Alice Cooper Goes Beyond Stage Antics to Deliver True Character




Alice with Nurse and friend - All Photos © 2018 Craig Hammons
Alice with Nurse and friend - All Photos © 2018 Craig Hammons

By CRAIG HAMMONS

I go way back with Alice Cooper.  I first saw him open up for Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention in the gymnasium of Cal State Fullerton in 1972.  All he had then for props was a kid’s playhouse, some dolls and a whip.

My how things have changed.  The show now is a full-blown PT Barnum Rock and Roll spectacle. Alice is the ringmaster leading a cast of musicians, monsters and evil nurses who want his head. He is a true original who has inspired everyone from Kiss to Marilyn Manson and no one can touch him or can even come close.

It was going to be a pleasure seeing the show in an intimate 1500-seat theatre. Why I keep on seeing the Coop year after year is because he never disappoints. I do not call Alice Cooper a classic rocker as his shows are always different, fresh and consistent in cleverness and quality.

Alice Cooper and Nita Strauss - Photo © 2018 Craig Hammons
Alice Cooper and Nita Strauss – Photo © 2018 Craig Hammons

One thing I will say after seeing Alice so many times that I have lost count, is that he keeps getting better and better. At 70 years old he shows no signs of slowing down but instead speeding up as he keeps putting out new material, tours constantly and truly shows that he loves what he’s doing. He’s a true Rock and Roll icon and we are lucky to be his minions. Alice once said “From the moment I leave my house or hotel room, the fans own me, they made Alice Cooper and I can’t ever imagine ever turning my back on my fans.”

The eyes of Alice Cooper with spiders for pupils draped the front of the stage.  The crowd is anxious with anticipation as they wait for the man they know and love to take them on a paranormal evening full of fun and adventure.

The curtain dropped, the stage exploded with lights, fog and fire. Then out from the fog stands the legendary Alice Cooper in a black hooded cape. Opening loud, strong and heavy with “Brutal Planet.”  Then without a break between songs, he did “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “Under My Wheels” and “Billion Dollar Babies.”

Alice Cooper with his trusty doll - Photo © 2018 Craig Hammons
Alice Cooper with his trusty doll – Photo © 2018 Craig Hammons

The cool thing about Alice is he changes it up with classics from his vast catalogue, rare songs and new songs. Next they ran through a few rarities like “Be My Lover” which usually has a guest appearance from his snake Julius Squeezer but not this time. I once saw his snake throw up on stage. I think it had stage fright, but found out later it was just had a nervous stomach.

They then played the brilliant song “ Lost in America “ from the 1994 album The Last Temptation and a song I never really heard live before called “Serious” from the 1978 album From the Inside.

After doing a few deep tracks they slipped  in a new song “Fallen in Love” from the superb new “Paranormal” album. Next came “Woman of Mass Distraction” which led into Nita “Hurricane” Strauss’s guitar solo. She is a force of nature, shredding the frets and flying around the stage with her long blonde hair blowing in the wind. She finishes to a huge ovation. Nita isn’t the only one soloing in this band. Alice has the triple guitar attack of Ryan Roxie and Tommy Henricksen also.

Alice then conducted the band for the instrumental “Halo of Flies” which led into a mind-blowing drum solo from the mighty Glen Sobel.  He plays his drums with skill and intensity like his sticks are on fire. Then Doctor Alice appears in a full length blood spatter lab coat, puts on a gas mask and the boogie men strap him into an electrical gurney.

Zappa poster from 1972 - Archives
Zappa poster from 1972 – Archives

After getting electrocuted the stage ignites and entering stage left is a giant monster for the impressive  “Feed My Frankenstein.”  The monster roams the stage while the band members try to stay out of its way. It is all fun and the crowd eats it up. Alice then brings Ethyl his lifesize doll for the classic “Cold Ethyl.”

He proceeds to sing to her and throw her all around the stage like a giant rag doll. But Alice has a warm side also when he sits down on a trash can to sing the beautiful power ballad “Only Women Bleed” back up by Ryan Roxie on a double neck twelve string guitar. He was then attacked by possessed evil nurses and put into a straight jacket to sing “Ballad of Dwight Fry.”   He is later lead to a giant guillotine and has his head cut off as the band breaks into “I Love the Dead” with everybody singing along to the chorus.

Tom and Nita - © 2018 Craig Hammons
Tom and Nita – © 2018 Craig Hammons

Alice was saving two of Rock and Roll’s biggest anthems and fan favorites to the end.  Grabbing a crutch and lifting it into the air they broke into “I’m Eighteen” and the crowd went wild.  Giant balloons full of confetti came floating out off the stage with Alice stabbing them with his dagger.

As the confetti cleared Alice bid us all goodnight. But it was not over yet. We heard the bell ring and it was time for “Schools Out.” They run this into “Another Brick in Wall, Part 2” with lines “We don’t need no education” and it fits perfectly.  After the smoke and cleared we all realize once again why this national treasure stands alone and is the king. Alice is at the top of his game and it is his character that keeps him there.  Long live the Coop.

Alice Cooper and Nita Strauss - Photo by Craig Hammons