Post Dispatch

Originally Published: March 29, 1988

Alice Cooper Is Still The Freak Show Maestro

Author: David Surkamp

Rock singer Alice Cooper appeared at the Fox Theatre on Tuesday evening in a ghoulish exhibition of horror-show bravado. Undoubtedly rock music's last bastion of musical theater, the Cooper performance was a seamless blend of heavy rock and high-tech drama on a superlative scale.

At "thirtysomething," I've watched Alice Cooper's career go from an early performance at Rainy Daze Teen Club in my high school days, to a mid-period oddity at the Arena Annex, to the platinum glory of his "Billion Dollar Babies" tour and on to his current sensational comeback. It couldn't happen to a stranger guy, or more talented entertainer.

As expected, Cooper's stage production retains all the inviting qualities of a gallows.

The show included cameo appearances by contemporary horror figures, including Freddy Krueger from "Nightmare on Elm Street" and Jason from "Friday the 13th." There was also Alice's beheading by guillotine and a surgical episode by way of onstage video to explain the singer's demented condition. Throw in a few giant confetti-filled balloons, overhead strands of bondage chains, and Cooper had all the props needed for a dream date in the "Twilight Zone."

The program kicked off with no-holds-barred renditions of "Trash" and "I'm 18." And although Cooper had a typically top-notch backing group of instrumental wiz-kids, it was impossible to keep one's eyes from the freak show maestro himself.

The show featured a careful balance between classic Cooper material, such as the lovely "Only Women Bleed," to current hits such as "Poison." In any case, the lyrical content of old and new material is a small point, since all of his songs retain the singer's singular twisted vision.

Certainly there was never a dull moment from start to finish, but then Cooper has mastered the art of thrill-a-minute stage production. Still, it was hard to improve on the set-closing barrage of "School's Out" for sheer intensity.

Now maybe I'm getting overly tolerant, or perhaps the act is improving after almost a year on tour, but the opening set by the rock quintet Danger Danger was a remarkable improvement over a previous performance at Mississippi Nights.

The group still has nothing original to offer and its material is hopelessly cliched. But credit where credit is due, one cannot help but notice how much tighter the group is overall.