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Alice Cooper + Twisted Sister + Sebastian Bach's Bach Tight 5

Ed Rivadavia
Alice Cooper + Twisted Sister + Sebastian Bach's Bach Tight 5

Alice Cooper + Twisted Sister + Sebastian Bach's Bach Tight 5

City: New York
Venue: Beacon Theatre
Date: 2003-10-27

Alice Cooper
Twisted Sister
Nostalgia tours come in all shapes and sizes in the rock & roll wasteland of the early '00's. Beyond the Stones' precisely Olympic, quadrennial treks, Springsteen's multiple night marathons, and numerous reunions both unexpected (the Sex Pistols) and seemingly never-ending (Kiss), there of course exists a veritable multitude of lower-profile nostalgic undertakings flying just below the mainstream radar. Among 2003's crop in this category, Alice Cooper's performance at New York's Beacon Theatre provided a particularly interesting example thanks to a testosterone-fueled special support bill containing none other than 80's legends Twisted Sister and former Skid Row screamer Sebastian Bach. Needless to say, aging hard rock fans in their battered old concert T-shirts and flowing mullets were out en force tonight -- making for quite the scene outside this stylish, Upper West Side venue. After a competent but entirely unnecessary "greatest hits" set by Sebastian Bach (he of recent Phantom of the Opera fame) and his new backing band, the Bach Tight 5, it was time to for us to enter the "Bizarro glam universe" populated by those lovable ogres in drag, Twisted Sister. Fresh off a series of international commitments split between major European festival appearances and even a brief USO tour of U.S. military bases, TS took the stage with their classic line-up of singer Dee Snider, co-lead guitarists Jay Jay French and Eddie "Fingers" Ojeda, bassist Mark "The Animal" Mendoza and drummer A.J. Pero. The fact that they were last minute invitees to Alice Cooper's New York stop perhaps explains their atypically sub-par performance, which hit an immediate snag -- literally -- when Snider (looking exactly the same in his make-up and pink-frilled leather outfit as he did in 1984, by the way) tripped over a bit of stage carpeting during set opener "What You Don't Know (Sure Can Hurt You)" and vehemently motioned to the stage crew for help as he sang away. Apparently surprised at being so quickly called to action, said stage hands proceeded to rip out the entire carpet from under the group as they powered their way through a brace of ancient classics including "The Kids are Back", "Stay Hungry" and "Destroyer." Pausing to address the crowd at this point, Snider begged our pardon while he berated his roadie: "Asshole! I wanted you to fix the carpet -- not remove it!" The humorously intimate atmosphere thus set, Twisted Sister dove back into their enthusiastic but rusty set -- especially when compared to their positively overpowering (if costume-less) appearance at the post-9/11 NY Steel benefit concert two years ago. Still, after peeling off such obligatory crowd favorites as "Under the Blade", "You Can't Stop Rock'n'Roll", "We're Not Gonna Take It" (during which Snider made it a point to claim the song back from new California governor Ahhhhnold), and "I Wanna Rock", the already heavily partisan crowd was well in the palm of TS' calloused hands. Following a final encore of "Tear It Loose" w/ Seb in tow, the five old warriors lined up to take their bows. Interestingly, the fact that they looked like the kitchen line-up from your neighborhood pizza joint after an unfortunate head-on collision with a parade of drag queens was only mildly disturbing. On to the headliner -- who, in case you don't remember that far back, actually owes much of his mid-80's renaissance to the support of a then flying-high Twisted Sister. Based on the well-chronicled debauchery in years past, not to mention his penchant for making a mess of most stages with all of the occasional guillotine, the very thought of booking Alice Cooper at a venue as classy and beautiful as the Beacon may seem like a crime against good taste. But let's not forget that this is hardly your father's hell-raising, Budweiser-mainlining Vincent Furnier, but rather a kinder, gentler, 4 handicap celebrity golfer who has long been officially re-named Alice Cooper. What's more, Cooper's current tour in support of his 23rd studio album (!) is a relatively stripped down affair, going without most of the elaborate concepts that have long been his trademark -- hence the apropos "Bare Bones Tour" tag. With all that in mind, the Alice Cooper show tonight was unfeasibly well-organized, civilized and, well, clean next to Twisted Sister's primal bludgeoning. Opening with the delicate piano tinklings of "Hello Hooray", Alice and twirling baton led his top-notch henchmen (including in-demand guitarist Ryan Roxy and sometime Kiss drummer Eric Singer) through a balanced set that sprinkled recent material like "Man of the Year", "Lost in America" and "Poison" amidst requisite standards like "No more Mr. Nice Guy", "Billion Dollar Babies" and "I'm Eighteen". All of these were executed (no pun intended) with absolutely clinical precision, their rough edges polished to such a sparkling sheen that none were fooled into thinking that this, like any other Alice Cooper concert, was a meticulously choreographed and scripted affair. The problem is that, when stacked back to back thus, these alarmingly homogeneous, ever economical 2-3 minute singles lend a somewhat depressing production-line aspect to Alice's entire oeuvre. Whether those present viewed this as a measure of consistency or chronic unimaginativeness, the fact remains that, behind the pancake make-up façade of shock, horror and heavy metal, Alice Cooper has never been or ever strived to be anything but a pop artist. Thankfully, the vast majority of those present couldn't have cared less about such philosophical mucky-muck, and instead busied themselves with going bonkers over timeless classics like "Welcome To My Nightmare", "School's Out", and "Under My Wheels". And when Cooper and co. kindly dusted off of such oft-forgot nuggets like "Halo of Flies", "Cold Ethyl" and "Ballad of Dwight Fry", it's fair to say that even the most die-hard fans probably went home happy over money well spent.

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