ALICE COOPER SLASHES HIS WAY THROUGH A SOLD OUT CROWD IN RAMA
Date: March 2, 2018
Venue: Casino Rama
Location: Rama, Ontario, Canada
Reviewer: Tyson Briden
My first recollection of Alice Cooper dates back to the late ’80s. Yes, I know I was a little late catching onto the shock rock legend, but regardless my introduction to Cooper came when a friend lent me a few very rough albums dating back to the ’70s. At first, I thought this is very odd and almost uncomfortable. When Constrictor was released in 1986, I was very interested in what the album had to offer. It wasn’t due in part to the music, but more in terms of the two tracks that were featured in the movie Friday the 13th – Part 6. I cannot begin to mention how many times I have watched that movie. The part that stands out to me the most is where the young, sex craved adolescent boy is driving a motorhome through the forest of Camp Crystal Lake. Of course, while he is driving, he is listening to the classic “Teenage Frankstein” track. As it always happens in all good slasher flicks, his demise would come at the hands of the ever so scary Jason Vorhees minutes later.
That’s what was so great about the ’80s. Heavy metal always went hand in hand with horror movies. So it was only natural that an artist like Alice Cooper would play a role in having his music in one of these classic films. To this day, there is not a generation since that has embraced pop culture the way it did in the ’80s. So as the years following passed by, I would really discover the world of Alice Cooper. The Trash and Hey Stoopid albums are ones that I played on a regular basis on my stereo. I recall a friend having the VHS release of Alice Cooper Thrashes the World. This would be my first introduction to the Alice Cooper stage show. It really blew me away. Although the band itself at the time didn’t really stick to the feeling of the original ’70s classic sound, I still felt the stage show really went well with the huge horror theme of the times.
It wasn’t until the early 2000’s that I would get the opportunity to witness Alice Cooper in a live setting. Once I would see that first show, I was hooked. For a time in the mid 2000’s, I would see Cooper every time he came to town. Even to the point of seeing multiple dates. I will make note that part of the reason for seeing Cooper so much was because Brother Cane guitarist Damon Johnson was in the band. The line-up of Cooper, Johnson, Keri Kelli, Chuck Garric and Eric Singer may be one of my favorite all time line-ups of the Alice Cooper band.
I will have to admit that since that mid 2000’s line-up, I have been very skeptical to see any incarnation of the Alice Cooper band. I did see the band a few years back, but that was due in part to opening for Mötley Crüe. I will add that Cooper blew Mötley Crüe off the stage. It was actually at that show that I decided I would never see Mötley Crüe again. From my perspective today, Mötley Crüe was going through the motions of a band that were sick of each other. It was obvious it was finished, with the only person really wanting to be there being Nikki Sixx.
So when Sleaze Roxx editor-in-chief, Olivier, asked me if I wanted to join him at Cooper’s upcoming show at Casino Rama in Rama, Ontario, Canada, I didn’t think twice. Of course, it had been some time. I really wanted to see this version of the band myself and look at it objectively with no comparison to previous shows. To me, this was a very different band from the one I had seen with Johnson, Singer and company. I was very curious to see female guitar virtuoso Nita Strauss. I had seen so much written about her talent that it was only natural that I was intrigued to what she had to offer. I also was very excited to see former Electric Angels guitarist Ryan Roxie as well.
The show started just after 9 pm. Olivier and myself were seated directly in front of guitarist Roxie, six rows back directly next to the aisle. We were told at the time of seating that only those sitting in the front row would be able to approach the stage. I really had no issue with this, since being in the front row these days doesn’t really do much for me. If anything, I actually prefer to be right beside the soundboard. Think about that, why is the soundboard where it is? Well because that’s generally the perfect spot to hear everything the way it is meant to be heard. I realize sometimes it’s nice to be close to the action. Feel the blood, sweat and tears of the show, but for me that was when I was younger. I just want to see and hear a good show. With that said, the six row seats were actually perfect.
The band came out blazing with the track “Brutal Planet” from the album of the same name. I was really excited about this track. I love its heaviness. That album itself really is a classic in Cooper’s huge catalog. Just before leaving for the show, I had been watching the DVD concert of Brutally Live. That is probably my favorite of all Cooper‘s DVDs. Of course, Roxie plays in that line-up that also features Pete Friezen, Eric Singer and Greg Smith. From there, the band broke into a few tracks from the early days of the original Alice Cooper band. “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, “Under My Wheels”, “Billion Dollar Babies” and “Be My Lover” were all executed perfectly. What I found interesting was that Cooper has hired two guitarists in Roxie and Tommy Henriksen that fit the ’70s rocker vibe perfectly. They both are very precise rhythmically and possess extreme amounts of showmanship. That is what really lacks in the new popular bands of today. They do not look like they are part of a band. When you can’t tell the difference between your audience and the band, something is seriously wrong. It’s appearing larger than life that people of the older generation have come accustomed too. I think us as the older generation, we see the validity in what is still available to us and we appreciate the past. We were lucky to grow up when we did.
As I talk of the other two guitarists, I can’t help but mention Nita Strauss. At first, I thought her performance was annoying. She would move her hands on the top of the guitar neck like Rudy Sarzo, she’d make strange faces towards the audience and really seemed sort of out of place compared to the other band members. As the night would go on, something about Strauss really started to appeal to me. What I had first thought was annoying was just her way of interacting with the crowd. Her stage performance was very noticeable. Not only is she very beautiful, but she has her playing to back up any misconceptions or questions pertaining to her presence within the Alice Cooper band.
The next four songs “Lost in America”, “Serious”, “Fallen In Love” and “Woman of Mass Destruction” were all very well executed. What I always love about a Cooper show is the fact that he always mixes it up, choosing album cuts from his vast array of material. “Serious” from his From The Inside album sounded so very cool.
At this point in the show, it was the spot where I would generally go get a beer. It was time for the ever so popular guitar solo. Do you see the condescension in my writing? Nita Strauss did a decent job of holding my attention. What I did find was that her guitar sound was very muddied by multiple effects, making it hard to decipher her every note. What I also found interesting was her unorthodox guitar technique. Her left hand was very slanted, with her thumb very far over the neck. For someone who plays so very fast, I find it strange that it works for her, but it does, so who am I to criticize?
“Poison” would be up next. “Halo Of Flies” was sandwiched between it and “Feed My Frankenstein.” This is where Strauss could really shine and she did. The solos in both “Poison” and “Feed My Frankenstein” were orchestrated perfectly with Roxie and Strauss playing off of each other on “Frankenstein.” Of the three guitarists on this night, Roxie would be the one that would impress me the most. It was a combination of his rock star attire, his cool swagger and his overall playing. This is a man that knows his job and does it very well. As the band would go into “Cold Ethyl” next, I would think to myself that a song like this really characterizes the styles of Roxie and Hendrickson perfectly. This song is counted in by drummer Glen Sobel on the cowbell. Immediately the sold out crowd is enthralled by what is taking place. Of course, it is also hard to not take notice of Mr. Beasto Blanco, bassist Chuck Garric. His presence is always felt. With his long black hair, big sideburns and a stuffed fox attached to his guitar strap, it is hard to not take notice.
As the next track “Only Women Bleed” was about to begin, something had gone awry. Roxie’s double neck Gibson guitar was not working. As Roxie was trying everything in his power to get a sound from his ever so beautiful axe, Cooper was left standing there waiting. Soon Roxie would decide it was best to just switch guitars. Within seconds, he arrived back with a Gibson 6 String hung over his shoulder. Henriksen started his part, with Roxie than joining in. As the band went into the second of two tracks played on this night from Cooper’s latest album Paranormal, the first song being “Fallen In Love”, “Paranoiac Personality” didn’t capture me as many of Cooper’s earlier compositions do. Being that Cooper is out promoting this latest album, it is only natural that he played a few songs from his latest piece of work.
It is at this point in the show where things become dark and uncomfortable. With that said, it wouldn’t be an Alice Cooper show if it wasn’t this way to begin with. Cooper was quickly put into a strait jacket. I think at this point in the show, we all know where this is going. “The Ballad of Dwight Fry” quickly became the highlight of the evening. The lyrics really characterize a crazy state of mind. As the song was coming to a close, Cooper began to chant “I got to get out of here” repeatedly. Such an epic song that really adds to the show. As Cooper broke free from his straight jacket, he quickly retaliated towards the nurse who had been taunting him throughout the song. Who was to win this battle? That remained to be seen. Suddenly, as the band began to perform the song “Killer”, a guillotine appeared on the stage. Somehow Cooper had been taken captive. He was to be inhumanely beheaded for all to see. Suddenly, a vulnerable Cooper was within the confines of the guillotine. The blade dropped — within seconds, Cooper‘s head was held up by one of his captors. Was this real? It sure seemed that way to me. How would our hero or villain (depending on your take) recover? The show must go on.
As “I Love the Dead” began, the band was chanting the ever so beautiful theme song to Cooper’s death. But wait, was it possible? Was it that Cooper is not dead? Cooper suddenly made his grand re-entrance. Holding what seems to his head, blood still dripping. How could this be that he had survived such a malicious attack? Perfectly executed theatrical rock at its finest. There are those who have tried to duplicate what Cooper has been doing for years — Lizzy Borden, Marilyn Manson etc. — but for some reason, they always seems to miss the mark. Cooper is the king of shock rock.
As the night was starting to wind down, it was only fitting that “I’m Eighteen” was heard. It seems to be a cue that the band will soon be leaving town, heading down the road to scare the hell out of the next round of thrill seekers. As the song ended, it became obvious that the band would leave the stage and come back for one more. Within minutes, the opening chords to Cooper’s 1972 anthem “School’s Out” was blasting through the theatre. And just like that, it was all over.
Alice Cooper’s setlist:
01. Brutal Planet
02. No More Mr. Nice Guy
03. Under My Wheels
04. Billion Dollar Babies
05. Be My Lover
06. Lost In America
08. Fallen In Love
09. Woman Of Mass Destruction
10. Guitar Solo (Nita Strauss)
12. Halo Of Flies
13. Feed My Frankenstein
14. Cold Ethyl
15. Only Women Bleed
16. Paranoiac Personality
17. Ballad Of Dwight Fry
18. Killer (partial)
19. I Love The Dead
20. I’m Eighteen
21. School’s Out w/ snippets of Another Brick In The Wall (Pink Floyd cover)