(May 03, 1979)
Originally Published: May 03, 1979
Author: Lloyd Sachs
International Amphitheater, Chicago
March 4th, 1979
The main problem with Mad House Rock, Alice Cooper's latest heavy-metal/vaudeville extravaganza, is that there isn't anything slightly mad about it. The new show, which jokes about Cooper's much-publicized stay in a psychiatric ward for treatment of alcoholism (ha-ha), is full of bits Cooper fans have come to expect, including an "electrocution," a Cyclops, giant dancing liquor bottles and a frantic silent movie that Cooper runs in and out of. But everything is so calculated and so passionless, one finds himself actually wishing for the considerably juicier cartoon heroics of Kiss.
If there was ever a time when Cooper's brand of mock S&M had any black-humour bite to it - and I don't think the best of his shows ever did justice to the best of his music - that time has passed. Now, Alice is content to play Lovable Entertainer, parodying his own parody and, in the process, reducing himself to the banal level of his Hollywood Squares cronies. Nothing worse can be said about his "dead babies" routine than that it has become a frightful bore.
Cooper's latest album, From The Inside, is the basis for much of the show (vintage numbers like "School's Out" and "I'm Eighteen" are squeezed in as well), and it does have it's moments; the title track in particular is catchy and forceful. But Mad House Rock has little of the inventiveness of past productions, and as competent as it is, Cooper's current touring band (which features guitarists Steve Hunter and Davey Johnstone) is not as punishingly convincing as past Cooper groups.
For some reason the Cooper people chose to play the Doors' first album over the P.A. system before the Chicago show, timing it so that Jim Morrison's eerie "The End" immediately preceded Cooper's first song. A more misguided strategy could not have been employed: after listening to Morrison wrestle with his demons, could anyone have taken Cooper's contrived traumas at all seriously? The answer was provided when Cooper, in introducing one song, said, "Sometimes I drink more than I need to." Sadly enough, the remark drew the heartiest cheer of the night.