Quad-City Times

Originally Published: August 04, 2009

From 'Theatre of Death' to 'spiritual country,' grandstand crowds are in for a wild ride

Author: David Burke

"Theatre of Death," iconic shock-rocker Alice Cooper's newest concert-and-stage spectacle, lives up to its title.

"I think they kill me four times in the show," Cooper nonchalantly said during a telephone interview from Elizabeth, Ind. "If you don't do those things right, you can actually get punctured."

Cooper and company went through two weeks of eight-hour-a-day rehearsals for the tour, which began Friday.

"Theatre of Death," which be performed for only the seventh time Saturday night at the Mississippi Valley Fair, is not a concert. It's more of a stage show, directed by New York director and visual artist Rob Roth.

"He went through my songs and said, 'If I were gonna tell a story, I would take it in four parts. These lyrics are the ones I would use to bring these stories alive,' " Cooper said of Roth, who incorporated 28 of his songs into the show. "Lucky for us, all of the hits were in there. You always want to do all the hits, no matter what the show is. Every single one of the hits is woven into the show."

The first leg of the tour is splitting its time between indoor and outdoor venues, including the grandstand at the Davenport fairgrounds. Cooper said the show can play well in either locale.

"The first thing I do is listen to the show and I go, 'Does this just rock the audience?' " he said. "I'm not talking about the theatrics. Does the music rock the audience? Yeah, it does? Then we're really home free. The theatrics is just icing on the cake."

"Theatre of Death," Cooper said, is as close as he's come to a biographical show.

"It's a journey with Alice Cooper, through delinquency, through the mental hospital, through hell," he said. "Alice kind of takes you through four stages of Alice."

Cooper said he stressed to Roth that he wanted the show to include the unexpected.

"I think anybody who's seen my show in the past 10 years knows the rhythm of my show and they know how it works," he said. "But this is upside-down and backwards. All of a sudden, they're going to be hit with a song that's usually at the end of the show at the beginning of the show."

The cast includes Cooper's five band members, his wife and two daughters, and everyone in the crew.

"I tell them right up front that nobody works for Alice Cooper without somehow ending up onstage," he said. For the stage-shy, he adds, "You've got to get over this."

Cooper said the show is a bigger and better version of his previous tours, including his "Psycho-Drama" jaunt that played at the Adler Theatre in Davenport nearly two years ago.

"I always feel like I have to prove something," he said. "Maybe that's my motivation, the fact that is there is that inner need."

It's also to make a point to his audience, the 61-year-old said.

"I'm sure audiences are thinking they're getting a watered-down Alice Cooper who's 60 years old and 'Isn't it nice he's still up here doing this,' " he said. "They get this show and they go 'That was exhausting.' I want the audience exhausted. I figure if we're exhausted, they should be exhausted, too."

Cooper said he's in better shape at 61 than he was at 30. He credits much of that to giving up alcohol and drugs 28 years ago - "That gave me another life."

The former Vincent Furnier, who legally changed his name in 1973, said that going sober helped separate himself from his creation.

"It used to be a gray area. There was this gray area of who Alice was and who I was. I never knew where he began and I ended," Cooper said. "That was because of the alcohol and that my big brothers in L.A. were Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin and Keith Moon. All the people who burned out at 27 were the people I was kind of looking up to.

"When I got sober, I realized this Alice character, this vile, arrogant villain, doesn't want to live in my world and I don't want to live in his. It's fun to jump into his skin every night for an hour and 45 minutes and kill the audience with being this person that I'm not. When I get offstage, I leave him up there. But trust me, it's fun to play him.

"When that show's over, he's gone."

(Originally appeared on the Quad-City Times on August 4th, 2009.