September 7, 2000
Story by Tony BonyataAfter more than 30 years of shocking audiences with his macabre blend of B-movie horror theatrics, Hollywood show biz schmaltz and hard rocking anthems, Alice Cooper is back at it again - guillotine, guts and all.
Photos by Phil Bonyata
Cooper's early career, which began with his 1969 release, Pretties For You, not only predated glam rock, heavy metal and punk, but helped pave the way for the lot of them. His singles from the early '70s, such as "I'm Eighteen," "School's Out," and "Billion Dollar Babies" all became anthems for disillusioned, rebellious youth. Although he's seen more than his share ups and downs since those days (one listen to his early '80s work, such as the dismal Flush The Fashion, will attest to that), Cooper (aka Vince Furnier) has, nonetheless, succeeded in keeping his monster alive with a live show that holds the same lurid attraction as a medieval public execution.
Cooper brought his dark circus with him to Milwaukee's Rave nightclub last Thursday evening in support of his latest album, Brutal Planet. With a stage set that resembled a mad scientist's post-apocalyptic gothic laboratory, the 52 year-old showman, clad in a long red leather overcoat, trademark running mascara and long black hair with a red crucifix attached to the back of his head, slunk his cadaverous frame onto the stage with the same unnerving, in-your-face attitude that gave us older folks the 'willies' back in '71 when we first saw the noose slip around his neck on Don Kirschner's Rock Concert.
With a monstrously powerful new band, Cooper broke into new songs from Brutal Planet such as the pounding metal of "Blow Me A Kiss," before running through late '70s numbers like "Go To Hell" and "It's Hot Tonight." But although more than half of the show was newer music, it was apparent that the predominately older crowd was there to hear the songs they grew up with. Not one to disappoint, Cooper and henchman unearthed these older cuts, such as "Elected," "Billion Dollar Babies," "School's Out," "No More Mr. Nice Guy" and "I'm Eighteen," and injected new life into them with a heavier slab of metal. He even dusted off his signature ballad "Only Women Bleed," as well as delivering an energized cover of The Who's "My Generation," stutters and all.
The over-the-top, theatrics that his audience has come to expect were presented in full force. Skewered two-headed monsters, bondage queens, skulls, fog, disemboweled body parts and the 'piece de resistance' act where an executioner beheads Cooper in a guillotine all were greeted with enthusiastic cheers. One of the few props from his past that was missing from his show was his loving embrace with a live boa constrictor.
Although Boa-less, Cooper made up for it with his own slithery, snaky stage presence that proved both commanding and creepy as ever - a cross between a turn-of-the-century apothecary barker, Saturday afternoon cable television horror host and rock-n-roll extremist. And although his shock-rock antics helped usher in a coven of hardcore disciples such as Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie, Cooper's ghastly guise is really no more horrific than a Halloween Ball filled with dark themes, fun people, scary costumes and spiked punch. Whereas Manson and Zombie take their demonic personas a little too seriously, Cooper knows when, and when not, to don the mask. Churchgoer, avid golfer and successful businessman (he's owner of Cooper'stown - a rock and sports themed restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona that's doing so well he's planning on expanding locations to 3 other major cities), Cooper manages to leave his costume and rock persona on the stage and balance other, more normal, interests into his personal life.
He may have turned into a model citizen offstage since his glory / gory days of the '70s, but thankfully for the late 30-something crowd at the Rave that had their fists clenched in the air, screaming, "I'm eighteen, and I like it!", their old monster, Alice, had once again been brought back to life.
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