Phoenix New Times

Originally Published: January 2000

New Years Eve 1999/2000

Friday night downtown, between the decades-old warehouses and America West Arena, Arrive at Alice Cooper'stown just as "No More Mr. Nice Guy" ends and "Be My Lover" begins. I look this crowd over. If this is supposed to be a masquerade ball, then everyone's come disguised as wealthy middle-aged couples from Scottsdale. Indeed, at 500 clams a pop, it's hard to imagine everyone in this slacker-free zone owning Beck's new CD. There are, however, a handful of people under the age of 16 in attendance, probably because even this shindig's steep ticket price is still cheaper than what baby sitters charge on New Year's Eve. About the youngest people were Alice's backing band, uncontaminated as it was by any "original members." Good thing, too. Since this backing band is the same age as the original Alice Cooper Group in its heyday, they play with the necessary ferocity to keep things from slipping into parody.

Alice, dressed in his swashbuckler's outfit and looking like a cross between Captain Hook and Jamie Farr, is an amiable host, showing enough baby's brains and old man's heart to advise audience members not to drink and drive inside his establishment. He reels off all his customary rockers from "Eighteen" to "School's Out" to "Lost In America" with the consummate menace and urgency that managed to wrestle praise from the notoriously stingy Johnny Rotten in Cooper's recent boxed set. Cynics who wrote Alice off as tame for playing golf and appearing on Hollywood Squares would find the evening's most transcendent moment thoroughly enjoyable: Alice simulates spousal abuse onstage during "Only Women Bleed" while pillars of the community slow-danced in tuxes and evening gowns and people cheer. Whether it's for the music, for Alice's bitch slapping or just the horrific spectacle of it all, it hardly matters.

Just then, for some reason, Guy Lombardo, Mr. New Year's Eve until his death in 1977, pops back into my head. Here was a guy who sold more than 100 million records, had 218 chart singles and 26 number ones (more than Elvis and the Beatles) between 1927 and 1954, the year rock reared its infant head. He was 52 when the hits stopped coming, the same age Alice is tonight. Not only did we thoroughly forget Lombardo, but we blew off electing a New Year's Eve representative to succeed him.

Cooper gets my vote as the next Mr. New Year's Eve, should they ever resurrect that post. First off, with only three minutes to go on the countdown clock, he squeks in his shortest song, "Cold Ethyl," and still manages to beat Dick Clark and his parka up to the roof to count down from 37. Then once the balloons fall from the ceiling, Cooper reclaims "Auld Lang Syne" for those punks in the Royal Canadians, playing it three times the speed Kenny G clocked in at.

For the second set, Alice relives his Spiders days as a Phoenix cover band with triple play of Stones covers, wondering aloud "if the Stones are somewhere doing Alice Cooper songs." Then he polls people on their favorite band, and since no crazed Liverpool assassins are in attendance, Alice proceeds with four Beatles tunes, dedicated to the hospitalized George. It was during "Revolution" that people who've left Celebration 2000 start to congregate outside Cooper'stown, pulling back its black tarps to get a peek inside. All evening, security has not had to tell one patron to step down off the handicap ramp railing. Now there's a gathering mob outside that looks as if it means to turn this into a free festival. Security prevails, but not until some people without passes are ushered in. Maybe the door persons have resurrected Studio 54's "you, you and you" method of natural selection.