Milwaukee Journal

Originally Published: September 08, 2000

Cooper keeps metal's kitsch at forefront

Aging shock-rocker treats crowd to classic tunes, Halloween-style stage show

Author: Jon M. Gilbertson

More than anyone, Alice Cooper has proven that anything can fit into a rock 'n' roll show if you: (a) smear it with blood; (b) cover it in face paint; (c) set it on fire; and (d) swaddle it in leather.

That utterly silly, but immensely effective, modus operandi has influenced such incredibly disparate cultural markers as the Flaming Lips' art-bent ultra-weirdness and the S&M predilections of whatever WWF lackey is popular this week.

But, as depressingly displayed by the likes of Marilyn Manson and Slipknot, Alice Cooper still has few equals - or at least that was one good excuse to attend his appearance Thursday night at the Eagles Ballroom in the Rave.

The fans and freaks who filled the lower level and kept the bar busy on the upper level just wanted some classic heavy metal and vaudeville hokum, both of which the Detroit native, whose driver's license reads Vincent Damon Furnier, was fairly happy to provide.

Unlike his most famous shock-rock successors, Cooper has never dealt in doom-laden angst as much as he's served up a Halloween-party version of the same. Although his latest album is titled "Brutal Planet," the set and music he based on that theme contained enough Day-Glo colors and campy melodies to soften any violent implications. Backed by a four-piece band of hair-rock refugees, Cooper treated all rock pretensions as punch lines.

Looking adamantly healthy for a 52-year-old - or perhaps simply having aged into his presentation of himself as a shambling wreck - Cooper pulled out as many tricks as the budget of a non-arena tour could handle.

Swiftly moving through poses from post-apocalyptic warrior to bone collector to straitjacket-bound lunatic, he also choked a nurse, impaled a two-headed monster doll on a samurai sword and shook a pair of maracas (this last indicating how seriously he didn't take himself).

As for songs, Cooper showed plenty of faith in his new material (it sounded not bad, or at least not awful), yet demonstrated enough brains to dispose of it efficiently and get to the crowd-pleasers.

Bobbing-for-body-parts classics like "Feed my Frankenstein" went over well, and even Cooper looked pretty thrilled to tear into the anthem "Eighteen" as though he remained anywhere near that age.

By the time stagehands brought out an executioner to chop off his head, Alice Cooper had practically created a title for his memoirs: "Good Times with Guillotines." To be subtitled: "That's Entertainment."