Alice Cooper, Challenge Stadium (Perth), 1 September 2009

Veteran shock rocker takes Perth audience on a rollercoaster ride through his Theatre of Death as reviewer attempts to use all clichés in opening sentence.

Alice Cooper has been around the traps once or twice in his time, and his reputation for excellence and consistency in live shows is second to none. That makes it hard to say anything in a review that has not been said before. Nevertheless, this is my attempt to do justice to what was an outstanding evening of rock theatre.

Melbourne-based openers Electric Mary played dirty, riff-driven, gasoline-soaked rock. On their own, the four instrument-wielding members of the band are what I would describe as stoner rock, but when their frontman came out in his cowboy hat, he added more of a country cock-rock feel, oozing confidence and sleaze with lines like “no one does it better than me”. Not really my cup of tea, but probably a good fit for much of the audience who were still firmly in their primary-school plastic chairs at this point, albeit with heads nodding.

A huge curtain sporting a massive Theatre of Death motif hid the stage as it was prepared for the main event. Punters started to leave their chairs and come up to the front of the stage, and after a half-hearted attempt to get everyone to return to their seats, security gave up and let them. Whoever had the idea of putting chairs in Challenge Stadium’s floor standing area was wasting their time – punters who wanted to sit would surely buy tickets in the stalls, no?

When the lights finally came down, a unmistakeable silhouette behind the curtain elicited a roar from the crowd – ladies and gentlemen, Alice was in the building. The curtain flew up and the show began with the classic School’s Out, followed by Department of Youth and I’m Eighteen in quick succession. Ahh, the 70s.

As Alice, Vincent Furnier has become almost ageless – after he puts the makeup and leather pants on he is barely distinguishable from his alter ego 10 or even 20 years ago. He moves across the stage with the same energy and presence as ever, and the vocals still sound great.

As the show progressed it was interesting to see how old and new songs were seamlessly mixed into stories - Wicked Young Man, from 2000’s Brutal Planet, went with The Ballad Of Dwight Fry from 1971 (the Love It to Death album), and Go To Hell and Guilty (Alice Cooper Goes to Hell, 1976) for his first execution, by guillotine.

The second vignette mixed Welcome To My Nightmare and the wickedly deviant Cold Ethyl from 1975 with the song that propelled Alice Cooper into the consciousness of a new generation in 1989, Poison, and ended with a naughty nurse (Mr Cooper’s own daughter, Calico Cooper) murdering the evil Alice by injecting him with a syringe as tall as herself.

The medical theme continued with Alice re-appearing in a wheelchair for The Awakening, From the Inside (inspired by Alice’s own experiences in rehab), and Nurse Rozetta. The latter song featured Calico applying a grinder to her metal-plated crotch, laughing maniacally as sparks flew across the stage, in a way that is definitely more than just acting – there is no doubt that she shares her father’s love of the theatrical and macabre!

Somehow Calico morphed from evil nurse to battered lover (My Body, Be My Lover) as Alice oh-so-tenderly sang Only Women Bleed to her broken body. She got revenge however, cheered on by the crowd, after Alice was dragged onto a gallows for I Never Cry and she kicked his stool away, killing him for the third time.

Notably Vengeance Is Mine, the song recorded with Slash, was the only song from Alice Cooper's latest release, Along Came A Spider (2008), to be included in the show. With a back-catalogue of 25 studio albums, however, and so many early classics, it's not really suprising that much of the newer material was missed out. Next up, for Diamonds and Billion Dollar Babies, Alice threw strings of beads and rolls of bills to the crowd. Killer ended with him being locked in a box and impaled with spikes – his fourth and final execution of the evening.

The theatre over, sing-along classics I Love the Dead and No More Mr Nice Guy gave Alice Cooper's current touring band members - drummer Jimmy DeGrasso, bass player Chuck Garric and guitarists Keri Kelli and Damon Johnson – a chance to take some of the spotlight. Obviously,  being as legendary as he is, Alice gets to choose top-class players for his entourage and it's really obvious that these young guys are gun performers.

Under My Wheels took the closing song spot, but of course, there was time for an encore, which turned out to be... School’s Out. Yes, for the second time, admittedly with a sparkly change of costume for the main man and confetti-filled balloons being pierced over the crowd with his trademark cane – but an odd choice nonetheless. Still, the crowd didn’t seem to mind – after two-odd hours they were putty in the showman’s hands.

Yep, Alice Cooper did it again.