I have seen ole Coop on numerous occasions throughout the years and the man himself and his band has never been a disappointment for me. Even so, I was a bit hesitant to buy a ticket for this show. Why? Well, because I have seen him so many times I actually thought it was enough already. What changed my mind – well, who, is the better word – is my 14 year old son. He’s not a huge music fan/nerd like his dad, he’s the new generation of music digesters who picks up songs from Spotify when he find anything worthwhile. The fact that he in the last couple of years has been drawn, almost in an unhealthy manner, towards old 80’s horror flicks made him discover Coop through Friday The 13th Pt 6. Alice wrote the soundtrack – “He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask)” – to that movie, a song that I have heard more than enough in the car since then. From that song he dug deeper into Cooper’s discography and all of a sudden he desperately wanted to see the show. So tickets were bought.
On another level, to not purchase tickets for a Cooper-gig because “I’ve seen him before” isn’t all that smart if you’re a fan like I am. See, Alice Cooper isn’t one of those Kiss / Mötley Crüe acts who goes out and play the same damn setlist tour after tour, there’s always some cool more “obscure” songs being played. Alice Cooper do not subscribe to Paul Stanley’s words of obscure songs are only for a handful of people and the masses only want the hits. Alice Cooper do play his must-play hits but he always makes the die-hards happy with a few unexpected numbers. Alice is not a lazy old geezer that only tours so he can cash in for his pension-fond. So I’m glad that my dear son was persistent of getting tickets for the show. So, yours truly with wife and teenage son went out for dinner and made a family evening out of it. Besides, who knows when – or if – I get to see The Coop again. I mean, the guy is 71 years young and when someone reaches that age, nothing is that secure anymore…
Classic Rock band Black Stone Cherry were chosen as an opening act, something that puzzles me some. Not that they’re not fit or good enough for the job, but the band has released six albums since their self-titled debut back in 2006, they’re touring everywhere and all the time and I had the feeling that the band had left the opening act days behind them. I really thought they were a headlining act by now. And they probably are but not in places as big as this. Hovet swallows somewhere between 7000-8000 people but only around 4000 fans showed up this night. Still, this opening slot might just be a good deal for the Kentucky natives. BSC never plays a bad gig and they were really good this evening as well despite the fact that the sound left a lot more to be desired. The guys seems to genuinely love what they’re doing, they’re on fire and kicks up dust as often as they can and the got a real good reaction from the crowd. Hopefully, one day they’ll be headlining arenas themselves. They sure deserve it.
A spooky and eerie voice comes through the speakers and welcomes us to Alice Cooper’s Nightmare Castle after the intro of the horror-flick-like intro “Years Ago” begins the show and when “Feed My Frankenstein” opens the show, the curtain drops and out walks Old Black Eyes himself, all with an ominous cool surrounding him. The sound is alright but Alice’s vocals are mixed way too low and it’s almost impossible to hear him in the first verse. The song is taken from his 1991 album Hey Stoopid, it was never a single but has grown into a modern (hrrmmm…) Cooper classic. I have always dug the song, it’s catchy as damn without being aimed for radio or overly commercial – and it works like a charm as an opening number. The opening riff to “No More Mr Nice Guy” gets any crowd going and even though it’s been over-played on Classic Rock radio and played at every Coop-show, it’s a must. A brilliant song, impossible not to love – and it goes down like a storm this evening. As it always does.
The Trash hit “Bed Of Nails” hasn’t been played much throughout the years – I can’t remember the last time I heard it live, could it have been 1990? 1991? – but it’s always welcome. Sure, it was recorded when Alice went pop-metal and fans are divided about it but I love that period and this night, it kicks ass. It also holds a chorus stickier than glue which could never be a bad thing. All done the Alice way, of course. “Raped And Freezin'” off Billion Dollar Babies, is one of his old songs that has fallen on the way-side for me. I only know it vaguely so I didn’t know the song to begin with. It’s a good song, sure, but I can’t say I hold it as a favorite. It’s a good crunchy rocker but by the looks of the crowd, I wasn’t the only one not that familiar with it. Same with the only new track of the evening, “Fallen In Love”, the ZZ Top-like boogie rocker off the latest album Paranormal. I dig the song, it works splendidly live but it’s clear that many fans don’t know his latest effort.
The obscurity continues with “Muscle Of Love”. I know that some people who grew up with Coop in the 70’s might disagree with me calling that song obscure but the fact is, it’s not one of his most famous songs even though the album with the same name is considered a classic. For me, though, I like the song but that record is one of those I hardly ever listen to. It works live but I could probably name 20 songs I’d rather have heard this night. “He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask)” was a huge hit in Sweden back in 1986 and it put Alice back on the map here, making the album Constrictor a big success. But the song more or less bombed everywhere else and that’s why the song is mostly played live only in Sweden. On this tour, however, it became a standard in the setlist in Germany, September 13. I think it’s a good song but it gets a new life live where it’s heavier and raunchier, guitar oriented with the synthesizers and drum-machines gone. Loud and clear, my son sang the whole tune word by word right in my ear. That made for an even more intense experience for me. To get the right Friday The 13th mood, two young girls were chased by Jason on stage, who slit the throat of one of them. Just like in the movie.
I know that “I’m Eighteen” is one of Alice Cooper biggest hits ever and a true classic but I have always thought the song is bland. It must be played, though, but it doesn’t me me tick even live. “Billion Dollar Babies”, however, is brilliant. It’s such groovy rocker and live it’s even better. Too bad the dollar-canons didn’t work this evening. “Poison”, no matter how huge a hit it is, is a bit of a watershed among Cooper-fans. I know that some people hate because it marks Cooper’s most radio-friendly period, but I think it’s awesome and I never seem to get tired of it. By the looks and sound of the crowd, I’m not alone in thinking that. Another must-play – and Coop made a great version of it. Nita Strauss is an amazing guitar player – technical but never short on emotion, passion and feel. But no matter how great you are, guitar solos live are a drag and my mind goes elsewhere after a short time.
I do wake up when I hear the opening riff to “Roses On White Lace”, a song that hasn’t been played live since the late 80’s. Raise Your Fist And Yell (1987) is one of my least fave Cooper albums, but this tune is awesome and one of the few really good ones on that record, so I was thrilled to hear it this night. It would have been even better if they had played the connecting song “Gail”, a song that’s more like a horror-like intro to “Roses”. I remember how brilliant those songs worked on RYFAY tour. Talking about obscure songs, “My Stars” certainly is one. I’m not particularly fond of the School’s Out album (yeah, yeah, so sue me…) which meant that I didn’t even realize which song it was. I wouldn’t recognize it if someone played it for me right now, but it sure worked well live. Then it was time for ole Alice to take a breather which meant that “Devil’s Food” had become a band jam. It sounded damn good but it’s a pity we didn’t get the song in its fullest.
Alice’s sinister voice sounds through the speakers: “These words he speaks are true, we’re all humanary stew, if we don’t pledge allegiance to, the black widow”! Yes! I adore that song. Unfortunately, what we’re given is an instrumental version of the song – with a drum-solo inserted in the middle. Ok, so the instrumental take on “The Black Widow” works surprisingly well. But the drum solo? I mean, Glen Sobel is a fantastic drummer, but drum solos bores the living shit out of me. My son was impressed, though. “He’s really good, daddy”. Uh huh, son. The eerie piano that comes next sounds very familiar. Yes, it’s time for “Steven”. Alice sings the tune in a straight-jacket and he sounds as disturbed as always. “Dead Babies” is next, complete with a giant horror-baby coming out on the stage. It’s a melodic half-ballad but man do that song hold an uncomfortable arrangement. Alice breaks loose from his straight-jacket but is captured and the guillotine is brought out on stage, he’s brought down with his head under the blade and after a moment’s silence – off goes his head.
Accompanied by Alice’s band chanting the refrain of the creepy and horrifying “I Love The Dead”, Alice’s wife Sheryl, dressed as a crazed woman supported by two executioners, slow-dances around showing off Alice’s chopped-off head. I’ll never get tired of that section of Alice’s gigs. Back from the dead, Alice returns to the stage, singing the aptly titled “Escape”, a good meaty rocker with a groovy and addictive guitar riff and a refrain splendidly contagious. With “Teenage Frankenstein” back on the setlist for the first time since 1987 (I think), we’re provided by a huge Frankenstein, of course, walking out on stage. It’s a damn good song and when I first heard it, I was convinced it would turn out to be a “modern” Coop-classic. That never happened so its return is highly appreciated. The the lights go down and they all leave the stage.
The band returns for the encore, the usual rocker “Under My Wheels”. I have never understood why Alice is so determined to play it on every tour? Was it really that big a hit? Is it really such a big Cooper classic? Would anyone mind if he decided to leave it out? I think the song is one of Alice’s most overrated songs and I don’t think I have ever heard anyone speak of their love for the song. It’s never even mentioned when Alice Cooper’s tunes are being discussed. Oh well, the ending with “School’s Out” is perfect. Alice in a big hat and a cane and big balloons full of confetti is thrown out to the audience. “School’s Out” is a “Rock And Roll All Nite”-song for me. I’m not particularly fond of it as such but I wouldn’t want to leave a Coop-gig without it.
As a whole, it was another great gig and I thought to myself that if Alice ever tours again, I will be there. No matter how many times I’ve seen him, it’s never enough. His band must be mentioned as well. The rhythm section of Sobel and bassist Chuck Garric is tighter than a camel’s ass in a sandstorm, always laying out a steady ground for the songs. With three guitarists, there’s a lot of six-strings to adore. Nita Strauss is without a doubt the best of the three of them – emotional, technical with a sharp tone – but that said, they’re all different players. Ryan Roxie is the rock’n’roll guy – an offspring of Jimmy Page, Joe Perry and Slash. Roxie goes more for crunch, grit and rowdiness, something he’s brilliant at. Tommy Henriksen is a mix of the two of them – a good player but a bit anonymous. As for the songs, I know you can’t have it all but there are always songs I miss so I won’t get into this song-that song-why didn’t he? rountine. But one question must be asked: How come the brilliant masterpiece From The Inside (1978) is always ignored? He could base a whole show on that record. Well, be that as it may, if you’re into Alice Cooper even just a little, do not miss Old Black Eyes’ Nightmare Castle on tour.
- Years Ago (intro)
- 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)
- I’m Eighteen
- Billion Dollar Babies
- Guitar Solo
- Roses On White Lace
- My Stars
- Devil’s Food
- The Black Widow Jam
- Dead Babies/I Love The Dead
- Teenage Frankenstein
- Under My Wheels
- School’s Out (with Another Brick In The Wall)
Pics by: Dave at Accessrock.se