Globe & Mail

Originally Published: September 04, 1972

Alice Cooper exploits depravity

Author: Robert Martin

It was a rough night for a few members of the press, but a great night for nearly 24,000 howling fans as Alice Cooper, rock's gift to sado-masochism, vamped, crawled, kicked and screamed his way through through a 90-minute set Saturday night at Varsity Stadium.

The privilege the press enjoys of being permitted to stand directly in front of the stage turned out to be a mixed blessing, as several photographers were nearly beheadedby a wildly flailing microphone stand. A CBC sound man came within an inch of having his headphones lifted from his head by the rapier-wielding Alice. During the finale, when several large balloons filled with paper panties were released over the surging crowd, the protective snow fence finally gave way and several newsment were shoved right under the six-foot high stage.

The crowd started pushing forward the moment Alice ??? on stage, wearing a pair of the lowest cut pants this side of a G-string. They were shiny black, skin tight and more or less held up by a white belt with a long-stemmed red rose stick through it. The pants were not quite high enough to cover Alice's athletic supporter and he made certain the crowd noticed the fact by turning his back and snapping it daintily once or twice.

Alice circles his eyes with black makeup and this gives him the appearance of a demented insomniac. Although he probably doesnot, his hair looks as though he combs it with a rake. His favourite expression is a contemptuous sneer with which he mesmerizes thousands at a glance, including Evonne, hie 11-foot long boa constrictor who wrapped himself sinuously around his body while he crooned a tender love ballad.

That is about as tender and loving as the act gets. the rest of the set alternated between Alice's personal anarchy and a more organized pseudo-violence in which the rest of the group participated. At one point the band stopped playing and over a tape of suitable sound effects, performed a street fight loosely based on the gang conflicts portrayed in West Side Story.

Boots flashed, knives slashed, chains whirled and stage blood flowed. When it was all over, Alice, who had supposedly killed someone during the melee, was dragged off and hanged in a Sturm and Drang finish that included thunder and lightning effects. Even the sky co-operated by sending down a dismal drizzle to complete the grim atmosphere.

The audience reaction to thehanging stunt is typical of the ambivalent attitude Alice elicits. Many people looked genuinely horrified by the very realistic-looking hanging; others laughe or howled imprecations such as "Go hang yourself" or "Hey Alice, is it true you're frigid?"

While a lot of people wanted to love him to death, others obviously just wanted to kill the creep. Alice recognizes this fact and exploits it. Before he was hanged, he cried out to the crowd. "You made me do it, didn't you"? The crowd replied, "No." Alice answered, "You paid to see me do it, didn't you?" to which the crowd answered, "Yes." Alice concluded, "Then you made me do it."

Despite the fantasy violence, the mores of the act seem vaguely respectable and middle-class: the murderer, after all, must suffer for his crime. In the realm of sex too, Alice is not quite as off-base as he used to be. His clothes are weird, but not transvestite. His makeup is ghoulish rather than feminine and he only swished for the first few minutes of the show. After that he preened himself in the egocentric style that is characteristic of male rock stars.

Like Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, Alice dominates the show to the extent that one can easily forget the other four members of the group. They are all solid musicians when they play hard rock music that is generally a cut above average and can sometimes rise to greatness.

The problem with the Alice Coper show is the fact that it is difficult to keep reaching new heights, or is it depths of depravity. Perhaps, now that the group's success is assured, the band will now concentrate on evolving from a very good rock group into a great one.