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Originally Published: February 1979
Author: Ray Tomecko
Alice Cooper provided one of the finest concerts the Coliseum has ever seen. The bizarre, electric performance by Cooper was a tour de force in every aspect: staging, direction, choreography and music.
"Madhouse Rock," also known as "The Strange Case of Alice Cooper," was literally born in madness. Cooper committed himself to a sanitarium when he became an alcoholic. This story is told through Cooper's alcohol-crazed eyes via a multimedia show using film, dancers, costumes, great songs and one of the hottest backup bands ever conceived. The band, called the Cold Turkeys, consists of ex-Elton John guitarist Davey Johnstone; Steve Hunter, guitar; Prakash John, a Tony Orlando look-alike who plays bass like Stanley Clarke; Pentti Glan, drums and Fred Mandel on keyboards.
Alice Cooper proves that great art is usually inspired by tragedy, hardship or the grey area just above madness. In fact, Cooper still looks crazy. In each of his songs he describes a single patient at a time, relating his thoughts and warped emotions and how he arrived there. Picking a standout number is difficult since so many are good, but a few showstoppers were "From the Inside," "Nurse Rozetta," a frenzied rocker with four buxom nurses prancing around the stage, and the dreamlike "Only Women Bleed" juxtaposed with a film sequence of a woman dancing. Presumably this was to symbolize the heartache imposed on his wife during his illness.
Other numbers were equally brilliant. A real crowd pleaser was a musical interlude featuring a chase scene through the madhouse. The screen was slitted so people or objects could pass through it. As a person ran through the screen and disappeared from view his image would appear at that instant on the film making it appear that the actor was running into the background. It was beautifully timed and must've taken a hell of a lot of rehearsal.
Before the concert, I was puzzled as to how Cooper was going to play some of his old material and make it fit thematically in the structure of "Madhouse Rock." However, it turned out that many of his older songs fit easily into his concept, songs such as "Welcome To My Nightmare," "No More Mr. Nice Guy" and "Dead Babies." The latter, as you might have guessed, showcased a baby doll ritually dismembered.
After a neatly staged "shock therapy" set, Alice is pronounced cured. As an encore he played a fifteen minute (it should've been longer) version of "School's Out." After telling the captive audience "I know I'm crazy, and I know we're crazy, but Cleveland is all crazy, too," he trotted out the entire production company in a galaxy of costumes with demented bishops, black-stockinged girls with whips and huge gargoyles. Fantastic.
The opening act, The Babys,were not intimidated by what they knew was to follow. They were very, very good. They left the crowd yelling for more after a satisfying set including their new hit, "Everytime I Think of You" as well as their previous biggie, "Isn't It Time."
Soon, the Babys will be headlining to the same size audience. They fully deserve the shot.