Monday, May 16, 2016

Music Review: ALICE COOPER LIVE IN CONCERT (2016, Port Chester, NY)

It was my pleasure last Thursday to see Alice Cooper live at The Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York.  Longtime readers of this site will know of my intense Alice Cooper fandom, which ranges from his major albums to his lesser-known masterpieces, his brilliant music video/soundtrack tie-ins for FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI and CLASS OF 1984, his bizarre cameos in films like SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND, WAYNE'S WORLD, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 6: FREDDY'S DEAD, ROADIE, and John Carpenter's PRINCE OF DARKNESS, and his lead role in the insane Italian werewolf flick MONSTER DOG, directed by TROLL 2's Claudio Fragasso.

The entire evening was quite a theatrical experience, with the sixty-eight year old Cooper still the consummate showman, and in rare form. He began the proceedings with "Black Widow," dressed in a black-and-white striped Edward Gorey/BEETLEJUICE-style suit and with his energy at full blast (I might even say, at "eleven") and he never let up the entire evening. Had I not known the reality of Alice's age, I would have guessed I was watching a thirty or forty year old performer––and he even meta-theatrically referenced this phenomenon in "No More Mr. Nice Guy" when he reached the line "I'd open doors for little old ladies..." and adopted the physical bearing of a geriatric pushing her walker.

The stage props from the classic 1970s shows were re-imagined and used in marvelous abundance––they rolled out the guillotine to decapitate him, dropped oversized Smiley Face balloons on the crowd during "No More Mr. Nice Guy," wrapped him up in the strait-jacket for "The Ballad of Dwight Fry," and wheeled out the electric slab for "Feed My Frankenstein," which met its conclusion with a twelve-foot tall FrankenAlice puppet chasing the musicians around the stage. He brought out a live snake for "Is It My Body," swung around a saber (stacked high with fake dollar-bills) for "Billion Dollar Babies," and directed his band with a riding crop like it was a conductor's baton. It was magnificent.

By and large, he stuck to the aforementioned 70s classics and others like "Under My Wheels," "Only Women Bleed," and "Halo of Flies," but there was some material from his mid-career reinvention such as "Poison" (and "Feed My Frankenstein"), and even some latter-day works like "Woman of Mass Distraction."

His band contained a great deal of talent––Ryan Roxie, Tommy Henriksen, and "Hurricane" Nita Strauss on guitar, Chuck Garric on bass, and Glen Sobel on drums.  Sobel had the chance to rock an extended, incredibly impressive drum solo on "Halo of Flies," but the true scene-stealer was Strauss (apparently an actual relative of classical master Johann Strauss and member of the Iron Maidens, a all-female Maiden tribute band!) who roamed the stage with manic, hotshot energy, whipping around her blonde hair and wowing us with extensive and virtuosic guitar solos (to cover Alice's costume changes)!

As the concert neared its finale, Alice delivered a heartfelt tribute to some fallen friends with the songs "Pinball Wizard" for Keith Moon, "Fire" for Jimi Hendrix (which he had previously covered on his compilation album CLASSICKS), and "Suffragette City" for David Bowie.  He closed out with the life-affirming one-two punch of "I'm Eighteen" and "School's Out," the latter of which was transformed into Alice's interpretation of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall."  But that's not all––there was, naturally, an encore: a balls-out delivery of "Elected," with nearly as many red, white, and blue streamers as at a political convention, and the timely new rallying cry of "Make America Sick Again."

I also must give special compliments to the Capitol Theater itself (a historic three-story structure dating back to the Vaudeville era) and the authentic small-town rocker crowd that it brought.  There was indeed some grand people-watching in store, with plenty of Alice aficionados in their 50s and 60s dressing like it was 1986 again. Glorious!

And finally, for those of you who were not lucky enough to see Alice in concert (though he is touring through the rest of the year), I will leave you with a consolation prize: a picture of a balloon-toting Alice hanging out with Jean Stapleton ("Edith Bunker" from ALL IN THE FAMILY) at Studio 54:

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