In the fifty-odd years since his shocking debut on the Sunset Strip had the peace and love hippies running for the exits, Alice Cooper has been hanged, electrocuted, and run through with a giant hypodermic needle. Last Sunday night’s show at the Greek Theater was slightly toned down. I mean, they only killed him once. The evil characters that usher in “Stephen” and lead Alice to his execution are literal babies. But that doesn’t mean the stage wasn’t crammed with swords, serial killers, the FrankenCooper monster, a gigantic, inflatable baby, and Cooper’s wife, Sheryl, dancing as a ghost bride and “Madame Guillotine.” It was a beautiful night, and multiple generations of fans came together under the stars to bask in Cooper’s gleeful destruction of good taste.
If the outline of the show has remained consistent over the decades – Alice gets tormented and chased around by various villains leading to his execution and eventual resurrection, as the band plays on – the set list is always a bit different. The focus for this year’s show seems to be on his favorite rarely performed tracks, often from overlooked late-period albums like Paranormal, Raise Your Fist and Yell and Constrictor. The show opened with “Feed my Frankenstein” from Hey Stoopid instead of the usual megahit like “I’m Eighteen.” He even revived “My Stars,” a deep cut from School’s Out that hasn’t been played for years. He did four tunes from the Welcome To My Nightmare album, none of which was the title track. It was a song list designed for the heavy fans, but loaded with enough famous favorites to keep the customers satisfied. The concert ended in the usual spectacular fashion with metallic streamers and giant balloons flying during “School’s Out,” which bizarrely, yet naturally segued into Pink Floyd’s “We Don’t Need no Education.”
While I sometimes miss the sound of his original band, the players Cooper has toured with for the last seven years do a good job staying faithful to that sound and spirit. Three lead guitarists on board, including the incredible Nita Strauss, give them the versatility to tackle every era seamlessly. And drummer Glen Sobel delivered a solo with so many tricks, I believe that if he ever decides to put the sticks away, he’s got a bright future working the teppan table at Benihana, flipping knives behind his back.
Ace Frehley has toured with Alice at least three times in the last decade or so, and usually can be counted on for an exciting set of the things that Kiss did so well – snappy power pop songs with that distinctive style of guitar playing. This was not his best outing. The sound mix was muddy and distant right in front of the stage, but clear enough to tell that something was off. Those iconic solos that Kiss fans have memorized were sloppy and tossed off, with Ace barely able to muster the energy to sing all the words. His whole style is loose and kind of lethargic, like he’s spaced out, but this was a bit much. And it’s too bad, because his Kiss songs are some of the best ones, and when his band is really hitting it, it’s one of my favorite things to see. Here’s hoping he finds his feet by the next tour stop.
Elise Thompson contributed to this post.