I went to go see Alice Cooper live at Cardiff Motorpoint Arena last night on Saturday 12th October 2019. I had balcony seats, which isn’t usually my thing (I’ve only seen 4 concerts sitting down ever; this one last night, The Rolling Stones in Dublin with my parents when I was a child, Tool in Glasgow when I was a teenager and Avenged Sevenfold in Manchester a few years ago) but considering what a show Alice puts on, you wouldn’t to miss it being at the wrong angle or having some tall guy in front of you.
The first of the support acts was MC5 (or MC50 now, as they’ve been around for so long). I’m not a huge fan, but I respect them, and like seeing Wayne in documentaries. I have Kick Out The Jams but that’s as far as I know them, and even then I only like about 2-3 songs from it anyway, so I wasn’t super excited to see them, but it was still a good start to the evening. Interestingly though, Billy Gould from Faith No More and Kim Thayil from Soundgarden were in the band tonight, so that was a very welcome surprise. Especially as I’ve spent the last month or so enjoying reading Everybody Loves Our Town (a book about Grunge with lots of Kim quotes) and watching Live From The Artist’s Den (the new Soundgarden concert video). Wayne Kramer seemed very grateful and excited and was quite entertaining. (He and Kim also came out at the end of Alice’s show for some bonus guitar and taking a bow).
Next up was The Stranglers who I was not really aware of. When they started playing I recognised quite a few of their songs, such as ‘Get A Grip On Yourself’ which Prong cover. They also played ‘Golden Brown’ and ‘No More Heroes’ as well as a song about walking on the beaches looking at the peaches which I recognised from various TV shows over the years. They were a weird mix of punky bass, ‘80s arty pop vocals and yet jaunty Yes style keyboards. It was a bizarre combination. I haven’t researched them but can’t even figure out what genre they were. New Wave? Post Punk? I really wasn’t sure. Kind of fun though. They had some amusing stage banter about grey hair in the audience and them being twats while Alice was a nice bloke.
After that it was time for Frank Sinatra. Oh sorry, I read the poster wrong, it wasn’t Ol’ Blue Eyes, it was Ol’ Black Eyes and his nightmare castle. I almost don’t know what to talk about first. The music, the set list, the stage antics, the sound or the band?
I think I’ll go with set list. I was very satisfied. Lots of material from Welcome To My Nightmare and Billion Dollar Babies, which are the two Cooper albums I’m most familiar with. Also mega perennial hits like ‘I’m 18,’ ‘School’s Out’ and ‘Poison.’ One newer song from Paranormal (‘Fallen In Love’) and a few of the more energetic ‘80s moments like ‘Roses On White Lace,’ ‘He’s Back, The Man Behind The Mask’ and ‘Bed Of Nails.’ The show opened with my favourite Alice Cooper song, ‘Feed My Frankenstein’ which essentially got me into the man/band due to its Wayne’s World and Motley Crue connections. Also early on they played ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy’ which I was into via the Megadeth cover for years before I heard the original. (Actually, same goes for ‘I’m 18’ which I loved for years prior to be ing a Cooper fan due to Anthrax covering it).
In terms of the sound it was brilliant, very crunchy and metallic. The drums and bass were very clear and you could hear every cymbal and bass line clearly and separately. The vocals were crystal clear. I was really satisfied with the sound. I’ve seen some arena shows where you can’t hear the vocals, or the bass, or everything is just a big reverby mess. This however was brilliant.
The band were great. Nina Strausse lives up to all the hype, with stage moves halfway between prime era Slash and Zack Wylde and playing that would make Eddie Van Halen slightly nervous. I really assumed all the blabbermouth hype was just hype, but colour me wrong. She was definitely captivating and beyond impressive.
Also; have you ever seen the famous youtube video ‘’This Drummer Is At The Wrong Gig’’ ? The one with all the stick tricks and showmanship. Drummer Glen Sobel was like that, sticks on the wrong side of the kit, sticks upside down, sticks constantly 30ft up in the air. The drum solo was even entertaining. Most live drum solos I have seen have bored me, and I’m a drummer so they must bore the average fan even more, but this was mad fun. He got such an applause. Since becoming a Cooper fan recently, I have always enjoyed ‘The Black Widow’ and its great how heavy it sounds like, in the weird medley with ‘Black Juju’ and ‘Devils Food’ and unexpectedly for me at least, ‘My Stars’ off of Schools Out.
I never really liked the School’s Out album. I got it a good few years before I became a Cooper fan and it put me off him for a few years. It wasn’t until I got Hey Stoopid and Billion Dollar Babies that I really clicked with Alice Cooper. But as the band make everything so heavy live, ‘My Stars’ really popped live. I guess I will have to revisit Schools Out a bit more often now thanks to tonight. I guess it is more than just an amazing title track and a bunch of weird broadway music, which was my opinion of it up ’til now.
Anyway, back to the show. In terms of showmanship, Alice himself, or Vince or whatever, is the ultimate professional. Every wiggle of the hips, tilt of the cane, costume change, mock kiss and swish of the sword perfectly placed. His body language and stage presence all mastered over years and years of practice. Then there are the actors, running around, getting knifed, putting Alice in straight Jackets, wearing wedding dresses, pushing prams. Its all very pantomime but I loved it. Alice got guillotined, which I knew would happen but which was still very entertaining. What I didn’t expect was the Iron Maiden style Frankenstein puppet running around during ‘Teenage Frankenstein’ and giant baby puppet during ‘Dead Babies.’
Interestingly, even though I was singing along to every other song all evening, even the ones I was less familiar with like ‘Fallen In Love,’ …I was surprisingly unable to sing along to ‘Dead Babies’ for some weird psychological reason due to recently having had my own baby son. Weird. Still a classic song though.
At the end, Alice came out in the top hat and tails, launching balloons and glitter and confetti all over the place and adding in a bit of Another Brick In The Wall’s lyrics into arguably his best known song in the UK, ‘School’s Out.’ They then got all the bands and actors out from the whole evening and everyone took a bow while a big cannon shot golden streamers into the audience (like the cannons they had already shot fake money with, during ‘Billon Dollar Babies’ earlier on ).
I don’t care if it was cheesy, it was a truck load of fun. (Several truckloads actually, as I was walking home, all the taxi ranks around the arena were full of trucks, presumably here to carry his castle and all the cannons and guillotines etc).
Someone once said every rock and metal fan has to see Alice Cooper live at least once. I completely agree. I had an absolute whale of time. Great sound, great set, great vocals, great onstage nonsense.