Des Moines Register

Originally Published: April 28, 1978

Alice Cooper's Rock Theatre Not Too Tacky

Author: Jim Healey

As rock theater, Alice Cooper's show at Veterans Memorial Auditorium here Thursday was, as they say, not too tacky.

A music purist would, however, have been disappointed. And that is surprising, considering Cooper's quintet, which featured guitarists Davey Johnstone and bassist Dee Murray from Elton John's first studio band. Cooper himself in an interview before the show promised no "light weight rock." It was not, but neither was it progressive, meaty, challenging rock.

As music, the show ranks on the high side of average; good but not great.

As a show, though, it earned a higher slot. Cooper and his crew of dancers and musicians made good use of costuming and props, choreography and lighting, film and sound to stir up a blend of fantastic and outrageous nightmare.

Because of their costuming and their focus on the entire "show" or package, two other groups suggest themselves as standards for comparison - Kiss and The Kinks. Cooper's "King of The Silver Screen" is substantially superior to the former, but not nearly as good as the latter.

The Kinks have a less encumbered stage show and more finely honed rock'n'roll to offer. Kiss' show is a bit splashier, but it has no redeeming musical qualities.

The production here Thursday was Cooper's first "dry" show, the first concert he has given since checking into the hospital nearly a year ago for treatment of alcoholism. Perhaps later in the 10-stop tour the elements will fall together to provide a crisper package than the 9,000 fans at the auditorium were given.

Musical highlights included "Black Widow," and "Only Women Bleed," a ballad.

In each, the dancers and props provided the finishing touches. "Black Widow" featured Cooper's lightfooted quartet, which he calls the Earoff Dancers - "just because it sounds Russian" - dressed as spiders who swirled and attacked singer Cooper. This took place in front of a web of thick rope that dangled from a truss in front of the band.

At one point, Cooper tried climbing the web to escape the deadly spiders, but failed. The spiders and Cooper failed at each other, and he drove off all but one. She dived at him and they tumbled onto the stage as Cooper sang "black widow!"

"Only Women Bleed" featured a cloth projection screen in place of the web. As Cooper sand, a film began, showing his wife Sheryl, a professional dancer, executing ballet maneuvers to the words. Suddenly, Ms. cooper appeared onstage in a puff of smoke and danced with her filmed likeness as Cooper made a show of verbally and physically abusing her.

he finally beat her down and at first gloating in song: "Only women bleed." Then, as realization crept across his face, he ran back to the inert form and the crow became lament: "Only women bleed."

Many of the skits were like that one in the Cooper, typically the villain, paid for his misdeeds and selfishness. And perhaps that highly moral stance reflects the family background of Cooper, nee Vincent Damon Furnier, the son of a Methodist minister.

A trick used with good success had to do with the cloth movie screen that was lowered in front of the band. The screen was composed of cloth strips, and the show was choreographed so that as a screen character ran forward toward the audience, the real-life counterpart would burst through the cloth strips onto stage and pick up the action.

Only one prop - the guillotine - failed to work smoothly. Cooper's "I Love The Dead" calls for him to be the guest of honor at a beheading. But as the evil-looking blade dropped, the phony head let loose too soon and fell into the waiting basket before the cutting edge reached it.

All these antics, according to Cooper, are to be regarded as a joke, not taken seriously. "I've kind of got a Barnum and Bailey attitude; give the audience what they want. I know they want to see Alice's head cut off... We certainly make fun of ourselves in the show. I'm the biggest butt of the jokes in my own show," Cooper said.