Kerrang!

Originally Published: March 10, 1982

Welcome To The Nightmare

Author: Mama Luton

Alice Cooper - Hippodrome Paris (6/2/82)

Rock fashion being the cyclic thing it is, it was perhaps inevitable that there should be a resurgence of interest in Alice Cooper. Adam Ant claims him as hero and inspiration, while the concept of 'putting on a show' as opposed to simply playing gigs has never been more fashionable. Ol' Snake Eyes could scarcely have chosen a better time to reconquer Europe, and on the strength of this show and the fact that his planned UK dates are almost sold-out, I'd say that is precisely what he is going to do.

Special Forces are Alice's band these days, and an unlikely-looking crew of desperadoes they are. They all sport combat gear, apt enough as they are obviously musical mercenaries - the very best, hardest and tightest rock players money can buy. Against their macho chorus, Alice himself comes as a bit of a shock: the guy is actually about as menacing as the singer out of Soft Cell.

The dramatics, both with props and Alice's Liza Minelli-like projection, are superb. In 'Guilty', he makes mock confession with a derisory "Everything you ever heard about me - I musta done it," bearing that out by producing, on 'Eighteen', the snake. Now you and I both know that the poor little critter has had half it's backbone whipped out to make it safe, but the sight of the damn thing wrapped around Alice Cooper's head is still quite something, believe me.

One of the real triumphs of the set is the staging of 'Only Women Bleed'; after beating around a female dummy clad in black underwear on the previous number and throwing her to the ground, he picks her up tenderly in his arms, cradling the limp body as he croons the song. Beams of white light shower down on him from overhead, while a single spotlight picks out the rag-doll couple in stark, cold blue. Brilliant.

'No More Mr Nice Guy' and Alice is cranking up into high gear, prancing like a camp marionette while the band thunder away behind him. 'Under My Wheels', from 'Killer', with its Stones guitar, is a classic rock song that still sounds diamond hard some 10 years on. While 'I Never Cry' has the old ham emoting away like crazy, and it works.

'Billion Dollar Baby' is a heavy metal tango, one of the Armed guitarist neatly kicking a left-over prop out of the way for Alice to strut his magnificently sick stuff. Leather jacket and cane on now as we head for the finale, the sound and lights as startling clear and hard a they have been all through the lengthy show. The climax of the whole shebang involves the tricoleur, stars and stripes and a lot of whipping up of nationalistic sentiment (y'know, patriotism), with several thousand demented young Frog sprogs going collectively apeshit to an HM 'Marsoillaise'. "God Bless America!" screams Alice as he prepares to quit the stage. "God bless France!" Massive cheers. Alice smiles out at his adoring audience, arms outstretched. "And God bless... Me!" The exit takes your breath away.

Encore, naturellement, is 'School's Out'. Played as pure panto and fronted by Alice in tweed cap and Marilyn T-shirt, looking uncannily like Patty Smith. (Now that's what I call a real horror show.) Alice's nightmare wonderland isn't the kind of place you'd want to live, but it sure is great to visit.