Winnipeg Free Press

Originally Published: April 27, 2010

Battle of the arena shock-rockers

Cooper brings old-school blood; Zombie roars to B-movie themes

Author: Rob Williams

Not many soon-to-be senior citizens could make playing with dolls look cool, yet somehow Alice Cooper still does.

His shtick is getting a bit same-y for anyone who has seen any of his previous tours over the years, and he doesn't have many new tricks up his sleeve, but the 62-year-old invented the theatrical arena rock concert and is still one of best in the business when it comes to old-fashioned bloody fun. At the MTS Centre on Monday, Cooper got his head chopped off by a guillotine, was hanged and was stabbed by rows of spikes slammed into a box he was locked in.

Yes, these days, he's dying multiple times a night. Talk about giving the people what they want.

And whether members of the crowd of 5,500 had seen it before or not, most of them ate it up during the opening night of the Gruesome Twosome tour with fellow horror fan, and musical disciple, Rob Zombie.

Cooper took the stage first shortly after 7 p.m., leading to plenty of jokes about finishing early enough to catch Matlock and/or hitting the sack so the golf fanatic could to get up for an early tee time. Whatever the reason for the early start, it was strange that the sun hadn't even set following a 75-minute set by music's Prince of Darkness and that California punk group NOFX probably had at least a dozen more beers to drink before their set began at the sold-out Burton Cummings Theatre.

Taking the stage with a four-piece band in front of stylized lower case letters spelling "alice," and a giant shadowy image of his face, the man born Vincent Furnier went right for the throat, opening the show with one of his biggest singles, School's Out. The recognizable hit instantly got the crowd in the mood and the party was officially on when the giant confetti-filled balloons were unleashed and stabbed by Cooper's trusty sword.

The leather-clad entertainer mixed it up during the 19-song-set, offering tracks from throughout his career with older material such as Department of Youth, I'm Eighteen, Only Women Bleed, Is it My Body, Be My Lover and Billion Dollar Babies serving as highlights. He threw in some songs from the last decade, with Wicked Young Man, Vengeance is Mine and Dirty Diamonds each getting their own theatrical treatments to keep everyone watching, but without the stage show they are unlikely to become classics.

Much as he did when he opened for Ozzy Osbourne in 2007, Rob Zombie overpowered the veteran rocker with sheer sensory overload.

Where Cooper goes for the old-school theatrical approach, Zombie is a fan of multimedia and effects with videos and pyro making his show a visual spectacle perfectly suited to his industrial-edged metal.

The stage was filled with seven video screens showing horror-themed animation, skulls, pentagrams, abstract images and clips from his films synched to songs with B-movie inspired titles like Superbeast, Living Dead Girls, More Human Than Human, House of 1,000 Corpses (an actual Zombie B-movie), Scum of the Earth and Thunder Kiss SSRq65.

It's not the most nuanced music -- some of the songs blur into one another and sound the same -- but it's powerful, fast and a whole lot of fun. It's hard not to get a kick out of singing along to a track called Mars Needs Women (rest of chorus: "Angry red women,") while a giant robot dances on stage.

Helping the manic long-haired vocalist and film director was Slipknot drummer Joey Jordison and ex-Marilyn Manson guitarist John 5, who worked the stage almost as much as Zombie, a true showman who was always engaging and even had the crowd howling during the song Werewolf Women of the SS, not to be confused with his other song, Werewolf, Baby!

The exclamation mark is Zombie's, of course.