By Dan Williams
“Playing the role of Alice Cooper tonight …. Me!”
That was a true statement last Thursday evening at BB&T Pavilion during band introductions. As you no doubt know, Alice is a character played by Detroit-born Vincent Furnier. In fact, “Alice Cooper” started out as the name of his band in 1968, not that of an individual. But in the early 70’s, Furnier adopted the character as a singular personality with a macabre back story and a theatrical show not to be missed. The personality of Alice Cooper is about as far from real-life Vince Furnier as can be imagined. That’s what makes the character so fun.
Cooper has become a fiery legend with a huge stage presence, backed by one of the most incredible bands one could ask for. The stage is loaded with strange props including decapitated dolls, an over-sized toybox, a Frankenstein-like laboratory and a giant guillotine complete with druid-like executioners.
While all of this surround him, a perfectly choreographed trio of guitarists pose and move about displaying their incredible talents but always as perfect backdrops and foils to the main demented character of Alice Cooper in full costumed glory. On guitars and bass are Chuck Garric, Ryan Roxie, Nita Strauss, and Tommy Henriksen backed by the incredible Glen Sobel on drums.
The show spans Cooper’s career opening with 2000’s “Brutal Planet” followed by instant crowd pleaser “No More Mr. Nice Guy” from 1973. The set list moved seamlessly into hits like 1997’s “Under My Wheels” and 1973’s “Billion Dollar Babies” where he appeared on stage with a rapier sword stuffed with hundred-dollar bills that he shook into the audience. (Full disclosure: The Benjamins were printed on green stock with Alice’s face in the center.)
Seven songs into the show, guitarist Nita Strauss took control of the stage and audience for one helluva solo exhibition. Strauss is at the top of the food chain of rock shredders with many layers of technique on full display. She was a powerful presence throughout the show, coming so close to upstaging the boss.
The second half started with costume changes as they launched into “Poison,” “Halo of Flies,” and a huge set-piece for “Feed My Frankenstein” where the druids strap Cooper onto a gurney and shoot electrical charges into him transforming him into “FrankenAlice,” a twelve-foot monster puppet.
1975’s Cold Ethel from Welcome to My Nightmare was followed by a lovely version of “Only Women Bleed” accompanied by a beautiful twelve string guitar and a dancing ballerina.
The show ended with extended versions of monster hits “I’m Eighteen” and “School’s Out.” The crowd had been on their feet with no intention of sitting. Nobody took their eyes off the stage.
Cooper recently complained in an interview that rock acts are too introverted today, that they stand at the mics and sing and show little animation to keep the audience interested. He said that he came up watching Mick Jagger own the stage with his act and realized he would need a much bigger personality to compete for fans.
After watching his amazing, highly choreographed, and beautifully costumed show Thursday night … here’s a guy who younger performers need to emulate. In one word, Alice Cooper is authentic.
Check out Alice Cooper’s Paranormal, released July 28th on earMUSIC.