Written by Lisa Melograno
Halloween arrived early this year at Ovation Hall in Atlantic City when shock rocker Alice Cooper took to the stage for the first time in eighteen months. Cooper and his band of seasoned performers did not appear to lack their skills and showmanship despite their hiatus.
Fans, young and old, filled the venue, dressed in jeans and band tee shirts, while some showed up with top hats and black tuxedo jackets, with heavy makeup mimicking the black snake eyes that Cooper is notoriously known for. The crowd roared, as the blue curtain adorned with those eyes, unveiled a set built to resemble a ghoulish haunted castle, was revealed.
Nearly 40 years ago, Cooper pioneered horror and theatrical stage concerts and brought horror and vaudeville to hard rock. Eventually, he became known as the godfather of “Shock Rock.” His shows consist of elaborate sets with electric chairs and a guillotine. His performances have featured a dark horror theme with zombies, gigantic babies, monsters, straitjackets, Frankenstein, and of course, a little fake blood is thrown in.
This performance did not disappoint and was presented his Nightmare Castle. Seasoned fans that have attended earlier concerts knew what was coming next but still waited in anticipation and seemed just as thrilled as the first time they saw him.
The track, “Feed My Frankenstein,” which was featured in the 1992 Wayne’s World film and soundtrack opened the show.
Cooper walked out dressed in black, wearing a top hat and spinning a cane. He transmitted the image of the rock star that he is and not a man in his 70’s. He appeared sharp and in harmony and moved about to cover every inch of the stage.
Three guitarists, Nita Strauss, Ryan Roxie, and Tommy Henriksen, joined along with bassist Chuck Garric, and drummer Glen Sobel. This lineup of accomplished musicians added to the debauchery with their stellar talent.
The band followed up with “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” one of Cooper‘s greatest hits, and seemed to beckon the crowd when they started singing. They then continued with “Bed of Nails” and a Velvet Underground cover, “Rock & Roll.”
Cooper and the band kept the pace upbeat. The track, “Fallen In Love,” slowed things down, as Cooper began the ballad highlighting more of his talents playing the harmonica.
Another highlight was the premiere of “Go Man Go,” a catchy tune off his recently released album, Detroit Stories.
In all, there were three songs premiered from Detroit Stories, including “Social Debris“ described by Cooper as, “a gift to Detroit, to my fans and myself.”
The track was written by the original Alice Cooper band.
“We never thought that we would ever fit in; the Alice Cooper band didn’t fit in with anybody, because we were doing things that no other band did. We didn’t fit in with the folk scene, we didn’t fit in with the metal scene, we didn’t fit in with anything that was going on at that time. We just always felt like we were outsiders. We felt like we were social debris, we were in our little world.”
The night progressed with songs from over the years, including “I’m Eighteen” and “Billion Dollar Babies,” which gigantic babies prancing around the stage. Strauss delivered a mesmerizing guitar solo after descending the stairs of the castle, wearing a black cape with a hood pulled over her head.
Cooper also sang the eerie song, “Steven,” in a straitjacket, followed by “Dead Babies,” while holding a baby doll. Just before he is about to attack the baby with a meat cleaver, Cooper is swiftly whisked away to a guillotine by giant babies.
Following his death, a woman in a red and black Victorian dress, who is none other than Sheryl Cooper, takes his head and dances around with it to the tune of “I Love The Dead.” Although this act has been performed for decades, it seems to never get old according to the fans’ reaction.
The show closes with the track, “Escape,” and a reappearance of the enormous Frankenstein with “Teenage Frankenstein” left the crowd wanting more. They were rewarded with an encore. The mood and setting changed to a more upbeat atmosphere as “School’s Out” began. The lighting fit the mood and the crowd sang along as bubbles and huge colorful balloons fell out of nowhere.
Alice Cooper was dressed as he was when he first appeared on stage, only this time the jacket, top hat, and cane were white. He reached out with his cane and popped the balloons as they flowed by him. As the song progressed a few bars of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall“ were added and the crowd responded by singing enthusiastically.
The performance lasted two hours, consisting of 22 songs plus the encore.
Alice Cooper has been leaving fans in awe for years. As the venue was clearing out, it seems as though Cooper still has the same effect, with fans chatting about scenes and songs as they exited.
I’ve seen Alice Cooper a few times over the years and the energy feels the same, the music and theatrical experience never gets dull or mundane. Although there have been minimal changes to Alice Cooper‘s concerts over the years, he still draws an enormous crowd and puts on an astounding show. Ovation Hall was the first show of the tour, and Alice Cooper and his band delivered exactly what the fans expect from him.
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