It should come as no surprise that Alice Cooper knows how to put on a show. He’s been doing it for 30+ years and seemingly hasn’t changed much. By this point in history most people know Alice’s gimmicks – the guillotines, the hanging, blood, horror – but even though I knew what was coming, it still made a huge impact as part of the best rock show I’ve ever seen. Period.
I’m not some sort of concert conesuir or anything, but I’ve seen a decent amount of classic rock concerts (even if they’re all past their prime) and Alice Cooper drank them all under the table without any effort. I’m convinced that Alice Cooper puts on the best complete show in rock right now…even without a bunch of modern pyros and other fluff. Of course, it helps that Alice has 30 years of music to pull from to put together a show. But this is the best part…he really builds a show.
I can only compare the concert to more of a musical than your “normal” concert. After Blue Oyster Cult (with Rudy Sarzo) rocked our faces off, Alice came out swinging and didn’t stop for 90 minutes. It ran so smoothly that you felt like you were watching a movie, albeit a very loud movie. Alice’s songs as individual songs tell great stories but you almost can’t appreciate how well they’re written until you hear them together in some sort of order. He picked songs from just about every Alice era and hit almost every song I wanted to hear…missing from the set list was “Elected” and “Feed My Frankenstein,” but oh well.
The theater in Alice’s shows is known far and wide but until you experience it you might think it’s just a one-off deal per song…at least I did, but this can’t be farther from the truth. While singing his songs he is acting, as are other actors on stage. His show is more than just him and his band, there were other actors playing parts on stage. Even the stage hands were in costume and played into the loose story unfolding before us. Alice “died” no less than three times during the show in spectacular ways. It really shows you how much Alice cares about entertaining the audience beyond just the music.
Some might then claim that the music needs such gimmicks to be successful but this is just false. The Alice Cooper songs you know and love – “School’s Out,” “Eighteen,” “Poison,” etc. – are all awesome as singles but when he’s acting them out in character it takes those songs to the next level and gives them new meaning. And what else is a lead singer supposed to do while the guitar solo is rocking out? Dance around? Stand and cheer? Tambourines perhaps?
Alice has the answer: you perform! And you don’t stop. You don’t talk to the audience between songs. You don’t get cheap pops by mentioning the local sports teams. You don’t ask the audience to sing half your songs. What you do is string each song together so the audience gets an hour and a half of pure entertainment without room for them to breathe. If you give them a break you’ll lose them. Don’t let them stop cheering. Don’t take them out of the moment. Alice Cooper gets it and I know realize just how little credit he gets.
This concert was 80% performance and 20% music, but each was done at 110%…and at the Ohio State Fair! The State Fair!! It’s one thing to put on this type of show in arenas or other venues, but at the state fair? We’ve seen two shows at the state fair and each has been pretty generic, honestly speaking. Not to say Slaughter, Quiet Riot, and BOC didn’t rock out hard, but there wasn’t much of a show. Afterwards you just walk away knowing you heard some good tunes. After Alice is done with you, you know you saw one of the best shows in music…and all for $25. I’ve paid twice as much for shows that just didn’t deliver, so don’t tell me Alice Cooper doesn’t deliver.
One thing that is kind of sad out of all of this is that even after 30 years it seems many bands haven’t learned a thing from Alice Cooper. Everything Alice did was nothing new…especially these days. He invented half of them back in 1972. Well, it’s 37 years later and who puts on a better show than Alice Cooper? And when I mean show, I mean a show. One that has a beginning and an end. The Alice show started with “School’s Out” and ended with “School’s Out,” exactly as any good musical should. If you would have put the concert on mute and just watched, you would still have been able to pull out the stories.
The audience was naturally older in age, but there were a lot of kids there and I’m glad they got to witness a real show. Whatever modern concert they attend next will certainly seem like amateur hour. Hopefully it will effect them in a way that shows them not to underestimate the power of the performance. His concert continues to show me that the show, the performance, is what it’s all about. Not just in music, but damn well near everything.
Put some punch in to your daily routine and it will make a huge difference. Over do it every now and then and people will remember it. Make it big so even “that guy” in the back row can see it, nay, so he can feel it. As the late, great Billy Mays said, “it’s not yelling, it’s projecting,” so next time you’re frustrated with people, put them on their ass and project.