Show Review + Photos + Setlist: Alice Cooper and Rob Zombie Conjure an Early Halloween at the Family Arena, Thursday, October 7
As might be expected, the Alice Cooper/Rob Zombie "Gruesome Twosome" double bill at the Family Arena was a somewhat surreal experience. Between the fans aping Cooper's look, those dressed to the goth nines and the setting - a faceless concrete arena in the middle of nowhere -- the night felt like a bizarre, low-budget b-movie.
Todd Owyoung Alice Cooper at the Family Arena. Click here for a full slideshow from the Gruesome Twosome.
A rather-small crowd - the floor was half-full and the upper bowl was mostly empty - nevertheless hummed in anticipation as a curtain advertising Cooper's Theatre of Death veiled the stage. Half an hour after trashpunk openers Murderdolls finished, the lights went down and school bells rang - signaling Cooper's appearance and, of course, "School's Out." As if cryogenically preserved, the 62-year-old strutted out in full Alice Cooper regalia: baton, tails, eye make-up, wild hair and black pants. Giant balloons filled with confetti exploded over the audience as he strutted around the stage. (A goth Flaming Lips?) He followed "Out" with a classic and a newer song: "No More Mr. Nice Guy" and 2000's "Wicked Young Man."
It's to his credit that the vintage and modern blended together seamlessly during the set, from 1971's "Under My Wheels" to 2008's "Vengeance Is Mine." Cooper's gravelly gargle is one of rock's great voices, and he's aged well as a singer. His backing musicians - who have played with acts such as Brother Cane, Dio, Y&T and Megadeth - also kept him young; they added flashy solos or unleashed effortless riffs as needed.
Of course, Cooper's audience comes to see his shtick as well - and he didn't disappoint. He sported a straitjacket, came onstage in a wheelchair, wore hospital scrubs and died onstage several times for good measure. (If you're scoring along at home: guillotine, hanging, giant syringe and being stabbed while encased in a box.) For "Dirty Diamonds," he threw necklaces into the crowd; during "Billion Dollar Babies" he took a spear of money, shook that over the audience and then sheared the head off a doll. Cooper also speared a ninja with a pole and battled with a seductive nurse.
It must be noted that a few of their interactions -- him strangling her with a mic stand or mock-hitting her - were a bit uncomfortable in terms of their implied violence. Now, Cooper gets away with this because it's been part of his repertoire for decades. These moves are a relic from an earlier era when they weren't as taboo -- and also because it's part of his act, a persona he's playing. (Besides, she had her revenge by kicking away a stool so Cooper hung himself.) But it's hard not to think that such shock-rock moves would receive quite an outcry today if a new band attempted them.
Todd Owyoung Click here for a full slideshow from Alice Cooper at the Family Arena.
And it's a testament to Cooper's vitality that this still does unsettle. His Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nomination is well-deserved. He's an entertainer, who's just so happened to have influenced every rock, metal, glam and hair-metal band of the last several decades. But Cooper's antics don't replace his musical talent - and that's all-too-rare to find these days.