Star Phoenix

Originally Published: April 28, 2010

Master showman Cooper delivers raucous spectacle

And so it was that a 62-year-old Christian and avid golfer found himself in Western Canada on a Tuesday night getting his head chopped off, having a lethal injection and hanging by a rope. All in a night's work for Alice Cooper.

In town with Rob Zombie on their Gruesome Twosome tour, Cooper went on first and put on a wickedly good display of theatrical rock. Age was no barrier to the former Vincent Furnier, who proved more than anything that irony improves with age.

No one else who was 16 in 1963 could get away with singing lines like "we're the department of youth" and "I'm eighteen.'' But there's truth there too when it's "I'm a boy and I'm a man." With Alice Cooper, you're always invited in on the joke and even when it gets nasty, you're only a wink, a nod and a tongue-in-cheek away from reality.

Cooper emerged in leather and studs from behind a curtain with the words Theatre of Death emblazoned on it, and proceeded to live up to the billing.

The first three songs were monster hits -- School's Out, Department of Youth and I'm Eighteen. Before long, Cooper had thrown his marching baton into the audience and was bursting huge balloons with a sword -- before running through one of his roadies with it.

Dressed as condemned men with black bags over their heads, the poor guys suffered numerous indignities.

The story evolved, always with Alice as the author of his own misfortune. His first murder led to a straight jacket, then death by guillotine. In the afterlife, he met his corpse bride and then kills her (if that's even possible). Cold Ethyl, the hymn to necrophilia was right in place there. Poison, which got a huge response from the crowd with lots of cellphones pulled out and arms upraised, led to a nasty nurse with a gigantic hypodermic needle.

Cooper hit a few flat notes in the vocals here honking like a Canada goose. Aside from some long, paint-peeling guitar solos by the band which filled in time during costume changes, the most notable thing about the music was it's lack of musicality. The sheer volume ground any kind of melodic adornment off, creating a blunt instrument that just beat you up.

But the sick fun never flagged, not when a death by spikes was still to come, and an appearance in a spider suit from 10 metres above the stage and a final, triumphant showing in blinding silver tux and tails for No More Mr. Nice Guy.

Meanwhile, back in the generation gap, Rob Zombie started his show near press time with an incendiary set that had all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

He started off in a coat and hat -- long, stringy hair flying -- looking like a Civil War corpse just out of the grave.

There were songs too, but the band had hardly scratched the surface with Scum of the Earth by deadline.

(Original published on the Star Phoenix website on April 28th, 2010.)