Surely no one would complain if Alice Cooper live in Birmingham in the month of October was an annual fixture on the gig calendar. With a revamped show and set list built around the concept of “Alice’s Nightmare Castle” the pioneer of shock rock horror pantomime gave yet another masterclass in how to present an arena show that ensured no one left disappointed.
Main support was provided by The Stranglers, a band who have been written off more times than they would care to remember over the years and yet are still out there on the live circuit playing to the faithful and winning plaudits for their later material. Since Jet Black retired from the road only Jean-Jaques Burnel and Dave Greenfield remain from the classic era although guitarist Baz Warne has been around for two decades and has been sharing vocal duties with Burnel since Paul Roberts quit back in 2006. Burnel’s omnipresent bass throbs menacingly around the venue as the band move through ‘(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)’ and ‘Nice ‘n’ Sleazy’, the elder statesmen of the Punk generation having no problems winning over the crowd. Naturally the biggest reaction is reserved for ‘Golden Brown’ and ‘No More Heroes’ and whilst they never made the step up to Arena headliners the dark humour and distinctive musicality are still intact as their Golden anniversary draws ever closer.
It is refreshing to see that even in the twilight of his career Alice Cooper is not content to roll out the same twenty songs every tour and with maybe just the odd change here and there. The Ol’ Black Eyes Is Back tour saw Alice and his incredible band revisit different places in the vast back catalogue and the whole show felt fresh and vibrant albeit the core Cooper elements were very much present – guillotine, giant demon baby, billion dollar bills and straight jacket to name just a few.
Flanked by the triple axe threat of Nita Strauss, Tommy Henriksen and Ryan Roxie along with bassist Chris Wyse and drummer Glen Sobel, Alice launched into ‘Feed My Frankenstein’ against a backdrop of skeletons, candlelit lanterns, skulls and the monster in chains ambling around the stage. ‘No More Mr Nice Guy’ raised the tempo and the often neglected 80’s gem ‘Bed Of Nails’ made a welcome return to the show and was just one of many songs to spotlight Nita’s dynamic fretwork. Two lucky “fans” joined Alice for ‘He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask’) before one went wandering too far up the castle ramparts and was picked off by a Jason look-a-like.
There are some songs of course that Alice simply has to include and the mid set trio of ‘I’m Eighteen’, ‘Billion Dollar Babies’ and ‘Poison’ raise the temperature and the audience excitement levels even further before the singer enjoys a brief respite and allows the band to jam through some solos before we are taken back to 1975’s Welcome To My Nightmare and the creeping presence of ‘Steven’. The chained monster returns to the stage as the main set closes with the raucous ‘Teenage Frankenstein’ before the encore finds the whole arena come together in full blown party mode with ‘Under My Wheels’ and ‘School’s Out’. With all of its overblown theatrics and musical twists and turns, an evening in the company of Alice Cooper and his amazing band is something every Rock fan should experience.
Feed My Frankenstein
No More Mr. Nice Guy
Bed of Nails
Raped and Freezin’
Fallen in Love
Muscle of Love
He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask)
Billion Dollar Babies
Roses on White Lace
Black Widow Jam
Under My Wheels
School’s Out / Another Brick In The Wall Pt 2