October 27, 2016
Warfield Theater, San Francisco
By Dan Wall
Set List: The Black Widow, No More Mr. Nice Guy, Under My Wheels, Public Animal #9, Billion Dollar Babies, Long Way to Go, Is It My Body, The World Needs Guts, Woman of Mass Distraction, Poison, Halo of Flies, Feed My Frankenstein, Cold Ethyl, Only Women Bleed, Guilty, The Ballad of Dwight Fry, Killer, I Love the Dead, Pinball Wizard, Suffragette City, Ace of Spades, Eighteen, School’s Out. Encore: Elected. 1 hour, 40 minutes.
It’s a daunting task… just try convincing rock fans that Alice Cooper isn’t some washed up, tragic old-schooler who is out touring just to make a buck. My buddy Mark is not one of those people that can be swayed... And neither am I.
Mark and I have been friends since we first faced off on the baseball field as Little Leaguers back in the early 70’s. Mark loves Alice to death (get it), and even played him at the talent show at Antioch High during his junior year, on a day I played the monster who chased him to the stage (and got knocked out when one of the other idiots up on stage kicked me in the head… and then threw a sword at me, which missed and damaged an expensive curtain… which got us banned from further talent shows).
Why do I mention this? I don’t know. Doc says it’s some form of dementia.
We went to our first Alice show together back in 1976 at the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium (funny, because back in those days, our beloved SF promoter Bill Graham wouldn’t book Alice because he didn’t like his show. That trend stopped in 1978, when Alice cleaned his act up). And over the years, we would meet up at the local shows and ride the local transit train BART home from the city, but this last time was the first time we went to the show together since that day in 1976. A cool story, don’t you think?
And what a show to see, with one of your best buds who idolizes the guy the same way you do. Cooper’s new show celebrating his Spend the Night with Alice Cooper tour proved that the wily vet (closing in on 70) is still at the top of his game, and he still puts on one of the best shows in the business.
Since crashing and burning with booze back in the 80’s and recreating himself as a sober, born-again golfer off-stage, Cooper has solidified his career onstage with a new tour each year and a rotating cast of musicians who know his every move. This time out (and for nearly three years now), the band featured guitarists Ryan Roxie (the show is always better when Ryan in on tour with him), Tommy Fredrickson and the lovely Nita Strauss. Longtime sideman bassist Chuck Garric (once with Dio) still staffs the rhythm section with Glen Sobel on drums. It doesn’t seem to matter who’s in the band, however, as Alice always employs and trains a finely-tuned unit that can play Cooper classics from any era.
All his best songs were on display during this show, another greatest hits and bits tour that showcases the biggies, some rarities and several ways to kill and maim our hero, all done very tongue in cheek. Alice was beheaded, electrocuted and chased around the stage by Donald Trump, which must have been the most frightening act of all.
As has been the case since Alice returned to the stage for good some 30 years ago, it was a rousing success. A great setlist, a wonderful band and a show that has become the template for theatrical rock, despite what KISS, Motley Crue and the others say. Cooper was in fine voice (and make-up), his band aced every single song, and the crowd, sensing something special, really let go during the bigger pops in the show.
The highlights were plentiful, including “Billion Dollar Babies,” still one of my favorite rock songs of all time. “The Black Widow” is a great way to start a show; you can’t go wrong with oldies such as “Under My Wheels,” “Is It My Body” and “Long Way to Go”. The tribute to Keith Moon, David Bowie and Lemmy was spectacular, and the rousing finale of “Eighteen,” “School’s Out” and “Elected,” complete with Trump and Clinton lookalikes, was simply breathtaking.
Despite the continuing excellence coming from the Cooper camp (he still puts out very good studio records), Alice is a lot closer to retiring than he was 10 years ago, and one day this will all be a memory. I’m glad I got to share this one with my buddy Mark, a true Alice Cooper fanboy. The next one must be a complete reunion of the original band. That’s one show I would pay money to see, and so would Mark… you get the tickets, I’ll drive.