Alice Cooper's ghoulish camp still does the trick
By Erik Pedersen
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Watching Alice Cooper onstage is like taking in a familiar movie. You know what's coming, but it's no less entertaining.
From the opening bell of "School's Out" to, well, the closing bell of "School's Out" again -- this time with Slash on guitar -- Cooper gave his fans exactly what they expected: meaty, familiar songs delivered by guitars, bass, drums and a quasi-maniacal singer who dishes out and endures no modicum of mock physical punishment. All with tongue in cheek and amps on 10.
Indeed it was something like a movie, with the focus on theatrics over soundtrack and the star not breaking the fourth wall. Cooper came out twirling and swinging a baton -- part unstable drum major, part pissed-off cop -- and flung it into the audience after the first song. It was the first of a flood of props that would have made Carrot Top blush, including swords, a riding whip, bead necklaces, even a crutch made of bones. And those are just among the hand-held ones.
Welcoming the crowd back to his nightmare, which has been recurring for 40 years now, Cooper and company piled on the cheeky pre-Halloween horror. Myriad ghouls, zombies and other nasties wandered onstage and off, occasionally taking the opportunity to guillotine, hang, impale or otherwise harm our hero. Throughout the night, he traded faux pleasure and pain with an S&M nurse (Tiffany Lowe).
In fact, women don't tend to fare well in Cooper's songs or show, from the surprise matricide of "The Awakening" to the gleeful necrophilia of "Cold Ethyl."
Meanwhile, the band played on, with songs careening into one another like a particularly nasty freeway pileup. The bulk came from Cooper's '70s heyday, with three from the past decade and 1989's left-field hit "Poison." The newer ones -- "Wicked Young Man," "Dirty Diamonds," "Vengeance Is Mine" -- hewed closely to the sonic and thematic Cooper templates and fit in nicely with the classics. Most numbers were more muscular than their recorded versions, punched up with extra guitar and bottom, and the colorful crowd shouted and bobbed along.
Surprisingly absent was Cooper's catchy, just-released holiday ditty, "Keepin' Halloween Alive."
His younger bandmates -- in their 30s and 40s -- gave him a couple of breathers during the show. But while he was offstage, guitarists Damon Johnson and Keri Kelli kept the pressure on the audience with scathing hard rock interludes.
So if not a whole lot has changed from Cooper's old days to this Theater of Death tour, it shows where such acts as the Tubes, White Zombie and Marilyn Manson drew inspiration. The whole production remains good campy fun -- harmless though not mindless. And it was a perfect midweek warm-up for a Halloween that falls on a Saturday.
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