Entertainment Design

Originally Published: January 01, 2003

Only Britney Bleeds: Alice Cooper in the UK

Who needs Ozzy Osbourne - or any of the Osbournes, for that matter? The real F***ing Prince of Darkness, Alice Cooper, is bloodying up the road right now with his usual array of heavy metal mayhem, and can currently be found devouring Europe with his Dragontown world tour.

Lighting designer Mick Thornton has designed a surprisingly colorful show that illuminates a stage act encompassing everything from baby massacres to strait-jacketed lunatics being hauled off to the asylum. The pice de resistance is the nightly ritualized guillotining of Britney Spears - Alice doesn't much like her, apparently - as played by his daughter Calico. Rob Roth designed the set, built by Colorado-based Distortions, which features something called a Rejuvenator chamber, plus an assortment of macabre props and body parts. (Roth also serves as the show's choreographer.)

Bandit Lites UK is supplying the king of horror-rock theatre with the lighting rig for the tour; it's a three-truss system, with each truss hinged in several segments and raked for an anarchic appearance. The fixtures are based around a moving light core of Martin MAC 500s and MAC 300s which are the workhorses of the show. There are 24 six-lamp bars for some PAR can overkill, featured most specifically in the show's gruesome second half, plus Martin Atomic strobes, four-light Moles, a plethora of single floor PARs, some ETC Source Fours, and four smoke machines to provide suitably eerie atmosphere. Thornton runs the show from an Avolites Diamond 2 console.

Cooper himself gets very involved with the show at conceptual stages, but also allows everyone their creative space. Thornton and Roth completed a week of production rehearsals and programming in Phoenix, AZ - Cooper's home turf - before the tour hit the US, with lights operated by Kent Schafferman, as Thornton had other commitments. This leg was serviced by Bandit USA.

FOH sound engineer Steve Toth has worked with Cooper for six years and also tour-manages. He has a sonically eclectic batch of acts under his belt from industrial metal band Nitzer Ebb to the stylistically camp Erasure. He approaches Cooper's sound from an electronic angle rather than a metal one. The European audio features a full Nexo rig brought over from the US, where it is supplied by Thunder Audio from Detroit, who struck a great deal to make this a financially viable option.

Toth uses a Yamaha PM4000 out front, which he also likes for its hands-on capabilities, and the outboards are primarily Behringer. His favorite toy is a TC2290 delay. "It's a bit old-school, but I really don't get bogged down with effects," he explains. Four out of the five band members are all on IEMs, Cooper uses a wireless Shure mic, and monitors are mixed by Kevin McCarthy using a Midas Heritage 3000.