Alice Cooper Rocks Phoenix Christmas Pudding Show With Original Lineup

Alice Cooper Rocks Phoenix Christmas Pudding Show With Original Lineup

December 19, 2010

Ed Masley of reports: Alice Cooper is always the man of the hour at his annual Christmas Pudding show.

But Saturday’s set was even more triumphant – capping, as it did, a week that saw the long-deserving shock-rock legend and the members of the group that shared his name for seven albums win induction, at last, to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

As fate would have it, he’d already planned on a reunion of that classic Alice Cooper lineup to honor the 10th anniversary of Pudding, with longtime guitarist Steve Hunter filling in for the late, great Glen Buxton, which only made the celebration that much sweeter.

“The great thing about it,” Cooper said, backstage at the Comerica, before the set, “was I asked the guys to come in for this before I knew anything about the Hall of Fame. Before we were nominated, we were gonna do this. So everything happened while we were all here in our hometown, where we started.”

It’s enough to make a guy known for staging his own executions wax nostalgic.

“This is where we grew up,” Cooper said. “This is where we went to elementary school and high school and college. Frank Zappa said ‘You know what I don’t get about you guys more than anything else? You’re from Phoenix.’ He said, ‘That doesn’t make any sense at all, how weird you are and you’re from Phoenix.'”

Asked about reports that the reunion may continue after March’s Hall of Fame induction, Cooper grinned and said, “You know, it just could happen,” adding, “I think we’ll probably do some more shows, yeah. And it’ll be fun to stretch out and find some of those old songs that we haven’t done in a long time, from ‘Love It to Death’ and ‘Killer’ and ‘School’s Out.'”

As for being made to wait for his induction to the Hall of Fame, having been eligible for 16 years now, Cooper was hilariously philosophical.

“You have your choice of being Pete Rose,” Cooper said, “or Susan Lucci. For a while, we were Pete Rose. It was like they just kept looking past us, like Pete Rose. I mean, the guy was the greatest baseball player of all time, after Ty Cobb, probably. And we finally got nominated. We were eligible for 16 years but we never got nominated. We got nominated and accepted the first nomination. It’s a nice little club to belong to.”

Christmas Pudding, of course, is more than just an Alice Cooper concert. It’s a variety show, held annually to benefit the singer’s Solid Rock foundation, whose goal is to “enrich the lives” of at-risk Valley youth.

After a first act that featured a dance troupe performing “The Grinch,” two classical pianists playing together, the guy who won “America’s Got Talent,” Glen Campbell, the E Street Band’s Nils Lofgren and Night Ranger, Cooper brought us back from intermission, introduced by his longtime producer Bob Ezrin, who recalled having seen the original lineup perform in 1968 to a crowd of 6,000 and immediately clear the room.

But this time, everybody stayed, as Cooper and his fellow Hall of Fame inductees dug their heels into the greatest hits, recovering from a shaky intro to the first song, “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” with a raucous set that definitely did their legend proud, with bassist Dennis Dunaway making a case for himself as the second most magnetic entertainer on that stage.

After howling his way through a triumphant “I’m Eighteen,” their breakthrough single, Cooper really hit his stride on a spirited “Under My Wheels” that ended with him ad-libbing the words to David Bowie’s not entirely dissimilar “Suffragette City.”

A glam-rock swagger through another “Killer” classic, “Be My Lover,” featured a lyrical substitution, as “I told her that I came from Detroit city” became “I told her that I live in Phoenix city.” And rather than slowing it down at the end like they do on the record, they cut it short and went directly into “Billion Dollar Babies,” led by drummer Neal Smith’s air-drum-inspiring intro with Hunter and Michael Bruce recreating the twin-guitar attack of the original recording.

It was after “Billion Dollar Babies,” five songs in, that Cooper turned reflective, reminding the crowd that in 1965, they were known as the Spiders. Asking if anyone there had seen them at the V.I.P., he joked “You’re really old,” before explaining that they used to open every set there with the same song – Tiny Bradshaw’s “Train Kept A-Rollin’,” as their “favorite band,” the Yardbirds, reinvented it. And then, they played it, Cooper showing off his blues harp skills on a rollicking cover that felt like old friends jamming for the hell of it – assuming those old friends are Hall of Fame material. When it was over, Alice grinned and noted, “But we did write this one” as a lead-in to the only song that could have closed their set, a raucous “School’s Out” with a line of female backup singers fleshing out the “No more pencils, no more books” part.

It wasn’t the last we heard of “School’s Out,” either.

After sets by the Eagles’ Don Felder and Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, Rob Zombie closed the night with an explosive, high-energy set that found the singer and his bandmates dressed as the scariest Santa Clauses ever. After pounding out such Zombie staples as “Superbeast,” “Living Dead Girl,” “More Human Than Human” and “Never Gonna Stop,” they tore into the opening riff of “School’s Out,” which admittedly sounded a bit more menacing in their hands, and led the crowd in one last celebration of the week’s big news, with Cooper joining in on vocals.

Zombie also made a speech about the Hall of Fame induction.

“The important thing,” he said, “is that we’re here to celebrate the fact that, finally, the Rock and Roll Hall of Shame can now be called the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”

Then, he invoked the memory of the late John Lennon, who once remarked “Before Elvis, there was nothing,” as a setup for “Well, before Alice, there wasn’t a hell of a lot, either.”

Amen, Mr. Zombie.

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