ALICE COOPER
"No More Mr. Nice Guy" Tour
Enmore Theatre, Sydney
September 26, 2011

By MR INTOLERANCE

Share There's a reason why, in the first Wayne's World film, Wayne and Garth prostrate themselves before The Great Man with many cries of "We're not worthy!" – because frankly, the average person isn't worthy to be in the presence of God himself, the one-time beer-drinkin', woman-chasin', minister's son, Vincent Furnier – better known to you and I as one Alice Cooper. Tonight was proof positive of that, as the Coop tore through a fine collection of his greatest hits, proving that some forty-odd years down the track, whatever "it" is, he's still got it. In abundance.

I was a little dubious about tonight's gig, mainly due to the fact that Alice has been back in the studio recently recording "Welcome 2 My Nightmare", the sequel at least in name to his 1975 clas-sick "Welcome To My Nightmare" (and the toons from that LP played over the PA between the god-awful support band Syndicate and the Coop's set were not alleviating those fears) – I was worried I was going to get what I copped the previous night at the Enmore with Suzi Quatro; a good set peppered with some inferior new material. Thankfully that was not the case, and I was treated to only one new track among a set that predominantly took its cues from the Coop's glory days, the early 70s.

When the curtain dropped, after the audience roar almost drowned out Vincent Price's hilarious intro, "Black Widow" blasted out at us, Alice was atop a twenty foot high gantry, playing the song's character for all he was worth in an eight-armed spider jacket, imperious and haughty, yet still with a sly wink at the audience. Last time I saw the Coop was at the Sydney Entertainment Centre on 2009's "Theatre Of Death" tour (and I was only 9 rows from the front for that), but seeing him up close and personal in a smaller venue like the Enmore was a much more rewarding experience, even if he didn't have quite such a theatrical tour this time – but hey, we're here for the music, right?

And the music's what its all about – and the Coop didn't disappoint in that regard. I was a bit annoyed that he didn't have the same line-up as last time (as that was the first time for a long time I thought that the Coop actually had a band, as opposed to simply a collection of musicians); homeboy seems to have a bit of a revolving door policy on band members – but it was uber-cool to see old school Alice guitarist Steve Hunter ("Welcome To My Nightmare"-era) back in the fold. I did have to laugh at one point where, given Hunter's leather cap, biker-chic and age, one young dude behind me said to his equally young mate, "Is that Rob Halford on guitar?" New guitarist Orianthi seemed a bit lost, sound-wise, until the ten-minute solo-swap and general brilliance of "Halo Of Flies" (a personal fave, "Killer" being my favourite Cooper album, "Halo" being its center-piece), the mix for the first half of the gig was quite variable in quality across the board - it was like some of the guitar solos from all three guitarists were being sucked into some vortex between the amps. Maybe it was just where I was standing – but it was markedly better in the second half of the gig. It certainly didn't faze the band, who rocked like men (and a woman) possessed.

What was even more cool was the fact that new line-up managed to bring some life to a few Coop standards that had seemed a little stale to me for a while –"I'm Eighteen" for a start, which is a track I normally hit "next" for on my iTunes, last night was like hearing it for the first time; the band really achieved terminal velocity on that one. Similarly, "Billion Dollar Babies", "Under My Wheels" and "Is It My Body?" all had a freshness and vigour that put a big ol' smile on my face. I probably could have done without "Only Women Bleed" and "Poison" (but given their hit status over here, they were kind of unavoidable), although "Bleed" did lead immediately into the necrophilia-fantasy rock-trip, "Cold Ethyl" ("She's cool, in bed – she oughtta be, cos Ethyl's dead!"), with Alice slinging around the Ethyl doll with gay abandon. Besides "Poison" (cue for your fearless reviewer to hit the pavement for a well-earned nutritious Camel unfiltered), very few new (and by which I mean post-"Dada") tracks were played – "Brutal Planet", "Hey Stoopid", "Wicked Young Man" and new single "I'm Gonna Rip Your Face Off" were pretty much about it – but the winner for the evening for me was the inclusion of the "Flush The Fashion" lead single, "Clones (We're All)", a song of the Coop's I've always loved, and which I've never thought received the adulation it's due, although the full-throated roar that met it last night maybe makes me into a liar. I always liked Alice's early 80s New Wave era, even if most other folks didn't. It certainly beat the hell out of limp late 70s LPs like "Lace And Whiskey" and "From The Inside" (Rick Nielson from Cheap Trick's participation notwithstanding).

I digress. "Muscle Of Love", with its skanking, sleazy riff, was a very welcome addition to the set, and one I certainly didn't see coming, (ho, ho, ho – see what I did there…), and the snippet of "Killer" leading to Alice's execution via guillotine was similarly a blissful moment where you channel The Rock to achieve nirvana. The Coop flying the Australian flag high for the encore during a barnstorming version of "Elected" was simply the icing on the cake.

Look, there's a bunch of tracks I've not name-checked that similarly rocked like a bitch, but the best thing I can say as a reviewer is this: if you like rock music and have not seen Alice Cooper live, you must – it's really as simple as that. We're talking a four-decade plus legacy of rock, and while there might have been some lows, the highs are what you're there for – and he knows it, and he caters to it. Alice Cooper live is a well-oiled machine, but without any slickness – there's the grit and grime you're after, as well as the cool tunes. Don't go in thinking of his ill-advised hair-metal period, the even more ill-advised industrial-metal period of the 90s, or the alcohol-soaked power-ballad phase of the late 70s when everything went right off the rails – today's Alice Cooper, in a live setting, is a very different beast indeed – lean and mean, with a go-for-the-throat mentality. Whether that will carry on in his studio work remains to be seen. Live, however – satisfaction is a 100% ironclad guarantee.

All-in-all, if the Alice Cooper show comes to your town, run, don't walk, to see it – it'll make you into a better person. Yer old pal Mr Intolerance guarantees it.

 

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