Boston Globe

Originally Published: October 1987

Alice Cooper Still A Spectacle

Author: Jim Sullivan

What goes around comes around: Alice Cooper is back, and if he's not as BAD as he once was, he's a little bloodier. Or, at least, his props are. At the conclusion of "Dead Babies," Cooper swung his mighty axe and decapitated the "woman" who was walking toward him, "baby" in arms. Fake blood spurted a good 20 feet from her neck into the front rows - so much for audience participation. The Splatter genre crosses over from cinema to rock n' roll.

The Alice Cooper Show, circa '87, is certainly a spectacle, a curious spectacle. Cooper said recently he sees him self becoming "the Stephen King of rock n roll," and he probably is - for all the good and bad that implies. The "good" is that he's very at home with horror. Cooper inhabits a host of evil characters and he was on a theatrical rampage most of the night, skewering this, hacking up that, trading whippings with a scantily clad dominatrix type. His new centerpiece was "Chop, Chop Chop"/"Gail," about a killer who tracks a woman named Gail. Then, with a macabre sense of humor he shifted into "Only Women Bleed," once a ballad about emotional bloodletting, now...well, you get the picture.

Cooper did, of course, pay for his crimes: The death march was played, a gallows was wheeled to center stage and after the crowd chanted "Hang him! Hang Him" - hey, we're all in on this together - the trap opened and Cooper dropped. But not to worry, Cooper was back in white hat and tails, whipping up the nyah-nyah nastiness on "School's Out." Cooper broke character only once - by smiling at bassist Steve Steele when a balloon he was trying to toss into the crowd exploded prematurely.

The downside of all this is that Cooper seems more distanced from his material than he once did, and some of the horror schtick seems only like a cheap thrill. There's little feeling that things might REALLY break out of control. And if you want to talk about rock n' roll as horror-show stuff, there are other bands playing the game more convincingly - the Cramps, the Swans, Wiseblood and Metallica to name four. The most obvious flaw is a simple one: Cooper was once working with a better set of songs - the "LITD," "K", "B$B", "SO" period. Last night he performed the best-known tunes from those albums and a batch of newer, but less striking selections.

Another hitch: Given the duration of Cooper's career - 19 albums! - the length of the concert, 75 minutes, including an encore, was pretty paltry. Cooper's backing quintet, a capable outfit fronted by muscular guitarist Kane Roberts, treated most of Cooper's material as heavy metal. Their 747 roar drained the pop blood out tunes such as "I'm Eighteen" and "Is It My Body."

Afore mentioned flaws aside, Cooper pretty much gave the 8,000 or so persons what they came for - a crunching hard rock show, a taste of blood, and a lot of organized mayhem. If Cooper's show didn't have the ferocious edge of shows past, maybe that has to do with perspective. In 1971, "Dead Babies" was a controversial item - a song in which Cooper took on the role of baby killer and hacked up helpless little plastic dolls while parents gaped in horror. Now, "Dead Babies" is nostalgia - like seeing "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" again, sighing, and saying, "Ah, those were the days, my friend."

Frehley's Comet canceld out - "sickness" given as the explanation. Faster Pussycat opened with a set of by-the-book Hollywood heavy metal. Lots of fire and flash; no brains.