Sounds

Originally Published: January 12, 1974

Alice, and the babes roar back

Vince Furnier and company made their long-awaited return to Toronto in front of about 16,000 people at Maple Leaf Gardens. Dry ice, snakes and beheadings - yes, Alice Cooper and his Billion Dollar Babies are back on the road for a short tour, bringing the spirit of Christmas and New Year to one and all.

Texan boogie band Z.Z. Top are supporting them this time around, prodding the audiences towards a frenzied excitement with their solid if simple rock and boogie.

The three hombres from Texas played lots of foot-stompers from their most recent album "Tres Hombres" - "Waitin' For The Bus" followed by "Jesus Just Left Chicago" and "Beer Drinkers And Hell Raisers" - with Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill trading licks and pushing each other towards greater heights of gutsy power.

It's hard to get involved with stinging solos and brawling, sturdy bottleneck when you are hundreds of yards away, but the lively guitarist in the cowboy hat was the focal point that kept people's interest on the stage.

With powerhouse sets like this, there's no way they will ever play in small clubs again, so we might as well get used to it. They encored with "Jailhouse Rock" and closed with "La Grange," a John Lee Hooker/Canned Heat-style boogie, amplified, pulled apart and relaunched in the usual torrents of electricity.

"Hell Hurray," and Alice Cooper are finally on the stage in sailor suits and clouds of smoke from the dry ice. "I've been waitin' so long" took on an ironic meaning after the interminable delays caused by equipment hassles.

A short medley of big hits peaked the excitement with the typical guitar runs and insistent chords of "Billion Dollar Babies" and "Elected" slashed out by a crew of nine - Alice singing, drums, keyboards, bass and three guitars, and to top it off two aluminum statues.

"I'm Eighteen" got the biggest cheer of all, recalling Alice's first triumph in Toronto over two years ago, when the act centred on "Love It To Death" and went no further than a straightjacket in an insane asylum. In those days the act seemed weird enough, but can you imagine what the disappointment would be if there were no killings?

All lined up like a chorus of perverted sailor-boys, the band introduced a few cuts from the just-released "Muscle Of Love" album. The material was too new to receive much recognition and the lack of instantly recognizable refrains made is all seem very ordinary.

The sharp, cold guitar riffs and half-growled vocals were still there, combined with a new interest in melody which served only to dilute the attack, and overall something seemed to be missing.

Things were set right again when Alice performed a surrealist cartoon fantasy with a giant lady tooth a phallic toothbrush. After a period of darkness and taped orchestral omens, he reappeared with a writhing snake as a prelude to the climax of the Killer/Babies story.

He dismembers a doll to the tune of "Dead Babies" and then embraces the body of a manikin strewn about the stage as he sings "I Love The Dead." Straight from infanticide to necrophilia - good show, eh?

Naturally Alice gets his due and is beheaded by a hooded executioner in a puff of smoke. Applause all round, and Alice reappears in top hat and tails for a little more aggression in "School's out," and finally a short encore.

Musically the show was nothing special, but when the cast came out one by one for their last bows they were given a good cheer. To the horror of one and all, Santa Claus came out as "Deck The Halls" boomed out of the loudspeakers - what's happening, are the Coopers going soft?

Fortunately, the band picked Santa up, mudded him and pulled him offstage - now that's the Alice Cooper we've all come to know and love!


Alice Cooper: "Teenage Lament '74" (Warner Bros.)

Following on the heels of Sweet and the Bay City Rollers it has to be admitted that dear Alice sounds just a tiny bit old-fashioned. Last year's shocker can easily be this year's joke. He sounds mild, mellow - you can almost imagine him bouncing kiddies on his knee.

Adapted from the LP track - you know, the one with Liza Minelli and Princess Anne doing some session singing for old times sake - it opens with some nice, slightly Shadows-y guitar. Although it's quite catchy tune and there's a guitar break that slides nicely back into another chorus from the singers, it still sounds about as aggressive and outrageous as The Radio Times and is ultimately rather dull.

A month or so ago I took all the T. Rex records out of the Youth Club disco box - last week I took out the Alice Coopers. No call for them, you see. It must mean something.