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Alice Cooper concert



December 9, 2011
Star Plaza Theatre
Merrillville, Indiana
     Legends come and legends go. When they go, they usually go out in a coffin. So when Alice Cooper rumbled through the Midwest on his No More Mr. Nice Guy Tour, I made it a point to see a living legend......get his head chopped off.
     Anyone that's heard of Alice Cooper, and that's the entire universe (with the exception of my wife), knows that he is the king of macabre and the true inventor of what's come to be known as "shock rock." With a history of live performances that include hangings, beheadings, giant spiders, straightjackets and other horror-type elements, I was curious to know if a 63-year old Alice had turned in his sword for a walking cane. Having seen the master of macabre in 1987 (with some drugged out L.A. band called Guns N' Roses as his opening act), he did his entire package of hits with all of the spooky theatrics he's so famous for. In 1996, I had a chance to see Alice for a second time. Splitting a bill with the Scorpions, he played an abbreviated set and had virtually no theatrics whatsoever. So, what should I expect now that Alice is about to turn 64 in a couple of months? Will this be a return to a full set of classic material and all of the horror schtick that cemented him his place in rock history? I had to find out just what Alice had to offer, so I packed up the kids and headed 70 miles south to a quaint 3,400 seat venue in Indiana to witness the Hall Of Famer in action.
     Warming up the crowd on this frigid evening was an English band called Livan. Equipped with a super cool hydraulic keyboard/mic stand, a hot bass player, and a drummer with more chops than a butcher, this was one of the best opening acts I can remember. It was enlightening to see a talented opening act get full use of the stage, a full light show, and a chance to use some props. Not every headliner lets their supporting act have that much expression. Kudos to you, Alice Cooper. With the crowd warm and toasty from the electrifying Livan set, the lights went down with a roar. It was the roar of about 3,200, with a couple of hundred seats in the balcony left vacant and silent. You have to wonder how that happens.
     There is no better way to kick off a show of shock and horror than with the voice of Vincent Price. As he delivers the opening dialogue to the classic Welcome To My Nightmare track, "The Black Widow," the tapestry falls to the floor to reveal Alice atop an enormous staircase, towering over his handsome and youthful band. As he raises his arms, we find his leather jacket donning spider legs. With the road crew disguised in coveralls and/or executioner hoods, they turn the staircase around and Alice carefully descends to the stage to join his band. Dressed in a top hat and waving a ringmaster's cane, Cooper had total control of his hard rock circus. As he rolled out hit after hit, you could see him directing his guitar players to specific places on the stage. Cooper made sure to interact with all of the members of the band, especially female guitarist Orianthi. Best known for being hired by Michael Jackson for the This Is It concerts, she is a guitarist extraordinaire. The chemistry between Cooper and his stunning blonde six-stringer was exciting to watch. Even though she is only 26 years old, Orianthi is no newcomer to the stage. Having performed with Prince, Carrie Underwood, and Steve Vai, she knows what it takes to please her boss as well as a wanton audience. Cooper brought a three guitar attack to this circus though, and they each got some time to shine. The early part of the set included so many hits you started to wonder what might be left for the end of the show. "I'm Eighteen," "Under My Wheels," "Billion Dollar Babies," "Is It My Body," and the classics just kept coming. Cooper looked quite fit and sounded fairly strong in voice as well. Although his music doesn't demand a whole lot of vocal prowess, he did power home the tunes with a voice that seemed strong and rested. Some of the higher notes, most notably those in "Only Women Bleed," were nowherre to be found, but with an artist like Alice Cooper I find it acceptable. I don't think too many go to Cooper's shows to hear a great singer. I think the beauty of an Alice Cooper show lies in the power and attitude in the voice, and the intensity of the theatrical performance in relation to the songs. All of those key elements were firmly in place. We saw Cooper's signature boa constrictor wrapped around his head and torso for the classic "Is It My Body." We saw him dance with and caress a life-sized doll during "Only Women Bleed" and "Cold Ethyl." We saw a huge, singing and stomping Frankenstein monster (a la Iron Maiden's "Eddie") with an Alice face during "Feed My Frankenstein." And yes, we saw Alice get his head chopped off in the guillotine. There were many other surprises during the show as well that included swords, balloons, and confetti among other things. Because he never said a single word between songs or addressed the crowd in any way, there was plenty of time for the things that really matter.

     This was a fairly complete Alice Cooper performance that included a very talented young band playing a nice selection of songs. It was great to see Cooper going back to the Killer album and doing deeper cuts like "Halo Of Flies" and the title track. I also thought the addition of the catchy techno-80's sounding "Clones (We're All)" was a nice change of pace. The band did sound strongest when they were tapping the classics though, especially "Muscle Of Love." I did miss hearing "Welcome To My Nightmare" and "Go To Hell," and I was hoping to see a hanging at some point during the evening, but other than that the show was a blast.
The Black Widow
Brutal Planet
I'm Eighteen
Under My Wheels
Billion Dollar Babies
No More Mr. Nice Guy
Hey Stoopid
Is It My Body
Halo of Flies
I'll Bite Your Face Off
Muscle of Love
Only Women Bleed
Cold Ethyl
Feed My Frankenstein
Clones (We're All)
Wicked Young Man
Killer ("Execution" excerpt only)
I Love the Dead (excerpt only)
School's Out (Including snippet from "Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2" by Pink Floyd)

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