Thursday, May 19, 2016

Spending (Another) Night with Alice on Sunday May 15, 2016

Slightly less than three years after our first family adventure to see Coop, he awesomely returned to the Morristown MPAC center.

I used to say, “If I have half as much energy as Alice Cooper when I’m his age I’ll consider it a triumph.”

Now I’ve been reduced to, “If I had half as much energy NOW as Alice Cooper currently does I’d consider it a triumph.” 

Yes, I’m going to overuse “awesome” again.

I made an embarrassing error last time, possibly due to the total overload on my hearing.  I thought I heard Alice announce that award winning drummer Glen Sobel was from Morristown NJ but I think I was mistaken. (He is just as awesome as I noted then, though.)   This time I specifically heard it was musical backbone providing rhythm guitarist Tommy Henriksen.

Here’s hoping he stays with Alice a long time to bring him back to a place we can see him so easily.  If anyone should do concerts in fancy, theatrical settings, it’s the Godfather of Shock rock.

Hmmm… looking them both up online, I don’t see anything about either being from Morristown.  Maybe Alice was just messing with us.

The crowd may have been older than typical for the genre, but the band pumped out enough energy to keep us all on our feet and cheering the whole time.

Our mental faculties (if not our hearing) held up equally well. With nearly fifty years of selections to choose from, a vast majority of the crowd was able to identify each number by the first few notes of the opening riff.  The fact that Alice has specific props and dances for some may have helped as well. The man knows how to own the stage – and the entire theater come to think of it. (Awesoooooome!)

One thing still puzzles me about the crowd.  I understand wanting to snap a quick (unsanctioned) phone picture to commemorate the awesomeness of the event.  I do mine before and after because I suck at getting the lighting right. My wife has more skill in that area, but even temped by everyone else doing it, she only took a couple during the finale.
However, with the amount of high definition digital media concert footage out there, the sheer number of people who insisted on ignoring the entire fantastically spooky spectacle in person to view it in a tiny hand held screen baffled me.  To those of you with an uncontrollable videography addiction:  In future, I’d appreciate it if you could turn your screen brightness down so it doesn’t blind the guy behind you (me) who is trying to revel in the moment as it happens.

Back to the show!

The Raise the Dead tour we saw last time was tied to the recently released Welcome 2 My Nightmare and led into the creation of the Hollywood Vampires super group.

Without a specific new solo album to focus on, the show became more a tour of classic songs. Over half were from the “Alice Cooper is the name of the band” days.  (56.5% for the other Spock level nerds out there.)  Some were standards, like “Eighteen,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “Under My Wheels,” and “Billion Dollar Babies.”  However, the set included some lesser known gems like “Public Animal #9,” “Long Way to Go” and “Halo of Flies.”  The last one was a perfect example of how Alice has not only always gone out of his way to bring his fans outstanding performers but also feature them prominently. “Halo” has long instrumental sections, which the normally commanding front man donned tails and a baton to conduct his crew and aim the focus at the musicians.

That is, except for Mr. Sobel’s Killer (ha!) drum solo which was allowed to be spotlighted and speak volumes for itself, as it should.

Ryan Roxie continued his current association with the band for more amazing, cowboy hatted, lead guitarness.  Thanx to the infrequency of my concert attendance, I missed the seven years he was away, laying additional foundation to my Alice Cooper Head Cannon.  Someday I shall pull it all together into the “Grand Unified Theory of Alice Cooper” explaining how there is really one constant story running through all twenty-seven albums.

Chuck Garric remained a bass monster.  I tried to think of a different phrase to refer to him this time, but it fits too well.  The bone shaking notes appeared to emanate from his person, not his instrument.  Considering his own band’s name is “Beasto Blanco” (with a few random umlauts in there) I think it is fine that I don’t change my description.

“The Hurricane” NitaStrauss was the newest addition to the band as another lead guitar, because Alice loves his fans and is awesome enough to give them two.  I’m always impressed by those who take their passion above and beyond apparent limits into a career.  Here was a musician in her twenties who not only shared the stage with an icon, but during the “Dead Drunk Friends” graveyard reference part of the show, played a worthy tribute to Jimmy Hendrix, egged on by screaming fans and the aforementioned icon.

Talk about living the dream!

Her staggering solo came logically following “Woman of Mass Distraction” to lead into “Poison.”  Several of the concerts I’ve been to and own on disc used “The Black Widow” as a mostly instrumental bridge into guitar or drum solos. This is often after one of Alice’s frequent, yet entertaining in a dark side of vaudeville way, demises. 

Again, you don’t get this type of entertainment at a Tony Bennett concert.

He opened the show with “Widow” this time, and it would have been cool just to see him perform it in full.   What gave it the extra touch of awesome was the giant curtain featuring the Eyes of Alice Cooper (from the album of the same name) with spiders in the pupils flashing colors as the Vincent Price intro narrative played, before the band burst forth, and the man himself stood in a regal cloak as he simultaneously serenaded and lorded over us.

In case I’ve been lax in mentioning it, he and the show were awesome.

Speaking of the original Welcome to My NightmareThe creepy toy box was on stage as a prop source. (Crutch, cane, swords, boa constrictor to give yet another interpretation to “Is it My Body”…whatever)  It also served to connect two of the more famous live performances from that album. 

When the doll from “Cold Ethyl” (YAY!) was tossed into the box, it was able to return as a living windup toy to perform the ballet for “Only Women Bleed.”

The “Alice Cooper” stage persona has always been a villain by design.  An awesome villain we all enjoy encouraging to vill to the max, and one who admits and pays for his villainy, but a villain none the less.  He fully took credit for his villainously dispatching of her back into the box by singing “Guilty.” 

I think we fans have come to expect a certain transition to get to the graveyard scene now.  It’s like how the ten foot FrankenAlice will insure “Feed My Frankenstein” stays in the set list.

A nurse  (with ballet like movements that matched doll/Ethyl) strait jacketed him for the “Ballad of Dwight Frye,” after which a bit of instrumental from “Killer” had said nurse helping the “stage ninja skeletons” (awesome!) get Alice beheaded in the guillotine. Following the macabre festivities, Chuck Garric lead all of us Sick Things in attendance for an enthusiastic round of “I Love the Dead.”  All the while Nurse Sheryl pranced about enjoying the carnage.

I’m pretty sure that was actually his wife again.  It’s incredibly heartwarming to see two people who still share in that sweet, if somewhat blood soaked, togetherness after all these years.

While the cemetery of the “Hollywood Vampires” set up was the same as the last concert, the song choices were different, as Alice put his, and his band’s, personal stamp on a new batch of cover tunes.

This time the Keith Moon based selection was “Pinball Wizard.” That’s a favorite of mine for both geekly gaming and hard rock/metalhead reasons. They nailed it.  The “group windmills” were an excellent extra touch.  The Hendrix tribute I alluded to before was (Let me stand next to your) “Fire” and handled with equal style, class and rockin’ out. Finally, in what was a supremely sad and awesome moment, they finished up with “Suffragette City” as a tribute to the recently late and always great David Bowie.

“School’s Out” concluded the main set. Normally, that’s the encore, since it’s their anthem. 

Aside: For an intelligent and hysterically funny explanation of the fact that - no matter how hard you try - you only get one anthem,  by the man himself, check out the extra features on the original Welcome to My Nightmare DVD.

Once the band introductions finished and the lights died down, the spooky Eyes of Alice Cooper were removed from the back of the feather confetti and streamer covered stage and a demented version of the American flag took their place.

Given the candidates this time around, the cheers for Alice’s vote requests in “Elected” were far louder than usual. One of the coolest parts of the finale, aside from the overall awesomeness of the evening in general, was that Alice came out wearing the tour shirt that my daughter picked as her first concert shirt.

She already had the Alice teddy bear from last time, and she was a little older helping her overcome the “they’re all too scary” idea. 

I did get one of the shirts that was “too scary” designed to look like a horror comic, because the first time I saw him live was also an election year, and I wanted more variety than a second Alice Cooper for President shirt. Especially since I “needed” a bumper sticker that said it –meaning my daughter scored an extra wristband as well. 

Although the quality control Alice Cooper exerts over the show itself is unparalleled, he may want to look more into tightening the standards on his merchandise.  I would expect "waterproof" would be a critical use requirement of a bumper sticker.

The best part of the whole night was being able to look back at my life around my original concert, and compare it to now.

First of all, due to poorly timed surgical needs (I know, no sense of priorities) my sister finally was able to attend an Alice Cooper show with me after trying for sixteen years.  

She brought her two daughters as well.  They all joined our family’s wondering at why everyone stands up when there are perfectly good seats. The two of them spent most of the show standing on those perfectly good seats, and rocking along with their mom.  the older one was perfecting the art of headbanging while the younger one complained that there was “even more standing up than in church.”  Further proof that seeing Alice Cooper is a soul enriching event.

More importantly though, the first time I saw this master craftsman of rock theatrics live (with a couple of the same band members) was several weeks before I started dating someone who has been at my side at the last two performances along with our wonderful daughter, and has happily also been at my side during the times in between.

It’s a love story as powerful as Alice and Sheryl…

With a little less blood, strait jackets and beheadings…

Well- nobody’s perfect!


Here’s the full Set list for those who share both my rabid Alice Cooper fandom, and anal retentive attitude about list completion.

There were various hats along the way as well.

Vincent Price intro
(Flashing spooky spider pupil eyes)

The Black Widow

Public Animal #9

No More Mr. Nice Guy

Under My Wheels

Is It My Body
(Boa constrictor)

Billion Dollar Babies
(Fencing foil with money)

Long Way to Go

Woman of Mass Distraction
[Nita guitar solo]

Halo of Flies
(Tails and conductor baton)
[Glen drum solo]

Feed My Frankenstein
(10’ FrankenAlice- WOO!)

Cold Ethyl

Only Women Bleed
(Living “wind up” ballerina)


Ballad of Dwight Fry
(Strait Jacket)

(Instrumental to guillotine)

I Love the Dead
(Chuck leading us!)

Under the Bed
(Narration and instrumental
wheeled into Hollywood Vampires cemetery on morgue cart)

Pinball Wizard
(Keith Moon- tombstone)

(Jimi Hendrix tombstone)

Suffragette City
(David Bowie tombstone)

I'm Eighteen

School's Out [mixed awesomely with “Another Brick in the Wall”]
(Band credits, and “Tonight the part of Alice Cooper was played by…
ME!   Awesome.
Balloons, streamers, feather confetti, a katana- WOO!)

(Uncle Sam Hat and Jacket, "Elected" shirt etc.)
Battered Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton masked people
Alternately smooch and beat the snot out of each other)


Kim Luer said...


Jeff McGinley said...

Welcome to the nightmare...

or in the words of Kermit (Since Alice was my favorite Muppet show guest, even as a kid)