Alice Cooper @ Thebarton Theatre (Adelaide), 29 August 2009

The old shock rocker Alice Cooper still has what it takes and showed a sold out crowd at Thebby that you can get old and still be a hard rocking, mad as a loon, dirty old man and the crowd will love you for it!

I arrived at the Thebby at the ‘official’ start time of 8 pm to find support band Electric Mary were already on stage and into their set.  I first caught Electric Mary when they were support on the leather cabaret that was the Judas Priest tour last year and they impressed me then with their no-frills jeans & t-shirt bluesy rock.  They still impress me.  Initially they reminded me of that criminally under-rated band Buckcherry but I can see too the early swagger of Aerosmith before they went MTV as well as Paul Rodgers, Free and Led Zep.  In fact their song Guns & Gasoline is a direct ‘homage’ to Led Zep!  Playing songs from their album Down to The Bone their simple, gutsy, blues rock went down well with the crowd who were still filing in.  In fact, they were good enough that I spent my taxi fare on the album during the intermission and then went all fanboy and got them to sign it! And I wasn’t the only one lining up.

With a surprisingly bare set, just drum riser and guitar platforms, perennial rocker Alice Cooper and his band of young guns hit the sold out crowd with a rousing triple play of classicks to kick off the show.  School’s Out, Department Of Youth and Eighteen fired off in quick succession to screams, cheers and I’m sure more than one heart murmur.  The crowd was a mix of young and old with more than a few sets of spider eyes spotted as well as quite a few family groups to boot.  I was surprised they didn't offer picnic hampers at the mechandise booth!  They’d have made a killing.

Alice was sounding great too, which surprised me.  There have been so many ‘wheelchair’ reunion tours by reformed bands lately that I was expecting a half-cocked, cash-in nostalgia trip but I was forgetting that while others have fallen by the wayside, Alice Cooper never really left the scene of the crime. And he might be in his 60s now but he’s still agile enough to cavort, sing, get the guillotine (yes, all the props come out) and still keep the show rolling.

When the familiar intro to Welcome to My Nightmare started there was a visible change in the atmosphere as the crowd spontaneously sang along with Cooper and when the rather clumsy intro to Poison kicked in, my how the little girls screamed.  They screamed even more when the giant syringe plunged through Cooper’s chest!

Why the syringe? I don't know. Because we want to see Alice punished perhaps? Guillotine, syringe, hanging... it's all there but why is another thing altogether.

Early Alice touchstones Is It My Body and Be My Lover received a good workout, his gravelly voice hanging in there, but the band were starting to get a little heavy-handed - a problem which, as the gig went on, would become worse.

Be My Lover also featured a behind-the-screen striptease from the nurse character that had haunted the stage through out the set.  Nursey is then strangled by Alice before her corpse is serenaded during Only Women Bleed.  Cooper is then strung up on the gallows to sing I Never Cry before Nursey gets her revenge by kicking the box out from under him - pity she didn’t do it sooner though because I hate those ballads.  While Alice took a break, wheeled off hanging from the gallows, the band launched into an instrumental, over-the-top version of Black Widow.  This was when the bombastic metal approach really started to sink in.  Sure, Alice dabbled in the metal scene in the 80s and 90s but he’s always essentially been a Detroit rocker - the band doesn't quite seem to know the subtle difference between rocking out and bludgeoning you over the head - and by this stage were just intent on hitting hard.  Not that it mattered to the faithful anyway. 

Billion Dollar Babies was cheered on and when the bass player led a rousing sing-along of I Love The Dead all was (almost) forgiven. After over an hour of song, Cooper’s voice was struggling a little but the crowd helped him with No More Mr. Nice Guy before the set closed with Under My Wheels - a personal fave of mine.  There was of course an encore but strangely it was the opener School’s Out!  This time though Cooper was resplendent in silver top hat and tails.

With songs from the early days of Killer and Love It To Death through Welcome To My Nightmare, Goes To Hell all the way up to Dirty Diamonds, the crowd got a great show.  You might not have heard every song you wanted  (I'd have loved Halo Of Flies or something from Zipper Catches Skin) but you got more than you probably expected.  Alice was in fine voice, the band, despite my reservations, kicked some arse and this was no mere nostalgia trip.  Cooper still has what it takes and he looks like he will for a long time to come.

On a final note though, the nurse, who used a grinder on her codpiece, sending sparks showering over a wheelchair bound Cooper, the nurse who stripped behind a screen while being serenaded with Be My Lover, the nurse who was then strangled with her own stocking by Alice, the nurse who kicked the box out and condemned Alice to the guillotine, that nurse... well, she's Alice Cooper's daughter! I don't even want to think about what a shrink could do with that material!