Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
August 1, 2019
Before GWAR, Cannibal Corpse, Marilyn Manson, Slipknot and Ghost, there was Alice Cooper.
In the '60s and '70s, Cooper's vaudeville was both fresh and upsetting. More than half a century later, the Godfather of Shock Rock's act has endured to become one of the most entertaining musical performances money can buy.
Despite the apparent death of the genre he helped create — because, really, what's shocking anymore? — Cooper's career has survived even many of his heirs apparent, partly due to nostalgic value and partly because, even at 71 years of age, the guy can still put on one hell of a live show.
Sporting a top hat and swinging a cane, Cooper sauntered onstage at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion just before 9:30 p.m. on Thursday night. As the crowd's roar reached a crescendo, the band launched into "Feed My Frankenstein," an overt track about satisfying one's libido.
A 10-foot-tall beast, chains dangling from its forearms, joined the monster of ceremonies onstage for the performance, only to be restrained by stage hands and tossed backstage. A few songs later, Cooper's cane was replaced by a crutch covered in bandages, which was then switched out for a fencing sword followed by a leather whip.
Confetti was blasted into the crowd during "Billion Dollar Baby," and Cooper later removed his jacket to reveal a blood-soaked button down for "Roses On White Lace." He was then joined onstage by an undead woman in a wedding dress, presumably the victim of his knife, which had taken the place of his leather whip.
Fittingly, the undead woman turned out to be his wife and former band member Sheryl Goddard, which lent credence to both her wedding dress and the big, fat kiss Cooper laid on her mid-song.
Countless wardrobe changes followed. Cooper donned a straight jacked during "Steven," and he slipped into an Astros jersey for "Under My Wheels." But perhaps the most entertaining part of the evening came during "Dead Babies," when a nurse pushed a black stroller onto the stage.
It was clearly a doll inside the carriage, but Cooper's feeble attempt to hack the prop to pieces with a butcher's knife was so disturbing to a couple sitting to my right that they took their leave a good 25 minutes before the show's conclusion. And I couldn't help but smile at the thought that, even in 2019, Cooper's antics continue to ruffle feathers.
For his transgression, Cooper was restrained and ostensibly executed via a guillotine. His head was then paraded around by a gigantic infant as his bandmate's continued to perform "I Love The Dead." What goes around comes around, after all.
Nearly 50 years since the release of "I'm Eighteen" — the angsty coming-of-age anthem that propelled his band into the mainstream — Cooper's lyrics and live act remain, at times, affectionate, unsettling and altogether fascinating. In an era of minimalism and bluntness, his extravagant performance was a breath of fresh air.
The evening concluded with "School's Out" and a verse of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick In The Wall." With one final hip thrust and a tip of his hat, Cooper ended the show with a sendoff emblematic of his persona: "School's out, Houston," he screeched as fans cheered. "May all of your nightmares be horrific."
Before Cooper, Halestorm got the crowd going with an in-your-face performance of their hyperaggressive hard rock. The Grammy Award-winning outfit was warmly received by the crowd, many of whom were hearing them for the first time.
Lzzy Hale's soaring vocals took centerstage, wowing the approximately 6,000 fans in attendance. The Pennsylvania outfit's combination of heavy guitars and catchy hooks was clearly inspired at least in part by Cooper's pop sensibility, and I only wish I had arrived at the venue in time to catch their entire performance.
Years Ago (audio)
Feed My Frankenstein
No More Mr. Nice Guy
Bed Of Nails
Raped And Freezin’
Fallen In Love
Muscle Of Love
Billion Dollar Babies
Roses On White Lace
Black Widow Jam
I Love The Dead
Under My Wheels