Story and Photos by Tom Collins
There’s definitely a difference between seeing a Rock Concert and a Rock “Show.” Any time you go to see Alice Cooper, you’re in for one Hell of a show!!! Alice Cooper hit the BB&T Pavilion in Camden, NJ with fellow classic legends, Edgar Winter and Deep Purple. Though it may have been that Deep Purple had the headlining slot, the night belonged to Alice! With his popularity ever growing, Alice is like a fine, blood red wine. Just gets better with age! His music has transcended and evolved from generation to generation and offers new music to each. His latest album, “Paranormal” is thrilling old fans and creating a legion of new ones! Anyone who has seen his Live shows before knew that he never disappoints. Anyone who had never seen his show and this was their first, they were in for a real treat!
The night started with Edgar Winter, famous for his hits as the number one “Frankenstein” and “Free Ride.” I have to admit that I had never seen Edgar perform before and really had no high expectations. This was one of those few instances in life where I was very pleasantly surprised! In fact, I was blown away with the rest of the audience!!! Edgar was a man possessed and on a mission to ROCK OUT! Don’t let the looks of an older fellow deceive you! Edgar Winter opened with the classic, great “Free Ride” and ripped through some great cover songs like “Jumpin Jack Flash,” “Tobacco Road” and his late brothers, Johnny Winter “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo”!!! Through the songs, Edgar jumped from instrument to instrument, like a one man band! He would start on the keyboard and vocals, jump on the drums and then to a saxophone! He certainly had the crowd in his pocket long before he brought his monster hit, “Frankenstein”!!! Edgar definitely got the crowd fired up and just in time for the Master of Shock Rock, Alice Cooper!!!
A macabre screen bearing the eyes of Alice Cooper is now draped over the stage. Red and purple lights and fog swirl around it as we here a ghastly voice speaking the opening monologue to the first song, “Brutal Planet”!!! The curtain drops and there stands Alice draped in a black cape while a shower of fiery sparks rains down behind him! The audience is His! The night is His! The crowd is here to see Alice Cooper!!! Everyone is on their feet, singing along and waiting to see what surprises Alice’s show has in store for them! not having the headline slot of the night, his set and production were trimmed down a bit. But even with an abbreviated set, he Rocked and entertained through every song! He finished the opening song, “Brutal Planet” and went right into hit classics, “Under My Wheels” and “Billion Dollar Babies.” Alice made sure not to overload his set with just new material. In fact, he only played “Paranoiac Personality” from the new album. It has a great classic Alice sound and the crowd was very receptive to it. This was followed by 2 more songs of more recent years, “Woman of Mass Destruction” and a commercial hit, “Poison.”
Now that those songs were out of the way, the second half of Alice’s set was pure showmanship! Looking like a circus Ring Leader, Alice directed his band into a deep classic called “Halo of Flies”!!! Alice left the stage during the bands instrumental part to reemerge in a blood stained white lab coat! It’s time to make a monster. It’s time to “Feed My Frankenstein”!!! legendary for his stage theatrics, Alice puts on a gas mask and is strapped by his minions to some laboratory table for what surely will be a horrific experiment! The lights strobe and smoke and sparks fire from the mechanisms surrounding the table as Alice vanishes! Suddenly a 10 foot “Franken-Alice” emerges onto the stage, learning at the audience and chasing the band members! A fantastic illusion and special effect that Alice fans have come to love and expect in his shows. When I say that Alice puts on a show as opposed to a concert, where else do you get to hear Rock and see a professional ballet dancer on stage at the same time?! Alice’s wonderful and beautiful wife, Sheryl Cooper often plays many roles in the show. She spent her life as a professional dancer which is how she and Alice met so many decades ago. She was a dancer in his shows then and continues to today! Alice is now on stage with a ballerina doll or soon to be, “Cold Ethyl.” A delightfully dark song about keeping a dead girlfriend in a refrigerator. Don’t worry, it’s a very tongue and cheek, fun song. That leads to arguably his most successful ballad, “Only Woman Bleed.” Sheryl Cooper wearing the same makeup and outfit has now replaced the doll and dances beautifully through the song, until Alice brandishes a dagger that he plunges into her. Again, don’t worry. It’s all acted in a way as to not be too realistic or horrifying. But all the same, Alice just killed someone on stage, and he must pay!!! The next song goes into “Killer” and it’s time for Alice to face his oldest form of execution, the guillotine!!! Another great “illusionist” style effect, Alice has his head chopped off right there in front of the crowd who all sing along to “I Love the Dead.” Anyone who knows anything about Alice knows, you can’t kill the guy forever!!! He always comes back! And sure enough, Alice is back on the stage to do his anthem, “I’m Eighteen.” Of course while holding his severed head in one hand and a crutch in the other. In grand tradition and crowd anticipation, Alice ends his set with his biggest hit of his career, “Schools Out”!!! Confetti, streamers and huge balloons fly through the air and as Alice says, “It’s Party time!!!!” Red, White and Blue fly on the screen behind him as he dispatches any balloon that comes his way with his sword and dagger. You’ll be hard pressed to find a crowd that has more fun than at a Alice Cooper show!!!
As great and legendary as Deep Purple is, it’s a tall mountain to climb to follow up to Alice Cooper. They sounded terrific and put on a great show! Of course they played they’re classic hits such as Highway Star, Space Truckin’, Hush and of course the first riff everyone learns on guitar, Smoke on the Water!!! Deep Purple still consists of original members Ian Paice on drums, Roger Glover on bass and singer Ian Gillan. Unfortunately there still seems to be a little bad blood between Gillan and Ritchie Blackmore that keeps them from reuniting. In the past, Deep Purple boasted great temporary members like David Coverdale, Glenn Hughes and Joe Satriani among others.
It was a fantastic triple bill of legendary Classic Rock! The night was full of hit songs and everyone enjoyed all 3 acts. One thing I had noticed in my photos of Alice Cooper was the wrist bands he was wearing on stage. One in particular caught my attention and I have no idea the story behind it, but can only guess. It simply says “Team Josh.” For those of you who don’t know, NO – Alice does not worship the devil and eat small children. Actually, both he and his wife have fathers who were ministers! Alice and his family are devout Christians and are constantly participating and running benefits for many great causes. One that is near and dearest to them is their, Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock Foundation in his hometown of Pheonix, Arizona. It’s a special foundation for troubled teens. This is the kind of guy Alice and his family are off the stage. They are kind, generous, caring and well, funny as hell too!!! I have met both Alice and his lovely wife Sheryl a few times and I can say first hand, you could not ask to meet any nicer people. Whoever “Josh” is on that wrist band is, Alice cares enough to wear it during his shows and not take it off, worrying about breaking his character. That’s what Rock&Roll is about and Alice gets that, and gives it back to his fans, over and over again. Please check out their foundation and follow and donate if you can. https://www.facebook.com/acsolidrock/