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Alice Cooper

(15 Jun 2012: The Midland — Kansas City, MO)

Alice Cooper was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. The veteran artist also released his nineteenth solo record, a sequel to his masterpiece entitled Welcome 2 My Nightmare (2011). Cooper in turn launched his current “No More Mr. Nice Guy” tour, and he just recently put on a quite respectable show at Bonnaroo that included a cover of Lady Gaga’s hit, “Born This Way”.


At the Midland, Alice Cooper fiercely displayed his Grand Guignol antics with skill and verve to a near-capacity crowd on a Friday night. His twenty-song, ninety-minute set included predominant hits such as “I’m Eighteen” and “School’s Out”, but also live rarities (“Halo of Flies”) and new songs (“I’ll Bite Your Face Off”, “Caffeine”). The audience cheered throughout. For Alice Cooper, the dark, surreal drama must never die.


Cooper was supported by a practiced and resourceful band that included Tommy Henriksen, Ryan Roxie, and Orianthi on guitar, and a rhythm section that featured Glen Sobel on drums and Chuck Garric on bass guitar. Cooper has changed his band for the better since I last saw him on the sixth date of his “Theatre of Death” tour, which eventually spanned to an incredible eleven legs. Ryan Roxie has rejoined the band. Furthermore, Cooper perceptively acquired Orianthi, an Aussie guitar virtuoso whose talents appear limitless. She was previously chosen by Michael Jackson to be lead guitarist for his unfortunate “This Is It” tour.


With respect to the setlist, Cooper played songs from at least ten albums, and in fact played material dating back to the early 1970s: entailing such records as Killer (1971) and Love It to Death (1971). He performed three songs from his magnum opus, Welcome to my Nightmare (1975): “The Black Widow”, “Cold Ethyl”, and “Only Women Bleed”. However, Cooper played four numbers from Billion Dollar Babies (1973), and it was indeed this record that he italicized; it does feature “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, also the tour’s name. Surprisingly, not one song was played from Along Came a Spider (2008). Neither “Clones (We’re All)” nor Hendrix’s “Fire” were performed.


As for histrionics and props, Cooper brought out the guillotine for a fascinating decapitation, after which his (faux) head was carelessly thrown about; a behemoth of a Frankenstein creature made its way onstage for “Feed My Frankenstein”; a boa constrictor was utilized during “Is It My Body” too. But perhaps most spectacular was Cooper’s grandiose entrance—from a mini-tower—as a black widow, complete with spider legs attached to his person.


Highpoints: During “Only Women Bleed” and the irrefutably demented “Cold Ethyl”, Cooper danced about with a female ragdoll; this was a fine augmentation of the music itself. Cooper’s apolitical view in “Elected” was examined as he ordered two fake politicians off stage: President Obama and Mitt Romney.


Aside from “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and related numbers, the most rewarding song was “Halo of Flies”, an exotic-themed bit of progressive rock gold from Killer (1971); Cooper lined his guitarists up and then behaved as if he were some conductor of a psychotic symphony. A cautionary tale from 1991, “Hey Stoopid” was also a pleasure to witness.


Orianthi’s prime time guitar solo preceding “Only Women Bleed” exceeded the mark, and she was a phenomenal complement to Cooper’s ostentation. A new song, the Stones-y “I’ll Bite Your Face Off”, was well-received; Cooper prompted fans to clap to it. During the hair-band hit “Poison”, Cooper put further emphasis on his vocals, and pointed to the crowd. Moreover, Cooper’s signature song “School’s Out” was successfully combined with Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2”.
A pioneer of heavy metal, a master of the macabre—Alice Cooper remains inimitable. 


Setlist:
01. The Black Widow
02. Brutal Planet
03. I’m Eighteen
04. Under My Wheels
05. Billion Dollar Babies
06. No More Mr. Nice Guy
07. Hey Stoopid
08. Is It My Body
09. Halo of Flies
10. I’ll Bite Your Face Off
11. Muscle of Love
[Orianthi guitar solo]
12. Only Women Bleed
13. Cold Ethyl
14. Feed My Frankenstein
15. Caffeine
16. Poison
17. Wicked Young Man
18. I Love the Dead
19. School’s Out
Encore:
20. Elected


William Carl Ferleman is a professional music journalist and scholar. He has attended more rock shows than Sir Mick Jagger. He has completed coursework for his Ph.D. in English Renaissance literature. His latest scholarly publication is entitled "What if Lady Macbeth Were Pregnant?: Amativeness, Procreation, and Future Dynasty in Maqbool" (www.borrowers.uga.edu). He appreciates Nietzsche's maxim: "Without music life would be a mistake." He enjoys politics, debate, theatre, and Jameson Irish whiskey. He sleeps with his contrarian pussycat, Issa. He holds a B.A. and M.A. from The University of Kansas.


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It would be nice to report that Alice Cooper’s comeback attempt is strong enough to show the Lady Gagas and Insane Clown Posses just how shock rock should be done. Sadly, it’s not even strong enough to frighten Justin Bieber.
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There was a time when Alice Cooper was critically savaged, virtually ignored by mainstream audiences, and declared passé by us kids. Fortunately, that time quickly passed.
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