August 24, 2016
Grand Prairie, TX
By Justin Press
Photos by Andy Laudano
Welcome To His Nightmare
How does one reconcile a stellar 50-year career without missing too many unearthed gems and not frustrating the last guy in the last row of the arena? If you're Alice Cooper you deliver 2 hours worth of material from his high water early 70's material thru his late 80's resurrection melding into his current musical state of mind. Backed by an ever crushing band including a three-guitar attack, Cooper proved that lasting sobriety and a tunnel vision focus can't hold you back even at 68 years old. He might be covered in cobwebs but his bite still holds us by the neck.
Amidst a showering column of sparks the huge 'Cooper eyes' stage curtain drops and the strains of "The Black Widow" rage forth, Alice draped in a black cape and a sullen expression greets a throng of several thousand. His guitarists anchored down by former Iron Maidens' member Nita Strauss were firing off the riffs that Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter used decades early to scare the most ardent of listeners. Without missing a beat, "No More Mr. Nice Guy" let you know where the night was headed as his massive hits that filled stadiums at the outset of the "big rock" era were still massive beasts with really great choruses.
As per usual staging was a mixed array of stage platforms, an overstuffed closet of macabre dolls, bubble machines, confetti cannons, snakes, swords, whips and even a prop servant who sprung from a Jack in the Box after every song with the latest gag or garb for the head ring master. The monkey grease metal of "Under My Wheels" was followed by the rarely played "Public Animal #9," a peon to grade school schoolyard antics while "Billion Dollar Babies" with its bulldozing layered riffs showed off the full impact of having (3) axes as Ryan Roxie, Tommy Henriksen and the aforementioned Strauss traded licks and solo sports with equal aplomb though Strauss's virtuosity is met with a versatile stage demeanor containing a full bloom of energy. Separate, great rhythm and leads, together, quite propulsive and really gives tracks like 1971's "Long Way To Go" the same gusto as 1986's firestorm "The World Needs Guts."
The return to form hit "Poison" which bolstered by enormous MTV play holds its own as does the kitschy "Feed My Frankenstein" (which included the gruesome laboratory and 20 foot Monster of tours past) but it was the pure nugget "Halo Of Flies" that grabbed a lot of the audience. Certainly one from the vaults, Alice playing Arthur Fielder with his guitarists and bassist Chuck Garric and drummer Glen Sobel conducting their pattern of riffs and beats, the track is a myriad of carnival sounds and hard ppsychedelic that could have only been created from such a warped time as 1970. The more straightforward rocker of "Cold Ethyl" was still a stone killer and something a band like Kiss would've given their eyeteeth for. The sublime balladry of "Only Women Bleed" highlighted by Roxie's double neck Les Paul chiming paved the way for the finale of sorts as the macabre angle of "Ballad Of Dwight Frye" bleed into 'Killer" and "I Love The Dead" and the infamous Alice guillotine act which in this day of CGI and 50 foot video screens, still is the best moment in rock and roll (sorry Gene).
Flowing seamlessly into an "afterlife" graveyard, Alice and his co-horts revisited the ghosts of Keith Moon, David Bowie and Lemmy with a trio of killers in the form of "Pinball Wizard", "Suffragette City" and the always steamrolling 'Ace of Spades" with Garric cocking his head back while singing as an homage to late, great Kilmister. "I'm Eighteen", the track that created the phenomenon of Alice could only be topped by a "kitchen sink" finale of "School's Out" as dry ice, confetti streamers, massive beach balls filled with feathers filled the air as the familiar strains of the last day of education made us all 16 and reaching for our 8-tracks for a brief moment.
And since no matter how you try to escape them, politics slid their way into the evening's final curtain call as "Elected" brought us the best campaign song since "Hail To The Chief" while Clinton and Trump stand-ins played WWE with Cooper as the referee. The tour's motto of "Make America Sick Again" fulfilled its promises as left us all a bit deafer, a bit red-eyed and certainly a bit horse. Alice Cooper, 68 years and still refuses to stay dead.
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