Alice Cooper, Trusts Arena Auckland, October 27
Review by Simon Mercep; photos by Steve McCabe
Most who attended knew what they were in for, and clearly were not disappointed. But for this reviewer, a night with Alice Cooper was all rather new. I knew his big hits, was aware of his shock rock/horror/theatrical image, but had not followed the man and his band beyond that.
So in store was an education of one fascinating corner of rock history. And there he was, centre stage, white faced and black eyed, with his top hat and waist coat and boots, a thick belt around his middle and a twirling baton in his hand. Sixty eight years old, and staring the audience right in the eye. Here I am, he was saying, here I am.
And what of the voice? With decades of use under his belt, it still sounded ..like Alice Cooper. Still that raspy rock voice, maybe not quite as strong as it once was, but well capable of delivering what the audience wanted to hear.
And yes he moved a little slowly, especially in the first few songs, but then he was not alone. Alice Cooper’s band was young and energetic, and swirled around him through the night, often with him as their conductor. He allowed them their moments in the spotlight, especially long blonde haired guitarist Nita Strauss (who used her hair like an instrument) and, in one epic solo, drummer Glen Sobel.
The show is a crafted piece of entertainment. Steve’s photos, taken right at the front of stage, give you a great view of what was on offer. The hard rock starts from the first beat and Cooper moved the band through song to song without talking to the audience. The first clutch of songs, including No More Mr Nice Guy, and Billion Dollar Babies, and Poison, were played straight out with relatively few theatrics, and left me a little disappointed. The band played well, but where was the promised descent into Alice Cooper’s nightmare world?
That arrived a little later. Feed My Frankenstein was the cue. Then the show turned a corner, offering Frankenstein machines and monsters, and later straitjackets, guillotines, bloody gowns, decapitated heads, life size rag dolls being beaten and kicked – and then transformed into a real woman (Cooper’s wife) who danced and exacted her revenge.
In the middle of the mayhem and hard rock came the one big ballad of the night, Only Women Bleed. Cooper found a way to calm the mood and deliver a fine rendition of one of the great rock songs.
Then it was a full on charge to the finish, and by the time we got to the encore, School’s Out, it was almost impossible not to be swept up in the theatre of it, even if it wasn’t to your taste. The band and Cooper played with intensity (goodness knows how many times the man has sung these songs) which was infectious and made for a grand night out. The only time he took a moment to speak to us was right at the end, when he introduced the band. Up until then, he was in character, Alice Cooper playing Alice Cooper.
I’m glad I experienced it. It’s not a genre I’ve embraced but now I have a deeper appreciation of a classic 70’s chapter of popular music. If you’re curious, go see him. And if you’ve followed him ages, be advised that he’s still giving fans what they want.
A quick note about the support act the Ace Frehley band. Frehley was lead guitarist for Kiss and is widely regarded as one of the great heavy metal axemen of all time. Well that’s true, his solos were fantastic but I have to say I was disappointed by the show overall. Maybe he just has a laid back style, but as a frontman I found him to be unengaged and going through the motions. Dare I say it, he looked bored. Frehley’s band did their best to engage the audience and get everyone revved up, but at least in the area where I was sitting, people weren’t buying it. The one attempt at a singalong, New York Groove, failed to catch on and left me feeling a little embarrassed for the band. Still, as I say, he sure can play the guitar. Check below for Steve’s photos.