New Musical Express

Originally Published: February 21, 1976

Alice in Cabaret

Yup, you heard it right

Alice Cooper
Lake Tahoe

Nestled in the scenic High Sierras (made famous by the Humphrey Bogart epic of the same name), Stateline, Nevada, on the equally scenic Lake Tahoe is the home of four resort hotels housing both gambling casinos and music showrooms: The Sahara, Harrah's, Harvey's, Barney's.

It is the kind of town where you can lose at baccarat one minute and then - at the inflated entertainment prices involved - lose at Burt Bacharach the next (Or even win at both as the case may be).

Understandably, few rock acts of any calibre had been imported (Major among them having been John Denver and Blood, Sweat and Tears), as why the hell would the house wanna wager on either the middle-aged casino regulars going for any of this hippie-dippie teenage nonsense or the younger skiers coming down out of the hills with sufficient funds still in their ski pouches (and a pair of pants other than the verboten jeans)? Kind of a conservative joint - on the surface at least...

Well why this year the Sahara Tahoe's got a dead week to kill just before the big Christmas season gets underway so - what the heck - why not gamble on something less than a longshot (I mean what the heck, showbiz is showbiz). And so whom do they sign but Alice Cooper! Maybe figuring his mannered weirdness ain't too far a cry from their own (especially with Vincent Price thrown in as an opening night guest star). While from the other direction Alice and company can't help but see this as an easy audition for the real bigtime of Las Vegas, closer to L.A., so there's no worrying about the vagaries of snow interfering with the year-round operation. Like, if Elvis and Cher can headline there then why the hell not Vincent Furnier (i.e. Alice), who grew up in the Southwest anyway and must've entertained such dreams from time to time even while starring in high school track.

And since Alice's recent musical dreams have all been nightmares anyway, what do they do but bring Welcome to My Nightmare to the High Sierra Theatre lock, stock and barrel, the whole shootin' match recently retired from national tour.

The stagiest conglomeration of rigmarole he's ever pieced together, just one show-stopper of a prop after another from beginning to end; giant spider webs for giant black widows, dancing skeletons and gargoyles, a Cyclops out of some grade-D Japanese monster flic, a stuffed fake blonde female for Alice to kick around and abuse, moving coffins with choreographed protuding protqding... y'know, the whole gamut of soft and simulated horror/violence/sex without even dead babies or guillotines anymore. Not even a flash of crimson during "Only Women Bleed". Nothing whatever to upset even the most uptight or squeamish.

A definite Bicentennial act.

Also noticeable was the total absence of that one-famous Alice Cooper volume. Alice himself hadda be heard so the PA was up a few serrated notches for him but his basic rock section of mere hirelings (mostly musicians from Lou Reed's Berlin tour) couldn't be heard too often above all the horns and such brought in to give the act a Gilbert and Sullivan aura.

(In this regard a member of the band - who wishes to remain anonymous since a gig is still a gig - mused at the opening-night party, "The sound was horrible, wasn't it? I mean like nobody could really even hear what I was playing, even the other people onstage, I know because in rehearsal I'd do all these different things, change the treble, play with the bass, and nobody notice. Our music is meant to be heard and felt, at high volume.")

A few decent oldies were thrown in for good measure ("I'm Eighteen" and "School's Out" actually momentarily succeeded in getting the blasé paying customers off), and the "magic screen" brought into play for "Escape" was technologically not-half-bad; but the general impression following the short uninspired encore was one of thinly disguised disappointment. A Vegas audition apparently passed with flying colours (sellout after nightly sellout at 15 dollars a head, no drinks or dinner) but he coulda thrown just a little bit more genuine excitement the stew without throwing it all away. Y'know?

Richard Meltzer

Bob Hope's golfing partner, Alice Cooper, recently played a fun trick on his girlfriend. For a birthday surprise he decided to deliver a horse to her apartment. On arrival, it didn't fit in the lift, so Alice galloped it up the back stairs into the flat. With no sense of occasion, the horse proceeded to kick shit out of the furniture and an anxious Alice had to call in a team of vets to subdue the animal and remove it from the building...