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Originally Published: September 19, 1999
Author: Dave Veitch
CALGARY -- Alice Cooper was originally designed to be a despicable rock 'n' roll villain; a ghoul you hope to see hang or beheaded before his concerts are through.
Strange, then, that at this point in Cooper's career, you feel nothing but affection for the guy who has a permanent scowl etched on his face.
He's given rock fans 30 years of macabre, over-the-top entertainment, after all, and his show last night at the Canadian Airlines Saddledome suggested the man born Vincent Furnier isn't about to hang up his cobra anytime soon.
Backed by a hotshot hard-rock band, whose members are probably half of Alice's age, the Coop turned in a surprisingly energetic show that had to rely on his immeasurable charisma, as there would be no eye-popping special effects during the evening and no gruesome illusions either.
Perhaps he couldn't sneak the guillotine through Canada Customs. Whatever.
Instead, this G-rated production adopted a carnival motif and featured three clowns who tormented Alice throughout the show. (They also happened to perform all the necessary roadie duties, too).
Cooper -- wrinkly, geezerly and looking more menacing because of it -- played many of his signature trump cards. On Billion Dollar Babies, he teased the crowd with fake money impaled on a sword; on Be My Lover, a live snake was wrapped over his shoulders.
His voice was hoarse -- perhaps the lingering effects of playing in Edmonton the night before -- but he nevertheless sang with great gusto and conviction. You have to admire a 51-year-old performer who can deliver the potentially dangerous line, "I'm 18 and I like it," without coming across as a Peter Panning putz.
Ditto for Cooper's other adolescent anthem, School's Out, and his cover of Elton John's Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting, which closed the show.
His repertoire really did cover most periods of his career. He brought out the disco-tinged title track of From The Inside, his late-'70s concept album about his battle with the bottle; his late-'80s pop-metal era was represented by Love In America, which contains one of the funniest lyrics in Cooper's canon: "I can't get a girl cuz I ain't got a car/ I can't get a car cuz I ain't got a job/ I can't get a job cuz I ain't got a car/ So I'm looking for a girl with a job and a car."
The show had some fine dynamics, too.
At the show's halfway point, Cooper slowed it down for the seminal power ballad Only Women Bleed, and a highly theatrical rendition of Steven, which could have come from an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.
In 1999, the Cooper show doesn't really shock anymore. For the 4,500 fans in attendance last night, the performance likely conjured a more innocent time when a guy with a girl's name who wore makeup, chopped up baby dolls and sang really fine songs could get middle America in a terrible tizzy.
I don't know about you, but I'm glad rock's morbid court jester is still around. And I'm glad they didn't hang him in the end.