New Musical Express

Originally Published: November 18, 1972

Broken Ribs And Fake Blood

Special Review Of The Alice Cooper Concert

Author: Nick Kent

D'You ever see a film called 'The Young Savages'? It starred Burt Lancester as some hokey white liberal politician and a bunch of film-star nonentities most of whom are totally forgettable.

The real meat of the flick hung in the presence of three juvenile-delinquents acne-ravaged sub-literate hoods who hung around various ghettoes, casually cutting up old women, young virgins and almost anyone else who caught their fancy with impressive-looking switch-blade knives.

Jeezus, they looked mean! One of them wore shades and motorcycle jacket, another had a Batman cape and looked like Fabian and the third was ultra repulsive, complete with schizoid eyes and punk debauched features. The thing is, they were all probably clean-living, blueyed boy student actors picked for the role but they looked the part. They looked far more authentic than any of the greased-up dog princes portrayed in "The Blackboard Jungle", or James Dean's "Rebel Without A Cause" or Brando's "The Wild Ones". And they looked more authentic than Alice Cooper.

By now, you should know that the Coopers have dropped their AC-DC pretensions and are now well into good ole ultra-violence. Sure, they come on in satin and gold lame but that's soon dispensed with in favour of more raunchy psuedo-gutter kid threads.

Cooper walks on stage at Green's Playhouse in Glasgow holding a bottle of booze and panting sneers to the audience. The rest of the band are content to strut around the stage in the established macho postures while bassist Dennis Dunaway occasionally tries to imitate the motions of a buffalo on amphetamine.

The first thing you notice is that Cooper is clumsy. He's carrying booze but he's not drunk - he's staggering a little and the stage is much too small. The numbers are predictable - they kick off with "Public Animal No.9", and then it's "Be My Lover" and "Under My Wheels".

The band are tight, musically adequate with the two-guitar set-up keeping safely to those predictable but nonetheless welcome power chords. Then it's the snake routine during "Return Of The Spiders". "Yvonne" curls around Alice's crutch just like it did at Wembley and the Rainbow. (It's at this point that one vaguely wishes that Cooper would come out behind his props and exert some real charisma). But no - a musical interval of "Halo Of Flies" follows with a bass-and-drums battle, identical to the featured on the "Killer" album.

After this comes the real show. Cooper appears with a dust-bin full of rubbish, which he immediately tips over the stage. Now that would have been great if the band had just found some dustbins in the street and brought it in, rubbish and all, but no! The trash was just pieces of cardboard and in fact, it wasn't even a real dustbin. If there is to be this reliance on props, surely couldn't some measure of spontaneity be provided as well. Why didn't Cooper throw the garbage directly at the audience? (Now that would have been real classy).

The band play "Gutter Cats Vs. The Jets" - musically they are never anything less than proficient and usually always exciting - while Cooper plays with a switch-blade knife. The music ends and the band squat in menacing postures around their equipment. A fight follows: guitarist Buxton is cut and there's a big knife-fight between Cooper and drummer Neal Smith. It's good, and looks almost authentic of course, Cooper kills Smith then it's straight into the "Killer" hanging sequence which you must know all about.

Nothing has changed there at all and one still asks oneself how Cooper doesn't break his neck when the platform drops away. The lights go out and there is much fumbling around onstage while the sound system puts over "blasted heath" sound effects.

Then the band burst out with "Elected", which doesn't have the pomp and majesty of the recorded version.

Cooper performs it well - he is always good but seldom great as an actor/performer and this is what leaves me, for one, dissatisfied. Alice Cooper are a fine rock 'n' roll band who make great albums but, live, they leave something to be desired. Not in relation to the breadth of their stage version but in their latently hampered ability to carry the ideas off with an overpowering degree of force and, more important, spontaneity.

Cooper himself just doesn't possess the magnetism of a Jagger and certainly not a Presley. Even someone like Jim Morrison had more of a stage mystique than Alice has and he didn't even have stage props.

I've purposely ignored to talk about the audience up until now, because in many ways they were the real show. From the first moment they were on the chairs - they seemed to be all young kids under 20 - putting out as much energy as the band, but with a difference.

For a start, these Glaswegian brats know more about street fighting than the five middle-class bored American rich-kids collectively known as Alice Cooper ever will.

While Cooper was smearing fake blood on his face, kids with broken ribs were being dragged out of the hall. Cooper's ultra-violent chic, contrasted with the real violence going on amongst the brats, was great rock 'n' roll irony, and the whole scene was beautifully capped during the knife-fight and hanging scenes, when masses of self-conscious peace-signs were thrown in the air. This repartee between the band and the audience culminated in the finest moments of the concert, during the ready-made teenage anthem "School's Out" when Cooper shouted out "Y'know, you're crazier than we are - I think that's why I like you." It probably wasn't a spontaneous comment but it sounded spontaneous and that's really all that mattered.

Ultimately, an Alice Cooper gig should not be judged simply by examining certain aspects at a time. I enjoyed myself, the audience enjoyed itself and the Coopers seemed to enjoy themselves - it was great entertainment even if one is beginning to, perhaps, demand more from Cooper than he is capable of giving.

After the show, it was party time. The main suite of the Central Hotel, Glasgow, was covered with "Alice Cooper in '72" balloons, the waitresses, all middle-aged, wore "Alice Cooper - Elected" straw hats and there were the usual number of jollities in the room.

Cooper minus make-up, plus unshaven feature, dirty neck, tee-shirt, slight beer gut and broken jean-zipper was the perfect gentleman, signing autographs constantly to any idiot who asked for one.

Middle-aged ladies appeared from nowhere to have their napkins signed by the "star" (no one actually knew who he was but he was the reason that they were being kept awake by hordes of screaming dervish-like kids making their presence felt down in the street, so he must be someone).

Glen Buxton was getting outrageously drunk and, at one point in the evening had a cake-fight with Cooper's road manager (it was Buxton's birthday, y'see). Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman did a great constant comedy routine even though they were each sitting on different table and a good time was had by all.

And now a few garbled mumblings from our sponsors: Alice Cooper to pre-pubescent autograph hunter:

"What's your Name?"

Pre-Pubescent cutie with coy abandon and Glaswegian accent:

"Christine".

Alice: "I had a girlfriend called Christine once. (Pause). She's dead now."