Back in 1986, Alice Cooper made a comeback. The early eighties were tough times for him, as he was struggling with alcoholism, but he cleaned up his act and came back with a strong hard rock album "Constrictor". With guitarist Kane Roberts as his wingman, he returned to the stages as well. My first real encounter with Cooper dates back to that era, and to the live video from the "Constrictor" tour, which had a big impression on me. By the time he released his next album "Raise Your Fist And Yell", I was already a fan and waited for that album quite anxiously. The 1989 release "Trash" was a monster hit, with Desmond Child co-penned hits like "Poison" and "Bed Of Nails". While it's follow-up "Hey Stoopid" wasn't quite as successful, it's at least as important an album for me, containing several of my favourite Cooper-tracks.
Even though I knew that apart from a song or two, Cooper wouldn't be playing anything from my favourite albums of his, I was still looking forward to seeing him live for the first time. After all, he's the original shock rocker who ispired the likes of Kiss, Marilyn Manson and Lordi, to name a few. As an added attraction, Cooper had invited Sebastian Bach to open for him, and after seeing him in Sauna Open Air a couple of years ago, I was certain that he would put on a good show too.
Mr. Bach and his band came on stage quite early, and many people were still in the bars or the merch stands. The first riffs of "Back In The Saddle" invited people to the arena, and Bach ran to the stage like a tornado. The band had very limited lighting and the sound wasn't the best, but otherwise they didn't really seem like a support band as such. They had a really good percentage of the crowd paying attention to them, which is more than can be said for most support bands. Sebastian Bach is a first-class frontman who knows how to work an audience, and his band are talented players. His new guitarist Nick Sterling made his live debut in Finland, and despite being only 19, he handled the pressure very well, showcasing his talent as a guitarist and singing back-up vocals too.
The old Skid Row hits were what most of the crowd were hoping to hear, and they didn't go home disappointed. Bach and his band played 5 songs from the first Skid Row album, "Monkey Business" from the second one "Slave To The Grind" and four tracks from Bach's recent "Angel Down" disc, including the Aerosmith cover "Back In The Saddle". Unfortunately, these newer songs can't really hold a candle to the classics, no matter how well they are performed. "Angel Down" does have some good songs, but they weren't in the setlist this time. I'll be interested to hear Bach's collaborations with his new guitarist, hopefully he has a more melodic style of writing.
Once Bach had finished, the roadcrew raised a big "Theatre Of Death" curtain to block us from seeing what they had in store for the rest of the evening. Fast forward a half an hour - the house lights went down and the curtain was dropped. The familiar chords of "School's Out" had the expected effect on the crowd, and Alice himself whipped the frontrows into frenzy. The man behind the mask may be soon 62, but Alice Cooper is ageless, an iconic rock character. I guess it says something about his reputation that the location of this gig had to be moved from Tampere, because the religious people freaked out... little did they know that Alice is very much a Christian these days.
As Cooper was the main act, the lights were in full use, and the stage set looked rather cool too. The letters A, L, I, C and E were hanging from the lighting rig, reminding everyone who was the man were were there to see... During the show, other props were dragged to the stage, but more of that later.
While I'm not too familiar with Alice's seventies' material, I have to say that the likes of "Department Of Youth" and "I'm Eighteen" sounded very good. Cooper does have a handful of rock classics which almost everyone has heard. As I was afraid, Cooper's eighties and nineties output was neglected, apart from "Poison", which was possibly the most popular song of the set. I'm sure that there were a lot of people who would have loved to hear tracks like "Hey Stoopid", "Bed Of Nails", "Lost In America", "Love's A Loaded Gun"... the list goes on. Still, thanks to the excellent show, I wasn't really disappointed, and I don't think that many others were either.
Had it been just a rock band playing these songs, it would've been good for sure, but the entertainment value would have been limited. As it's Alice Cooper were talking about, we got more than just music. The tour was called "The Theatre of Death" after all! Alice's daughter Calico was the leading lady of the show, punishing his father in various ways, even taking his life a few times. Now that's a healthy daughter-father relationship if any! We were treated to a guillotine performance, in which Alice lost his head, but that didn't do the trick, so he had to be poisoned too (guess what song?). The syringe was huge, but not huge enough apparently. During "Only Women Bleed" he was hung, but he returned as a spider, proclaiming that the "Vengeance Is Mine". His moment of glory didn't last long, as he was soon placed into a big box which was then impaled by a dozen sharp spikes.
The show's finale consisted of a cool selection of truly classic tracks, including "No More Mr. Nice Guy", "Under My Wheels" and "Billion Dollar Babies". The people in the front rows had a chance to catch themselves some Cooper money and pearl necklaces. After 26 songs we might have allowed Alice to leave without an encore, but no, he came back for additional version of "School's Out", and brought along his old friend Michael Monroe to share the vocals.
As we walked away from the Barona Arena, the comments overheard were all praising Alice. I would have to agree - the show was better than I expected, both musically and visually.
Special thanks to Speed Promotion and Lasse Norres for extremely smooth operation with us media-people.
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,
02 Jan 2010