Thursday, October 24, 2013

Alice Cooper: Raise the Dead - Live in Morristown, NJ on Oct 19, 2013

Adding to the list of things Weird Al Yankovic and Alice Cooper have in common, is they were my daughter’s first two major concerts.  There is something amazingly magical about getting to share seeing an act with my child that I have been a fan of since I was her age.  The Weird Al show we saw two years ago was amazingly fun, but lacked some important elements to make it a real rock concert.

It was much more of a light hearted atmosphere.
It was a much more sedate crowd.
The volume of the music wasn’t such that the base line could rattle fillings.

Therefore Alice Cooper’s “Raise the Dead” tour got the distinction of her first true Rock Concert.  I’d call it a heavy metal concert, but Alice predates Heavy Metal by well over a decade, because he’s that awesome.

A warning:  I’m going to overuse the word “awesome” even more than I usually do.  Considering he performed an awesome rock stage show before I was born, and continues to be awesome today, this over use is completely justified.

It is that awesomeness that made this a perfect introduction.  If my child is going to start being interested in live music performances, I wanted her to start out by seeing one done right.  Who better to introduce her to this phenomenon than the guy who invented a large percentage of theatrics used on stage while rocking the joint most expertly?

My daughter has been a fan of Alice Cooper since she was very young, asking to see videos of him since she was two.  Well…once I put the video on she wanted to know who the scary girl with the snake was, stared a bit and finally said, “Oh, I meant Alice in Wonderland.”
But she has been a fan for several years, anyway.

On the way there, while we listened to his music, my daughter kept asking what songs would be played. This is especially since she knows his most recent album best.  I told her I hadn’t tried to look up the set, and I could only guess based on the concerts we have on DVD. I did promise her that he’d definitely play, “School’s Out.”  When she asked why, I got to explain what an “anthem” is.  See, oh concerned parents, Rock Concerts can be educational.

Front and center with a special insert...from Along Came a Spider instead of the new album for some reason.
While not as family oriented as the Al show, there was a large range of ages present, and often several generations came together.  There was a head banging father along side his teen aged son in front of us, and a mother with her adult daughter (both in Alice makeup) next to us.  I also briefly met a guy in the lobby, who asked through his grey handlebar mustache.  “What do you think the average age of this crowd is?”  My answer, “Old enough to make me feel comfortable.”  When Rosa and Anabelle came by I added, “But I’m doing my best to lower that average.”   He smiled and replied, “I’m here with my daughter too, but she’s twenty-two.”  There were typical teenage metal heads, old men wearing Alice makeup over their white eyebrows and beards with their wives in shirts from concerts before the teenage metal heads were born, and everyone in between.

Due to the large amount of them there, I guess it technically counted as a family show, but with a great deal more black leather clothing in the audience for shows in that category.  There was also the occasional woman, like the one my wife and daughter ran into at the sales booth and rest room, who remembered her leather pants, leather heels, leather jacket and leather brassiere, but not her leather shirt.  This is something much less common at comedy shows, much to the chagrin of many a comedian.

The best piece of clothing I saw was the woman's denim jacket with a masterfully painted portrait of Jonathan “Barnabas Collins” Frid on the back.  I really wish I wasn’t as slow with my camera as I inevitably am.

Before detailing the evening further, to continue to lay the concerned parents to rest, Alice uses no profanity, and has removed the few songs from his stage repertoire where the normally witty suggestiveness headed closer into blatantly exploitational territory since becoming more serious about his faith in the nineties. Quite correctly, he left the ditties in about necrophilia, 'cause they're freakin' funny!  This brings up the last point: the macabre mayhem is done (as Groucho Marx, Mae West and others from that era noted years ago) in a fun filled, theatrical vaudeville style.  Therefore, the show was completely appropriate for any junior members of Alice’s “Sick Things” such as my little girl.

I was very proud of my daughter’s individuality, and not only for wanting to go. There were a fair number of kids around her age or a little older, and couple younger.  All of them however, were boys. What really made me proud of her thinking for herself, though, was that in the sea of black fabric and skull designs in that theater, she was the only one wearing a pink flowery dress.  She did, however, sport a studded black leather bracelet from her Hip Hop dance recital costume to maintain the spirit of the evening.

Before the show, selections from Alice Cooper’s vast library were piped in.  My daughter and I continued the game we played in the car, where I have to guess and tell her the song and album name.  Since they didn’t use any of the numbers from the concert, we got a fairly eclectic mix. It ranged from many selections off of his latest, Welcome 2 My Nightmare, all the way back to early year novelties, like the band’s submission for a Man with the Golden Gun theme.  I got to be educated during this portion as well, when my daughter taught me the correct pronunciation of “Ke$ha.’  My copy of Warriner's is too old to have the rules for vowels preceding a “$”.

Unfortunately I am woefully out of practice at real concerts. My last one also being Alice Cooper a couple weeks before my wife and I started dating in 2000.  (In a cruel twist of fate, my sister had surgery related schedule issues in the time frame of both shows, thirteen years apart, and couldn’t come.  She also missed his tour last year with Iron Maiden because she was “busy” giving birth. Here’s hoping she gets her priorities straight for next time.)

Two items completely slipped my mind, since they weren’t an issue at the Weird Al show.

The first was that the t-shirts and other paraphernalia were sold on a cash only basis.  Alfred Yankovic is firmly entrenched in the future and had a computerized credit card reader ready to go. I had to run down three blocks to the nearest ATM in order to get my required shirt, and ended up missing guitarist Ryan Roxie hanging around at the counter to show the sales woman the newly arrived box with his "Chad Cherry pants." (He was also getting pictures taken with the woman in the incomplete wardrobe.  I believe that is listed under the “benefits” section of his job description.)  Anabelle was ready to choose a shirt as well, right up until we walked in and she decided they were all “too scary.”  Therefore she ended up with an Alice Cooper teddy bear she named "Osito Cooper."  He’s basically a panda, (which does look a bit like the proper make-up) with a cute Alice black widow themed t-shirt on.

The second item I forgot about was because the average Weird Al fan is way more laid back than your typical leather clad metal head, and the audience stayed seated for Al’s entire performance.  As soon as the first strains of “The Underture” kicked in, the crowd rose as one to its feet to greet Alice Cooper, and stayed there for the nearly two hour set.  My daughter spent about half the time on tip toes, but luckily for her and my wife, the theater is well constructed to take that into account, and the head banging father and son in front of them were on the short side.  Next time, though, we’re bringing her a step stool. 

The set up was lucky for me as well, allowing me to lean behind my daughter to help her stretch up, because I was in an obstructed view seat.  The area wasn’t coded as such, but then again, I don’t think the Morristown Mayo Center knew about the extra tall version of Governor Christie holding the ticket for the seat in front of me who constantly felt the need to conduct Alice’s band. There is a reason that heavy metal fans only thrust their fist (or Italian horns/sign language airplane/ Spider-man web shooter) straight in the air: it is so the person behind them doesn't have to keep moving to see around a randomly flailing limb.  I was fortunate, not only that I had room to tilt while helping my daughter stand straighter, but also that Mr. Freaky-Big’s wife was comparatively Oompa Loompa sized and he often bent down to talk to her. 

I had thought my daughter bought the idea of celebrating the show by standing and was dancing along the whole time, but some of the movement turned out to be trying to move her legs to keep them from cramping up.  She did raise some insightful points about being able to dance, cheer and head bang while sitting, “Y’know, in the seats that are RIGHT HERE!”  My wife (and her back and feet) were firmly on my daughter’s side of these observations.

Before the concerned parent crowd leaps in again, yes my daughter was wearing earplugs to protect her young eardrums. I wasn’t, as my hearing is already shot and I didn’t want to miss anything important…or anything awesome anyway.  My wife wore them too, but decided she didn’t need the noise cancelling headphones she brought, “just in case.” 

I was ecstatic my wife did decide, at the last minute when buying the tickets, to join us.  This was not only for the obvious reasons of family togetherness, and sharing this momentous event with our child.  I’m guessing it would have been an EXTREMELY long night if only the two of us went, and on our return home I had to explain her daughter’s sentence,
“Daddy had to talk to a lady with no shirt on to check on me in the bathroom.”

With the concert in full swing, as each song started the crowd reacted.  It was clear the age of the fan by what decade’s songs caused them to spontaneously cheer the loudest. 

Good bands have fans that sing along with the chorus.
Great bands have fans that sing along with the verse.
Legends like Alice Cooper have fans that sing along with the opening guitar riff.

The powers that be didn’t seem to care that everyone was taking non-flash pictures with phones. I tried one, failed, and gave up. I have several concerts on DVD, and will get this one if it comes out. This is because Alice is such an amazing showman, even the same song will be an entirely different performance in different concerts.  (His rendition of "Is It My Body" in his twenties was lust personified, while at sixty, he was a delusional, loopy old man in hospital pajamas.)  Plus I can find better pictures on-line than I could take anyway, cementing my decision to watch the show live instead of through my phone.  My wife was a bit more persistent, much more talented, and netted a couple of good ones. 

The first ten numbers came from throughout his career, and were performed pretty much in the same costume, with some jacket changes.  For completeness, here is the list:
“Hello, Hooray,” “House of Fire,” "No More Mr. Nice Guy," “Under my Wheels,” 

I need to interrupt the play list to use the word "awesome" again, due to the fact his library and career are extensive enough that he could have these two heavy hitters, both of which could be and have been finales or encores, at the start of the show, and then get bigger and better from there...AWESOME!

“I’ll Bite Your Face Off,” “Billion Dollar Babies,” “Caffeine,” “Department of Youth,” "Hey Stoopid,” and “Dirty Diamonds.” 

There were no major effects or theatrics during the “stripey pants” numbers, only some standard props. I’m not using any normal definition of “standard prop,” since we’re talking about Alice Cooper here.  There was a riding crop, a dancing cane, a sword covered in money, and shiny necklaces.  One I hadn’t seen was a giant coffee mug for the Big Bopper inspired “Caffeine” (off the new album) that he held lovingly and over protectively, before upending its confetti contents on a delighted front row. 

He did display that after nearly a half century of touring he’s still in touch with current pop culture.  At the end of “Department of Youth,” when he asked,
“Who’s got the power?”
The band and crowd, of course, replied with,
“WE DO!” 

His follow up inquiry
“And who gave it to you?”
Had the band yell,
“Justin Beiber!” 

However, all of us old fans in the audience nearly drowned that out yelling the correct response, “DONNY OSMOND!”

I figured the lack of larger scale stage equipment meant Alice might be starting to slow down a bit in his sixties, but then the show shifted into phase two following the solos that ended “Dirty Diamonds.”

Alice Cooper knows everyone is there to see him, yet he surrounds himself with top notch musicians who are always granted the chance to shine brightly in instrumental solos on stage.

The first vocal free session highlighted veteran of three Alice Cooper albums of the 2000's and bass monster Chuck Garric and a drum performance by Morristown resident (unless Alice was kidding?) Glen Sobel.  His work will set the bar very high for my daughter’s future expectations for drum solos.  Not only was it musically and rhythmically awesome, but his sticks shot fireworks out of them!

Alice returned in his new, larger and shinier top hat for increased levels of atmosphere, smoke, theatricality and giant live python-ness with, “Welcome to My Nightmare.” 

That classic blended directly, following a green to red background color change, into “Go to Hell.”  He started out wielding the whip instead of his usual beginning with leather maracas and then stealing the whip from a female dancer. (Again, Alice requires a different version of the word “usual.”)  I figured there wouldn’t be the other gags “usually” performed by a female dancer on this tour, but I was pleasantly surprised later on.

The antics on stage kept building.  I’d never seen “He’s Back (the Man Behind the Mask)” aka the theme to Friday the 13 Pt VI on stage, either live or recorded before.  It’s nice that he mixed in some lesser known mid-years stuff.  A Jason look alike came out midway through and carried off a hapless roadie to an unseen doom. 

One more in a long line of things you’ll never see at a Andrea Boccelli concert.
(Sorry, Honey!)

Alice took advantage of the chaos to change into a blood soaked lab coat, and stand center stage, basking in his own awesomeness for a bit while the band jumped into “Feed my Frankenstein.”  My early thoughts about the lack of theatrics faded further when he mounted the electrode covered vertical table and seemed to disintegrate himself in a blast of showering sparks.  It turns out the explosion "transformed" him into a twelve foot make-up wearing Frankenstein’s monster who stalked out and harassed and chased the band while they finished out the bridge.  My heart swelled with pride as my child looked up at me and yelled,
“That was SO COOL!”

That’s my girl!

There was only one point in the show where Alice Cooper showed his sixty five years of age, and if I manage to be half as cool and active at sixty-five I will count it as a major accomplishment. 

My daughter was truly impressed that he was “About Grandma’s age…”
Then again, she’s seen my mom dance at weddings; we may be giving her unreasonable expectations of sexagenarian behavior.

I was happily proven wrong about my thinking there was no dancer when the zombie/nurse strutted out to put him in a straitjacket as punishment after recovering from his Frankensteining.  Then she danced behind him on the scenery, performing impossibly high leg kicks, while he sang “The Ballad of Dwight Frye.”  Obviously, he escaped and strangled the nurse with his own restraints, who responded by stabbing him and lopping off his head on a guillotine (to a portion of “Killer” of course).  This prompted Mr. Garric to kindly lead us all in a rousing chorus of “I Love the Dead” before the spotlight fell on the prodigious talents of the three lead quality guitarists. 

Alice has always liked having extra guitars on stage.  The three filled out the sound so well, I didn’t notice the lack of a keyboardist until I was home exercising while watching an older concert.

Ryan Roxie returned to the band, which was cool since I saw him live with Alice on the Brutally Live tour in 2000.  He joined Tommy Henriksen who played on and co-wrote tracks for Welcome 2 My Nightmare.   Front and center at solo time was the first female member of Alice Cooper’s band in his nearly fifty year history.   An insanely talented twenty-four year old Australian: Orianthi has impressively traded solos with both Steve Vai and Carlos Santana.  She was a member of Micheal Jackson's final tour, but we'll forgive her for that since she rocked the house every time she touched the strings.  She was also great for letting my daughter see a woman give an outstanding performance in a typically male dominated role.  See, concerned parents, more positive imagery.

Mind you none of this is where Alice showed his age. 
None of this was out of the ordinary either.
In fact, I think Alice Cooper calls strait jackets, beheadings, and outstandingly talented musicians, “A slow Saturday night.”

No, where Alice showed his age was in a bit of sentimentality which, like everything the man does, was irrevocably awesome.

He was wheeled onto a cemetery set reclined on a morgue table under a sheet, when a deep voice from above welcomed him to where he knew Alice would end up: the graveyard of the Hollywood Vampires. It also accused him of cheating death, and as Alice leapt out from under his shroud the voice asked what he was going to do next, “Raise the Dead?” (Nicely dropping the name of the tour, if I do say so myself.)

Alice definitively replied, “YES!”  and proceeded to perform tribute songs to his “Dead Drunk Friends” from the Hollywood Vampires.  The numbers sounded much like the original versions, but with a touch of Alice’s unique style.

The tombstones and tributes were:

Jim Morrison:  Appropriately enough -“Break on Through”
John Lennon: Donning round sunglasses – “Revolution”
Jimmy Hendrix: Orianthi really sold this, primarily through sheer talent but also “other reasons” – “Foxy Lady”
Keith Moon:  How Alice referred to all of them – “My Generation”

The best part of that set was…
Well, the best part of that set was Alice Cooper being awesome, musically gifted, and honoring great artists and friends all at once.

The second best part of that set was providing me an excuse to increase my daughter’s musical knowledge about key figures in the history of Rock n’ Roll.  More education - oh concerned parents.

The set ended with roof raising songs that would have gotten us all to our feet, if we ever sat down to begin with: the crutch accompanied “I’m Eighteen” and one of his many comebacks “Poison.”

The stage lights dimmed, the crowd screamed and whooped, and my wife and daughter both leaned over to me stating, “He didn’t play ‘School’s Out’.”

My answer was, “Maybe if we clap hard enough, he’ll come back and play it for the encore.”

It was a joy to watch the little light bulb go off in my daughter’s head as she uttered a knowing, “Oooooh.”

“Schools Out” blared, bubbles issued forth, streamers shot out, balloons full of confetti were stabbed with a saber, and the whole room sang along.  He demonstrated intimate knowledge of the average age of his fan base by interweaving a couple of lines of “Another Brick in the Wall,” into the song, causing us all to join in along with that too. 

As always, he gave full, heartfelt, and praising introductions to the entire band, letting them showcase their talents yet again.  He continued the weird, yet still awesome, third person relationship he has with his stage persona by stating,

“Tonight the part of Alice Cooper was played by…


Finally, after being stabbed again, he introduced the dancer/zombie/nurse only as “Nurse Sheryl.”
That is his wife’s first name.
They met when she was a dancer on the original Welcome to My Nightmare tour. I believe she still teaches ballet and has performed in many tours since then, as has his daughter, Calico, since 2000. (See, it IS a family show!)
Based on some substandard internet research, I think it really was his wife, since it definitely was her in Buffalo only last June.. 
It’s very romantic that, after nearly forty years of marriage, that they’re still in love enough to try to slay each other on stage regularly.

Before leaving we walked toward the front of the theater to collect some souvenir confetti. It was cut in feather shapes, likely as a tribute to the days of torn pillows and the infamous Toronto chicken incident of 1969.  We grabbed a handful of tissue paper ones, but my daughter found a “special” thin plastic one.  It may have come from the giant mug used in “Caffeine.”  

My little girl did not keep the "special" feather. She gave it away to my sister, since she felt bad that her Aunt kept missing these awesome concerts. This is because my daughter is caring, compassionate and a sweetie, despite the fact we encourage her to play violent video games, watch horror movies, and listen to Alice Cooper...

Or more likely, she is like that because of those things.

 Just before leaving,my wife found both a gold and red streamer.

Bedecked in shininess, and with her proclaiming the night to be, “Almost all the way across the bridge of complete awesomeness, except for having to stand up the whole time,” we brought our little pink frilly “Sick Thing in Training” back to the car.  My wife’s opinion of the show (and the standing) was pretty much the same, with less over usage of the word “awesome.”

Appropriately, my daughter had played thirty-six holes of (mini) golf with friends the day we saw Alice Cooper.  This led to having an extremely late lunch, which meant we only had a snack, instead of stopping for dinner before the show.

This worked out fantastically well in letting us provide our child with the full New Jersey concert experience.  After introducing her to the first, and still best, at over the top theatrics combined with unmatchable, hard hitting Rock n’ Roll, we stopped at a diner to have breakfast food and hot chocolate late at night before heading home.  My daughter passed the time waiting for our order by sketching her favorite parts of the evening’s experience.

I probably should have stuck with the classic beverage choice, as I’m quite sure the waitress brought me a real cappuccino instead of the decaf I ordered.  The positive side effect of that mistake is the existence of this complete documentation of my little girl’s first true concert experience.  I was originally planning to write a Facebook status update that said,


But since I was awake until four in the morning anyway, I had time to expand that statement slightly.

Coop Returns!


Brian said...

This made my morning :)

Unknown said...

Concert shirts, here we come!

Jeff McGinley said...

Brian: Many thanx. My job is done *flies away*

Renae: Thank you for proving overuse of "awesome" was warranted.

She has a KISS shirt already, but I'm very happy she got to see where most of their good ideas came from live, before seeing them.

Unknown said...

It truly did warrant an AWESOME!
You should be one proud Dad...
Now cross your fingers that One Direction doesn't take over any time soon!

Jeff McGinley said...

Thanx again Renae. I am proud. Even more so because the only singer she likes less than One Direction is Justin Beiber. Now if I can only get these darn Taylor Swift songs out of my head...

Jeff McGinley said...

OK, long comment here I'll have to break it up, not from me though. Cousin Micheal from Florida, who recently graced this blog with a wonderful tale of his brother and the everglades. Today he sent me an e-mail detailing a personal meeting with Alice Cooper. It highlights not only how awesome Alice is, but also how awesome Mike is as well.

In fairness I'll mention he also said what an amazingly nice guy Kevin Costner is, and how another celebrity (who's name I'll withhold, but who has been mentioned recently in this blog) was the exact opposite of a nice guy. Since this was an Alice Cooper post, here's the whole story about him and his awesomeness. Golf, unsurprisingly, was involved. Take it away, cousin:

Jeff McGinley said...

My experience with Alice Cooper is a little different than most. In the mid 90's I got a second job to pay for Francesca and Daniella's pre-paid college tuition plan. I worked at the Doral Country Club & Spa. (recently purchased by Mr. Trump) I was a utility man on the weekends and this included not only patrolling the course while play was active but I also got to be a starter. The starter is the man you give your receipt to after you pay in the club house. The mechanics are very simple. Players give the starter the receipt. The starter gives the players scorecards and pencils and tells them when they can tee off. One day I was working as a starter and who drives up in a golf cart? YEP! Alice himself. I recognize him right away. With full composure I go through the usual "welcome to Doral B.S. and ask if he has any questions regarding the course." He says no I've played the "Blue Monster" (name of golf course) before several times. I asked if he needed any tees or extra towels. He asked if he could "please" have an extra towel. I obliged to which he tried to tip me a ten dollar bill while handing him the towel. I refused the tip to his surprise. His response was "c'mon man take it." I said no thank you sir. It's a pleasure to be of your service as I'm a long time fan. He said thank you. I said "life is not always about money. It's about people too." "Today it is my pleasure to serve you." He looked at me and put the 10 bucks away. Then he says what's your name. I said Mike. He looks at my name tag and says "just want to make sure because I'm writing a letter to the resort to tell them what a great person you are. You made my day man. People see me and I see the dollar signs in their eyes when they see me. I'm always expected to pick up the tab, bar bill, golf fees, lunch, dinner, show tickets, etc." I said, "I guess it's because you're famous and they just assume that since you're rich you'll pay for everything." He said, "Yeah I guess so." I told him it was a life time experience to have met him we shook hands said goodbye and off he went. I watched him hit his tee shot (straight down the middle of the fairway) and as he was walking back to his golf cart he looked at me and waved, I waved back and he yelled to me, "What's your favorite song?" I yelled back "I'm a school teacher!" To which he put one hand up to his mouth as to mimic a microphone and his other hand pointing at me and acted as though he were on stage yelled back at me "Schools out for summer." and he sang it as if he were on stage. I put my hands above my head and started to clap. WOW, I got a rush as the hair on my arms stood up. I almost soiIed my skivvies right then and there. It was summertime and nobody else was around because of the unGODLY heat. People here only play golf in the early a.m. or the late afternoon during the summer. This happened right in the middle of the day like at 2 o'clock. It was then that I realized he was playing at that time so nobody would bother him for autographs and pictures and whatever else. I felt good about just having a 2 minute conversation with him but, this was the topper of all toppers. He waved and I waved back never the twain to meet again.
About a week later my boss comes over to me and says Mr. Rosenthal (Director of Golf Operations) wants to see you. I go in to see the guy and he says to me that he had dinner with Alice Cooper last week and all he could talk about was the starter named "Mike." He asked me what happened and so I told him. He was hysterical! Thanked me for representing the Resort so professionally. We said goodbye and I was walking out of his office he says "Shoulda took the sawbuck." I laughed and said "Naaah."

Thanx much for sharing your awesomeness again, Mike. You Rock!

Antonia said...

Thoroughly enjoyed that! Happy to see others besides me still use Donny Osmond references. Your daughter will rule the world some day.

Jeff McGinley said...

I did think of you as the hordes of those of us fans who have been around a while yelled Donny's name.

Glad you enjoyed it, and thanx much.

Kim Luer said...

Your description of it's total and complete awesomeness makes me even more bummed that I missed it. However, I am touched that Anabelle gave me the "one special plastic" confetti she found. I have it up on display on my mirror right next to the pictures I have of her. (hugging Aurora at age 4 and in her batman outfit at my wedding). She truly is a sweet, caring, amazing person, and I love her dearly for it.
Thanks to you for the playbill also, hopefully next time, I can join you at one of his concerts.

Jeff McGinley said...

Many thanx, and sorry again that you missed it. Glad you enjoy the confetti, something about giving you a "magic feather" seemed right as soon as she suggested it.

Here's hoping for next time.