Times

Originally Published: September 12, 1975

Empire Pool, Wembley

Author: Philip Norman

Alice Cooper
Empire Pool, Wembley

Alice Cooper started last week by releasing an inflated effigy of unnatural countenance over a portion of the River Thames. The reported cost of the balloon may give comfort to anyone who believes pop music to be affected by the economic blizzard. Last night he moved to the Empire Pool, to perform the stage version of his LP Welcome To My Nightmare, this time enjoying the involuntary assisstance of London Transport. After I had spent nearly an hour on the Bakerloo Line, Alice's nightmare promised only comparative horror.

I trust it is not necessary to explain that Alice Cooper is the alter ego of Vincent Furnier, an American clergyman's son, who has grown famous as a rock performer by harnessing in his audience a seemingly widespread predilection for being nauseated. Boa constrictors, live chickens and plastic babies rent limb from limb have all been numbered among Alice stage properties in the past, and he has further taunted decent society by revealing unabashedly that in private he wears neither underwear nor socks.

Mr Leo Abse, who campaigned against Alice on a previous visit, will be pleased to know that in this production the singer has forsaken snakes and dead babies for terror of a more socially acceptable kind. He is propelled to the front of the stage standing on a brass bedstead, a strangely school-girlish, knock-kneed apparition in red tights, cringing away from dancing figures who issue from a toybox at the side of the stage: mutants, and demons and sheeted ghosts, some of whom I, at least, instantly recognized.

If I sound supercilious, I do not mean to do so. I like Alice Cooper immensly. It is good to find a rock star who is consciously, rather than unconsciously, monstrous. He has exchanged the weary conventions of superstardom for the slightly more unexpected ones of Punch and Judy (as I write this, a gand of skeletons are actually putting him into a toybox). Although both his publicity machine, and his audience strive to overlook the fact, he is rather a good rock singer.

Later in the show, the bed is withdrawn. A large spiders web appears, with two spiders climbing in it. The spiders dance. It is time for The Black Widow, featuring the voice of Vincent Price. I left Wembley in a contented frame of mind. I had not missed the panto this year after all.