Alice Cooper @ Palais Theatre (Melbourne), 27 August 2009

Shock rock royalty Alice Cooper returns to Australia with a new show.

One of the first things I noticed upon arriving at The Palais in St Kilda was the wide assortment of people who gathered to see the shock rock maestro Alice Cooper in concert. I was greeted by an eclectic mix of goths, emos, metalheads, and even the tough bikie types who were milling around alongside the old-school fans and people from all walks of life. Some came to see their idol, while many others just to enjoy the show and find out for themselves what the hype was about. Having never seen Alice Cooper in action, I was in the latter category. However, regardless of age and the degree of obsession with Alice Cooper, everyone was equally hungry and visibly excited - proof that Cooper has remained relevant all this time, and then some.

The night kicked off with an energetic set of quality old-school rock'n'roll courtesy of Melbourne quintet Electric Mary, a fitting and worthy support band. After the intermision, the eager audience patiently waited for the main act to take the stage, filled with tangible ecxitement. Then, the curtain dropped and Cooper and co. immediately ripped into into the seminal 1972 classic School's Out. Alice Cooper, the god of shock rock himself, commanded the stage with the attitude of a seasoned professional, propelling the energy levels in the venue to new heights. As one hell of a frontman, Alice has a huge, electric presence that everyone could feel with their skin. 

 

An Alice Cooper concert is never just a rock show; it's a a full-scale theatrical production, complete with macabre props and stage actors. As a legendary, seasoned perfomer who has been around the traps for the last 40-odd years, Cooper knows what really works on stage. And while the show itself may not as shocking as it was some 30 years ago, he still managed to make the audience jump on a few occasions. It quickly became evident that Alice doesn't need to tailor the live show to cater today's audiences, because shocking or not, it's still as riveting and exciting as it was back in the day.

The Theatre of Death began to unravel as the show gained quickly gained momentum, presenting to the audience a lurid rock opera infused with elements of dark comedy. Fans were treated to the classic Cooper props such as a guillotine, a hangman's noose, and a huge syringe used by an evil nurse (Alice Cooper's daughter Calico Cooper) to "kill" Alice during Poison. For Vengeance Is Mine, Alice donned a creepy spider costume while towering above the stage on some sort of a ladder on wheels contraption. Just as Rammstein use fire as a universal language to communicate with their audience, Alice Cooper uses the potent theatrics to inject life into the music and enchant long-time fans and newbies alike. While there was no particular narrative in the theatrical elements of the stage show, Alice used the props and actors to tell the stories within the songs themselves.

 

So, how does a legendary artist with 25 albums up his sleeve craft a good song list for a one and a half hour set? From the vaults of his impressive back catalogue, Alice had selected a string of memorable classics (including Only Women Bleed, No More Mr Nice Guy and Welcome To My Nightmare) to create an accessible set that could be enjoyed even by people who weren't very familiar with his older works. He also cleverly selected songs with vivid lyrical subject matter that could be effectively integrated into the stage show. At various stages during the gig, Alice sauntered off the stage and handed the audience over to guitarists Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner, who hammered out some impressive extended solos. He saved some of the more harder edged songs (I Love the Dead, Vengeance Is Mine) for the second half of the set.

 

After the encore, Alice ended the concert with a reprisal of School's Out, strutting the stage in a sparkly silver costume and leaving the audience mesmerised.

 

After all these years, it's safe to say age hasn't dulled the quality of Alice Cooper's performance; on the contrary, he is as vibrant as ever, with the ability to effortlessly win over new fans with each show he plays. The excellent sound, outstanding musicianship of the band, and compelling showmanship of all involved made for a highy entertaining and unforgettable experience. Nothing short of spectacular.