Alice Cooper – Olympia Theatre – 9/11/17 – Live Reviewby Fran Winston
November 8th and 9th 2017
Alice Cooper has morphed from being the much maligned shock rocker that caused uproar with his stage antics in the 70s and 80s to something of an elder statesman of rock who is respected and revered by his peers. Google Alice and you won’t find a single person who has a bad word to say about him. Yes, he’s lived the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, including a couple of stints in rehab to deal with alcoholism, but he seems to have managed to do so without making enemies. Perhaps it’s because, the persona you see on stage is very much just that – a persona. The real life Alice is a well-documented family man and golfing fanatic who also volunteers to help addicts in his spare time.
Having seen him live several years ago I already knew that I would be in for a visual treat. He was one of the first rock stars to employ and utilise theatrics as part of his stage show and time hasn’t diminished his interested in the showmanship of performance. At 69 years of age and with his reputation he could easily walk out on stage with just his band and perform the hits and hold an audience rapt. But he still believes in giving the audience the Alice they have come to expect.
Hence it is no surprise when the curtain is pulled back to reveal a stage littered with all sorts of accoutrements including dolls heads, toy boxes and creepy clowns. When Alice made his entrance – although it sounds like a cliché – the crowd really did go wild. There was a lot of love for Alice even before he uttered a word. Which was just as well as he doesn’t utter many. Rather his show is designed to flow like a piece of theatre and doesn’t involve the usual rock star banter where they engage with the crowd. He lets the music speak for itself and what music it is! He has an extremely impressive back catalogue and a huge amount of his hits were crammed into this 90 minute show. Everything from his earlier work with his original band such as Billion Dollar Babies, Under My Wheels, I’m Eighteen and the iconic School’s Out, to his own early solo work with songs like Only Women Bleed to his ‘90’s career reviving classic Poison. All are delivered with a theatrical panache and distinctively staged. Having lost none of his appetite to shock his shows still contain scenes of him being “beheaded” live and engaging with a psychotic dancing nurse (who is actually played by his real life wife Sheryl) in an asylum.
Throughout he didn’t once speak to the audience saving that for the end of the show when he introduces the band (which includes the amazing Nina Strauss on guitar who took over duties from Orianthi back in 2014). This didn’t diminish the audience’s engagement in the least and they went crazy throughout. As one person with me said it was like an old style circus sideshow or freakshow and they loved it.
The theatrics wouldn’t stand up if the music wasn’t good but married together they make for a truly entertaining concert experience and never felt gimmicky. There may be many others doing similar now but Alice did it first and as many people who went have commented on Twitter “they don’t make ‘em like that anymore”.
I had heard complaints about the sound from someone who attended the previous night but if there was an issue there was certainly no sign of it by the second show. He paced the gig well although there were some songs that weren’t included that I would have liked to hear. However with such an extensive back catalogue this is always going to be the case. The set list was well thought out and the show well-paced. He gave each member of his band a moment to shine between various set ups but not to the point where it became boring (as so many other performers are guilty of doing). Because he has always used a “persona” and worn make up he appeared almost ageless and his performance completely belied his years. If I had to make a complaint it would be that at 90 minutes it felt a bit short and also – and this is more for the Olympia – the area that they use to sell merchandise simply didn’t work efficiently post gig. The queue was snaking back into the venue and was not moving quickly.
Other than that it was a wonderful evening’s entertainment which proved that Alice has only improved with age. As they said in Wayne’s World all those years ago “We’re not worthy!”
Spend the Night Intro
No More Mr. Nice Guy
Under My Wheels
Lost in America
Billion Dollar Babies
The World Needs Guts
Woman of Mass Distraction
Guitar Solo (Nita Strauss)
Halo of Flies
Feed My Frankenstein
Only Women Bleed
Ballad of Dwight Fry
I Love the Dead
Encore: School’s Out (with ‘Another Brick in the… more )