Toledo Blade

Originally Published: September 06, 2000

Cooper blends camp with killer rock

The guillotine is back. What more could anyone want from an Alice Cooper concert?

After a couple of relatively low-key tours, the master of rock theater put everything - including his neck - in concert last night before 1,600 fans at the Stranahan Theater.

With his eyes painted black, wearing black gloves, and wielding a sword, a whip, and a riding crop, Cooper stalked through the carnage of his Brutal Planet Tour stage, pausing to pick up bones and body parts and two-headed mutant babies. Backing him up was a killer musical quintet with enough firepower to flatten anything in its path.

It's been more than 30 years since Cooper made his debut, and the lines have formed on his face and hands, but he is still the same outrageous and unabashed showman who knows how to mix potent rock 'n' roll with fascinating visuals.

The introduction featured a half-man, half-machine warning the audience of a "sadistic maniac." Cooper then made his entrance, silhouetted amid a cloud of smoke, climbing onto an elevated platform in the rear and singing the title song to "Brutal Planet," a menacing invitation to his post-Armageddon world.

Cooper doesn't sing as much as talk his way through the songs, with a sinister snarl and crystal-clear enunciation. He acts out the lyrics with hand gestures and body motions, always accompanied by crushingly loud but impeccably precise rock 'n' roll.

He roared through another new tune, "Gimme," before striking up an old favorite, "Go To Hell," the crowd basking in the familiarity of this heavy-metal classic.

Another new tune, "Blow Me a Kiss," showed that Cooper still can write powerful rockers with deft wordplay and social commentary, as he follows the line "blow me a kiss" with "then blow me away."

And although Cooper appears to be in top physical shape for his age, he is not unaware of the irony of singing his 1970 hit, "I'm Eighteen," during which he directed his band by using a crutch as if it were a conductor's baton.

About halfway through the 90-minute concert, Cooper escaped from a straitjacket only to be locked into a guillotine. The blade came down, blood splattered about, and the masked executioner held a dummy Cooper head aloft as the band sang "I Love the Dead."

Later, after the musicians strutted their stuff with an instrumental segment that included the drummer doing a solo with flaming sticks, Cooper re-entered from a Frankenstein-like chamber, rubbed his neck, and sang, "No More Mr. Nice Guy."

It was campy but fun, the kind of rock theater that is done with a wink and a smile and an earth-shaking power chord.

Opening the show was Sinomatic, an impressive hard-rock quintet from Cleveland that will soon be releasing its debut disc on Atlantic Records. Let's hope Sinomatic makes Toledo part of its regular circuit.