St. Petersburg Times

Originally Published: August 10, 1998

For Cooper, the shock is gone but not the rock

CLEARWATER - Twenty-five years ago, Alice Cooper was every parent's worst rock 'n' roll nightmare. With his face, smeared in ghoulish eye shadow, he leered demonically from his album jackets. His concerts were fabled for Cooper's fascination with psycho stage theatrics, which he manifested with guillotines, hangman's nooses, and boa constrictors. But that was then. The passing years unleashed a host of rock weirdos from the anarchist bellowing of Marilyn Manson, making Cooper's stunts of long ago seem like dog and pony acts. The 52-year-old (I sent them an email correcting this) Cooper brought his Rock 'N' Roll Carnival tour Sunday night to Ruth Eckerd Hall for a sold-out show. And just in case anyone is wondering, it's not quite time to throw dirt on him yet. Cooper still rocks, he just doesn't shock.

Looking fit and trim, Cooper hit the stage with a confident swagger. Dressed in skin-tight leather, he sneered and snarled with impressive vigor through fan favorites such as No More Mr. Nice Guy, Poison, Be My Lover and Billion Dollar Babies as the crowd roared its approval. Nearly every song of the night was culled from Cooper's 2 1/2-decade songbook, and many of them remain relevant anthems to the restlessness of youth.

The emphatic Lost In America and I'm 18 still loudly crank out their anguished themes, and Cooper must have been pleased that a contingent of under-20 fans were there to hear them. Cooper no longer hangs his show on elaborate props and stage gimmickry, and some may have been disappointed by their absence. But his animated delivery got the message across. From The Inside offered the audience a glimpse into the singer's wrestling with his own self-destructiveness, but it was the grinding, psycho-dramatic Steven, fleshed out by the solid instrumental work of Cooper's five-piece band, that made it one of the best of the night. Time is not one of rock's kindest allies. But not one of the fans who stood and sang along with fists pumping the air to the hard-rocking School's Out would venture that Cooper's time has passed him by.