Telegraph

Originally Published: July 13, 1997

Alice thrusts again Rock

"I SAW Baz last night," shouts Mert over the rumble of the support band. "Yeah. He's had his hair cut and he's wearing normal clothes." Mert, on the other hand, is wearing Alice Cooper-type PVC trousers, a gigantic Alice Cooper belt-buckle and a remarkably well-preserved Seventies heavy metal haircut.

The Astoria itself is getting to be a 1970s museum-piece, with its black and purple warrens of levels and bars. And when he comes on, Alice Cooper is as unreconstructed as his venue and audience.

He lashes at the microphone with a riding crop, holds the crop between his teeth like a black leather rose, then hurls it into the crowd. They seethe around it while the band belts out the driving opening rhythms of Under My Wheels.

More costume-changes than Tina Turner, more props than Kiss, more stage drama than a Punch and Judy show - Alice Cooper established his winning formula 28 years ago, and he's not about to change it now.

For the most part, his songs are penny-dreadfuls - glam rock melodrama, with lyrics that sound like something put together by a teenage Swedish metal band ("School's out. / School's been blown to pieces. / School is out, completely").

But music isn't what makes Alice Cooper a pleasure to see live. Cooper is a showman, a Barnum and Bailey stagemaster. With some agility, he leaps up on to the monitors and reduces the crowd to hysteria with a series of pelvic thrusts to the rhythm of I'm Eighteen ("I get confused every day / I just don't know what to say").

Capering around the stage, he is a shaggy, camp figure in velvet and PVC, dipping into dustbins full of props. The riding crop is followed by a Byronic rapier, a crutch, a top hat and cane and any number of other pointedly phallic objects. As the show develops, the props are joined by set-piece dramas - a streetfight for Cooper's cover of Bernstein's when You're a Jet, a lunatic asylum scene for Welcome to my Nightmare.

The show largely follows the track order of Cooper's new "Best of" album, A Fistful of Alice (EMI). Even the bouncers are mouthing along as they oust crowd-surfers from the pit. The crowd noise goes up a level every time Cooper changes his outfit, stripping down from Byronic frills to Fagin trenchcoat, and finally to bare-chested rock star.

But already the one-night show is over; the circus is leaving town. The crowd noise stays up, though, although it doesn't bring Alice back. Pelvis has left the building.