Venue: The Centre In The Square, Kitchener, ON
Date: October 31, 2014
*All pictures are off of my cellphone, so don't expect awesome. All typos, grammar mistakes, etc, etc, etc, are the result of not being a proper student of English, and a heaping help of NyQuil.
It's not too often that you get to see a real life rock and roll legend. Most of the path-forging folks who attained legendary status didn't do it through healthy living and good clean fun, and sadly have passed on. But Vincent Furnier, aka Alice Cooper has managed to keep going strong, largely due to the shedding of those rock star vices back in the 80's.
For those unfamiliar, Alice Cooper started out as the name of a group back in the 1960's, after Arizona high school students were done fumbling their way through Beatles covers and other poppy influences of the day. With the release of Pretties For You, Neal Smith, Dennis Dunaway, Glen Buxton, Michael Bruce and Vincent Furnier established themselves as some far-out characters in the land of hippies, more in the vein of The Stooges than the Grateful Dead. Coincidentally, a move to Detroit (home of Iggy and Co.) was just what the band needed to find their niche and their audience, and they cranked out some of the most hard-rocking albums known to man....Love It To Death, Killer, School's Out, Muscle of Love, and Billion Dollar Babies. But the writing was on the wall as the band got bigger, and no matter what version you buy into, Vince Furnier split from the rest of the group.
The man who would eventually legally change his name to Alice Cooper didn't do too badly for himself as a "solo" artist out of the gate, kicking out the hugely successful Welcome To My Nightmare with the help of Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner, and other sorta-successes followed in the form of Alice Cooper Goes To Hell and From The Inside.
Going forward into the 80's, Alice put out a string of albums that definitely have their fans, but are nowhere near the calibre of the Alice Cooper Group's output, and though he found more success and a different audience with 1989's Trash (and a legion of Wayne's World fans with the followup, Hey Stoopid), there was no doubt that he would not come close to the popularity he enjoyed in his early Detroit days.
Somehow, that didn't stop a sold-out crowd, myself included, from attending Alice Cooper's sold-out show on Halloween Night in Kitchener, Ontario. A somewhat odd stop for bands as they travel across Canada, the Centre boasts some of the most impressive acoustics of any well-designed theatre; I would rank it on par with Toronto's Massey Hall, another venue known for great sound. Arriving approximately one hour before the show, my flu-ridden, worn-out self was aware that this was going to be a rowdy one, with wall-to-wall costumes that ranged from Mother Firefly and Captain Spaulding to a heavyset, bearded ballerina with a giant sparkly phallus, not to mention thousands of Alice Cooper clones. The theatre itself rumbled with the large audience, all under the watchful eyes of the backdrop.
Taking to the stage at 8:35, Alice and his current group burst onto the stage with the familiar opener "Hello, Hooray", cutting it short to segue into "House of Fire". Alice was quite the showman in his red and black striped suit, routinely spinning his canes off into the audience, and his band were done up in garish Halloween costumes and clearly enjoying themselves. Though I was worried that a venture into "new" Alice this early in the set might mean an avoidance of the classics, I was proven wrong as the band started into "No More Mr. Nice Guy" and "Under My Wheels".
Truth be told, there was a good balance of everything at last night's show, and there would have definitely been a few disappointed fans if hits like "Poison" and "Feed My Frankenstein" didn't make an appearance; but with almost half of the evening dedicated to the material from those early albums, it was obvious that Alice knew which side his bread was buttered on. To their credit, the band (with three guitarists) treated the earlier tunes with the respect that they deserved, not getting too guitar wanky where it wasn't necessary...well, for the most part, they did. Unfortunately, an overkill of flange managed to ruin "The Ballad of Dwight Fry", and the ensuing chaos had the band scrambling to reign the song in for the final chorus.
Of course, no Alice Cooper show would be complete without theatrics, and there were two show set-pieces that deserve mention, if you don't count the giant coffee cup Alice brought out for Caffeine, or the massive python he wore on his shoulders for Welcome To My Nightmare; during Feed My Frankenstein, a lab coat-clad Alice was strapped onto an upright table with electrodes and fried in a giant cloud of smoke, after which an oversized Frankenstein's monster took to the stage, cheered on by the roar of an enthusiastic crowd. Not content to have just one execution, Alice was later placed in a guillotine and beheaded while the band played a partial version of "Killer", after which the audience was encouraged into an "I Love The Dead" singalong.
The only real weak part of the show came after a reformed Alice returned to the stage as a ghost, joining his dead friends the "Hollywood Vampires", and a series of corresponding tombstones were marched out as the band played "Break on Through", "Revolution", "Foxey Lady", and "My Generation" in honour of Jim Morrison, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, and Keith Moon. Still, it was a small price to pay, even if it could've been shortened effectively down into a medley.
After finishing "Poison", the band left the stage for a short while, coming back for an encore of "School's Out", complete with bubbles, confetti, streamers, and a bunch of confetti-filled bouncing beach-type balls that Alice sent out into the crowd, popping with a sword when they came back to the stage. The classic anthem was reworked to include lyrics from Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall Pt 2" which seemed to be another crowd-pleaser.
With the show over, we fought our way past a bunch of sweaty Alice Cooper look-a-likes and back to the car, happy that we had decided to check out what solo Alice was capable of. And while one of my big regrets has always been that I never got to see the original Alice Cooper Group live, I certainly have no regrets for attending last night's show.
1. Hello Hooray
2. House of Fire
3. No More Mr. Nice Guy
4. Under My Wheels
5. I'll Bite Your Face Off
6. Billion Dollar Babies
8. Department of Youth
10. Dirty Diamonds
11. Welcome To My Nightmare
12. Go To Hell
13. He's Back (The Man Behind The Mask)
14. Feed My Frankenstein
15. Ballad of Dwight Fry
16. Killer (Partial)
17. I Love The Dead (Partial)
18. Break On Through/Revolution/Foxey Lady/My Generation
19. I'm Eighteen
21. School's Out/Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2