– Words by Jordan Buford / Photos by James Villa –
Verizon Theater (Grand Prairie, TX) – February 10, 2015
The massive parking lots outside Verizon Theater in Grand Prairie were steadily filling up, even though show time was quickly approaching.
Show time for what? Well, someone who is part of the slowly dying breed of classic rockers, Alice Cooper.
The ages of the patrons were about as wide-ranging as Coopers’ lengthy career, including those who probably listened to him from or shortly after his start to those born in the 80’s or even 90’s who have become fans.
Everyone was kept waiting, though didn’t seem to mind; while a large banner concealed the stage. The image on it was of Coopers’ eyes, a logo that was seen on the drum kit and other places as well this night.
It was seventeen minutes after eight when the lights dimmed abruptly and cheers erupted as the banner dropped. A slew of sparks began on the ceiling and descended towards the stage; and when Cooper appeared, standing on a platform at the front of center stage, he looked as if he were a ringmaster. His jacket and pants were striped red and black and he waved a baton or cane around. Really, he was the ringmaster for the night.
A bit of “Hello, Hooray” made for a perfect introduction (everyone in the room was standing by this point), before they threw out something more in the classic vein, in the form of “House of Fire”. The 80’s rock vibe that oozed forth from it gave the audience a good jolt; and while Cooper was always the main focal point of the night, between the forceful backing vocals and sweet licks, it was apparent that the rest of the band weren’t there to simply back him, but to put on a high caliber performance.
For the most part, the songs were dished out at a rapid succession, pretty much going from one straight to another, like an even older classic, “No More Mr. Nice Guy. One of the highlights from the early portion of this monstrous set came during “I’ll Bite Your Face Off”. He and guitarist Nita Strauss had a sensational chemistry during that one as they interacted often during it, having a palpable tension of sorts; and despite it being a newer song of his; there were plenty of fans yelling right along to the chorus.
The theatric elements of this performance had been dazzling at times and just entertaining at others, like during “Billion Dollar Babies”, when Cooper grabbed a fencing sword which had money stuck from the base to the tip of the blade. He grabbed some and flung it out at those right at the front of the stage, and held the sword out and shook it to free some of the other bills. Some cool moves with a sword soon turned to laughs as he picked up a giant, novelty sized coffee mug during “Caffeine”, clutching it and holding it close as Strauss, fellow guitarists Ryan Roxie and Tommy Henriksen and bassist Chuck Garric surrounded him.
“Dirty Diamonds” signified the end of the first portion of the night, coming complete with a stunning drum solo from Glen Sobel, which was soon followed by Strauss wailing on her axe (oh my god, what a phenomenal guitarist), and “Welcome to My Nightmare” began the more horror oriented phase. Cooper had made a wardrobe change for this.
He slung a bullwhip (playfully targeting his band mates at times) on “Go to Hell”; while “Feed My Frankenstein” not only was a fan favorite, but it saw the show transcend to a whole new level. A “device” similar to what Dr. Frankenstein had constructed in the story/movie was brought out, ultimately “transforming” Cooper into a ten-foot tall behemoth that wondered about the stage at the end of the cut.
A straightjacket, a demented looking nurse and a guillotine (oh, and a prop Alice Cooper head) were just a few of the things used over the course of the next several minutes, creating a sort of campy, though all too enjoyable show. You kind of even forgot you were at a rock concert at times and instead felt as if you were watching a movie.
Before you knew it, the stage had become slightly reminiscent of a graveyard, and the tombstones were changed out before each song as they unleashed a barrage of covers, starting with an excellent rendition of The Doors’ “Break On Through (to the Other Side)”. The Beatles (during which Cooper sported some John Lennon-esque glasses), The Jimi Hendrix Experience and The Who were other artists who were covered, and each song from the respective bands were quite rousing.
The most powerful song up to this point was without question “I’m Eighteen”, which, even now, had a strong anthem vibe about it; and while “Poison” wrapped up the 88-minute long set, few fans left, even though the band retreated backstage. Of course, there had to be more coming; and it wasn’t long before a school bell rang, as they returned for a staple in classic rock music, “School’s Out”.
First, I want to say I think it’s fascinating how different things work for different bands. There are some acts who speak to the crowd between nearly every song, and it would be weird if they didn’t. Others may be comedians; and regardless of the approach, that’s how they form a rapport with their audiences. Then you have those like Alice Cooper. He never said a word directly to the audience, at least not in terms of general conversation. Instead, he and his band just barreled on from one song to the next. He relied solely on what it is that he does best, and that was all it took to establish a connection with the near capacity crowd.
Some say rock is dead, or at the very least that it’s not what it used to be. I’ll agree with the latter (at least in some instances). The new guard hasn’t learned from the old. It’s not all about having polished songs that will get you on the radio and heard by the masses. It’s also about putting on a dynamite live show and having charisma that makes it impossible to look away — among other things.
Even in his late 60’s Cooper still has all those qualities. The shock appeal is still very much there too; and having never experienced an Alice Cooper show before, it was a delight. The commanding control he had over the room never waned; and despite keeping up such a blistering pace, he seldom got time to catch his breath. He didn’t need it, though. He can outperform people more than half his age. He proved it this night.
(Judy Collins cover)
House of Fire
No More Mr. Nice Guy
Under My Wheels
I’ll Bite Your Face Off
Billion Dollar Babies
Lost in America
Welcome to My Nightmare
Go to Hell
He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask)
Feed My Frankenstein
Ballad of Dwight Fry
I Love the Dead
Break On Through (to the Other Side)
(The Doors cover)
(The Beatles cover)
(The Jimi Hendrix Experience cover)
(The Who cover)