This was a very special night, a co-headline set by two iconic names in rock: the first being The Cult who I first saw on their Sanctuary tour at the Lyceum London back in 1984 and the second act the incomparable Godfather of Shock Rock, the man himself: Alice Cooper. This was a sold-out event here in Birmingham (UK) tonight, but before the legends hit the stage Creeper, a young band from Southampton (UK), were going to play a short set. This punk rock/goth sextet were formed in 2014, beginning with ‘Cyanide’ from their album Sex, Death & The Infinite Void. Their lead singer Will Gould has a powerful voice and immediately sat on the front of stage and leaned into the photo pit posing for photographers. ‘Thorns of Love’ was next: standing on what looked like a table, his arms in the air screaming out the chorus, “This is such a fun tour for us”, he says continuing with ‘Down Below‘ from the album ‘Eternity, in Your Arms.’ Hannah, their keyboard player, brought a classical feel to their set at times and on ‘Midnight’ singing solo then also with Will, totally beautiful. Only playing five songs, but Will and the band’s job was to warm up the audience, and their last song ‘Annabelle‘ had a few of the front row on their feet; this being an all-seated venue there hadn’t been a lot of movement from the audience. They had done their job brilliantly and I’m sure tonight they gained a lot more fans.
A short interval before The Cult would be on stage, then lights dim and the crowd roar as Ian Astbury and the guys appear. Ian immediately smiling down at the front row, who were all standing now, sits on the front of stage and belts out ‘Sun King,’ with Billy Duffy’s unmistakable guitar sound ringing out. John Tempesta’s drum riser was surrounded by a long line of strobes lighting up the stage. Revolution never sounded better: Ian putting all his emotion into the delivery, and Billy’s solo was outstanding. The familiar riff on ‘Rain‘ woke up many of the impassive spectators, but it was ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ unsurprisingly got the biggest reaction: I actually saw some headbanging going on. Ian thanked everyone for coming and supporting live music saying, “It’s great to be doing this again”, ending this first-rate performance with ‘Love Removal Machine.’
To say Alice Cooper kicked off their set big time is an understatement, the sound byte Midnight Castle is heard and Glen Sobel’s huge drum riser is wheeled on to the stage, then Alice and the band come on to the loudest cheer of the night, a huge castle with Nita Straus guitar raised high at the top, slowly descending the stairs. Guitarist Ryan Roxie his fist high in the air, then the first song ‘Feed My Frankenstein’ Alice pointing his cane at the audience. Not long into the song a huge Frankenstein’s Monster appears on stage moving its arms in time. ‘No More Mr Nice Guy’ is next: Nita and Ryan playing together up close and personal to the crowd, guitarist Tommy Henriksen and bassist Chuck Garric join in. A crescendo of guitars before Alice goes into ‘Bed of Nails.’ ‘Hey Stoopid’ is next with Glen smashing the skins on his massive kit. With Alice Cooper you don’t just get a gig you get a full-on theatrical show. With over fifty years in the business, he’s like a good wine he just gets better as he gets older: a true master of his craft. And even though he is the main attraction it’s not all about him, Ryan, Nita, and Tommy are the musical glue. Their individual solos are outstanding, but it’s when they all get together to play along with the chugging bass of Chuck when the magic really happens. Alice leaves the stage many times for costume changes, giving the band time to show off their talents. Three newer numbers are next ‘Fallen in Love, in which he displays his Harmonica skills, Shut Up and Rock with Alice screaming at the audience almost begging them to get off their backsides, and Go Man Go – the latter two from his latest album Detroit Stories. But it’s the ageless hits that everyone has come to hear and Alice doesn’t disappoint, with ‘Under my Wheels.’ Then a massive highlight, I had waited a long time to see Nita Straus and tonight she showed why she is one of the greatest rock guitarists out there today with a blistering seven-minute guitar solo, harmonics, trilling, tapping it was tremendous. Roses on White Lace with its fast and furious riffage followed. Then for I’m Eighteen, one of my all-time favourites, there is another costume change with Alice in black leather carrying a crutch. The unforgettable intro to Poison got another huge roar. Next appearing in a long tailcoat bringing his legendary sword to the proceedings for Billion Dollar Babies with a humungous baby dancing behind him. Black Widow gives Glen his drum solo where he uses every bit of his kit: his stick work was phenomenal. A marching drum beat introduces Steven with Alice in a strait jacket and the whole evening turns very macabre bringing a touch of the French Grand Guignol and his mental patient persona. Segueing into Dead Babies, the famous guillotine scene is acted out with Alice being decapitated. After all these years this effect is still impressive: the evil lady holds Alice’s head in her hands and the band go on to sing ‘I Love the Dead.’ Alice resurrected in white top hat and tails has still not spoken a word to the crowd, keeping the music and theatricals going instead. With Teenage Frankenstein big Frankie returns to dance, then they all take their bows and leave the stage, they soon return to tumultuous applause, “ALICE SPEAKS”! he says then introduces all of the band and his wife Sheryl, “and playing the part of Alice Cooper tonight ME! “He smiles. Huge balloons are thrown into the crowd and tickertape falls. This man knows how to put on a show, spinning his cane around he finishes with the unforgettable ‘Schools Out’ and at last nearly everyone was on their feet, singing at the top of their voices, a little piece of another brick in the wall was thrown in for good measure. And this incredible night of music was over and what a night! I have seen Alice many times over the years and this was without a doubt the best performance ever.
Review by Dave Martin (@masterofmetal58 on Twitter) Photo Credit by Carol Henson (LadyGigger) On behalf of Tattoo.com and Rockwell Unscene Magazine.