride.
In fact, the set list was one of the most well-balanced I've seen of any performer of any genre. There were the gotta-play-em big hits ("I'm Eighteen," "School's Out," "Billion Dollar Babies," "No More Mr. Nice Guy") and deep album cuts ("Wicked Young Man" from Brutal Planet, "Go to Hell," and "Lost in America" from The Last Temptation of Alice.
That last song, although 20 years old, certainly has some lyrics applicable to today's society and news cycle:
I can't go to school Cause I ain't got a gun I ain't got a gun Cause I ain't got a job I ain't got a job Cause I can't go to school So I'm looking for a girl with a gun and a job (And a house, with cable)
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There were also a couple of tunes from his most recent record, the sequel Welcome 2 My Nightmare ("I'll Bite Your Face Off" and "Caffeine"; the latter sung with a huge prop coffee cup). And, interestingly, a segment of classic-rock familiars likely to appear on his long-discussed covers record, Hollywood Vampires.
Taking its proposed name from the informal hell-raising and substance-abusing group of musicians that hung around together in the early and mid-'70s. The group included Cooper, Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, John Lennon, Harry Nilsson, and Mickey Dolenz. Though tonight, Cooper wisely chose not to cover "Everybody's Talkin'" or "I'm a Believer."
The cover-song foursome -- with accompanying tombstones stating the names of the dead rockers -- seemed to pull the show out of Alice Cooper World, but the audience got into it. Cooper has revealed that his best producer, Bob Ezrin, will be involved with that record, and he'll lead a group under that name that will include Johnny Depp and Aerosmith's Joe Perry for a one-off Rock in Rio show soon.
Fun fact trivia! Cooper originally wrote the song "Desperado" with Jim Morrison in mind to sing it. After his death, Cooper cut the song himself, complete with a very Jim-like spoken word section and vocal inflection.
It being an Alice Cooper show, there were special effects galore. Probably the best was when Alice was strapped to an upright medical examination table and enveloped in smoke and electrical shocks during "Feed My Frankenstein."
When the smoke cleared, an incredibly nimble, probably 20-foot tall Frankenstein monster emerged, chasing members around the stage. Having him carry a box of Valentine's candy was a nice touch.
Alice was also physically abused by an evil, sexy, skeleton-faced dancing nurse in high heels (giving erotic visions to three subsets of perverts).
And while in the past this part has been played by various dancers and Cooper's real-life daughter, for this tour -- as he told Ken Hoffman of the Houston Chronicle -- he has Sheryl, his wife of 39 years, filling the white stockings.
The pair originally met when she was 18 and a dancer in Cooper's 1975 "Welcome to My Nightmare" tour. And damn, she's still shockingly limber with those high kicks. And just imagine the Couples Therapy sessions...
What sometimes gets lost in the visuals of this show is the level of musicianship usually found in Cooper's band, and the current quintet backing him up certainly set a high level.
There were three Solid Shredders and exuberant stage-runners in Ryan Roxie, Nita Strauss, and (from Houston) Tommy Henriksen. Chuck Garric (bass) and Glen Sobel (drums) rounded out the lineup. All got a chance to shine individually, and Sobel and Strauss' solos were especially good.
After band introductions toward the end, Cooper recognized himself as "Playing the part of Alice Cooper."
In interviews for decades, the former Vincent Furnier has spoken of Alice in the third person as a character and alter ago whose diabolical machinations and bloodlust could not be further removed from the born again Christian with a serious golf addiction who brings him to life nightly, only to tuck him away again until the next show.
A hard-rock boogeyman with a seemingly endlessly reattachable head, ready to appear in the next nightmare. Welcome back, Alice.
Personal Bias: A fan, though not as much as my brother and concertmate Jamie, who once went as Alice in tux and tails for Halloween.
The Crowd: Surprisingly wide range of ages, some in costume, and even a few grade schoolers in Alice eye makeup. Many couples, and dudes on black T-shirts of bands. Frontrunner in terms of numbers was KISS.
Overheard In the Crowd: "It's been a long time since those parties at Rockefeller's!"
Random Notebook Dump: What? No "Dead Babies" or Valentine's Day crooning of "Only Women Bleed?"
Hello Hooray House of Fire No More Mr. Nice Guy Under My Wheels I'll Bite Your Face Off Billion Dollar Babies Caffeine Lost in America Hey Stoopid Dirty Diamonds Welcome to My Nightmare Go to Hell Wicked Young Man Feed My Frankenstein The Ballad of Dwight Fry/Killer (snippet) I Love the Dead Break on Through (To the Other Side) (Doors cover) Revolution (Beatles cover) Foxy Lady (Jimi Hendrix cover) My Generation (Who cover) I'm Eighteen Poison
ENCORE School's Out/Another Brick in the Wall
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