Originally Published: September 20, 1975
Author: Allen Jones
Alice Cooper's "Welcome To My Nightmare" extravaganza which was given its English premiere last Thursday at London's Wembley Empire Pool, threatened occasionally, to submerge itself beneath the weight of it devious, if spectacular, effects. Reports from America had suggested that this most recent of Cooper's outrageously exploitative ventures was little more than a cheap, though undeniably ornate, variation on quintessential Cooper obsessions, slicked up with some quasi-sophisticated choreography and elaborate theatrics.
The reports proved accurate, but what they somehow contrived to omit was the fact that "Welcome To My Nightmare", despite its excessive show business trappings, is an extremely effective and genuinely amusing experience. I haven't laughed as much since I read the lyric sheet which accompanied the last Greenslade album.
It may yet end up as a Las Vegas attraction - indeed it seems certain to take Alice to Crystal City in the near future - and it would perfectly suit that city's contrived sense of entertainment. Still, that seems no reason to condemn the production. Similarly, though little of Cooper's former, artificial delinquency and posturing dramatics is evident in "Welcome To My Nightmare" this shouldn't be taken as an indication that he's lost any of his vitality.
That strangled parrot screech which passes for a voice is as distinctive as ever, and his new band, led by guitarists Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner, provide a more adequate musical backdrop for the complex visuals. "Cold Ethyl", "Black Widow" and "Devil's Food" were all performed with an urgency which is to be found nowhere on the album around which this production is based.
There were one or two musical lapses however. The version of "I'm Eighteen", one of the few classics in the Cooper repertoire, was something of an abortion, failing complete to match the original. Hunter and Wagner's guitar battle was also a momentary aberration and an unnecessary interruption.
It was quite predictably, the visual spectacle which dominated the evening.
The production was perfectly choreographed, and the entire operation executed with great precision. If that quality emphasized the formularization of the entertainment it should be observed that it was at the expense of the less than perfect presentation of one usually expects at rock concerts that the pace and excitement of this show was maintained. And, there was always Alice as a point on contact, swashbuckling his way across the stage, more acceptable in this role than as any purveyor of post-Dallas American neuroses.
"Welcome To My Nightmare", then, despite one's initial trepidation and some indifferent material, proved to be a fairly memorable concert. And even an astoundingly mediocre set my the (Heavy Metal) Kids - couldn't detract from the power of Cooper's climax when he raced through "School's Out" and "Department Of Youth" to a near hysterical reaction from the audience.