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Alice Cooper - 10/10/19 - O2 Arena

Sun, 17/11/2019 - 16:20

It’s 47 years since a van carrying an Alice Cooper billboard ‘broke down’ in Piccadilly Circus, causing massive traffic jams, appearing on the evening news and thus making their Wembley Arena show that month a sell-out. Nowadays, Alice is very much part of the establishment, so he’s no longer a threat to our nation’s youth. More’s the pity.

But before Alice, we had another American legend - Wayne Kramer of MC5. The Motor City Five were a Rage Against The Machine for the late 60s - heavily political and cheerfully wielding the F-word on record. Their debut album is all you need - as the singer of the time said: “Kick Out The Jams motherfuckers!”. That’s the sample KLF used a lot in their Justified Ancients of Mumu incarnation.
The rest of the original band are all dead, but guitarist Wayne Kramer is still bounding around the stage like a loon. Celebrating the band’s 50th birthday he has a staggering band under the name of MC50: Fugazi’s drummer, Faith No More’s bassist and Soundgarden’s guitarist. Marcus Durant, a singer I’d not heard of before has an interesting habit of throwing small invisible objects (maybe the size of a large coin) into the air and catching them, sometimes throwing them into the audience, where they apparently boomerang back to be caught again.

The band came on stage to an intro tape of the classic album’s opening exhortation to be part of the solution and ripped into ‘Rambling Rose’ like their lives depend on it. The meagre O2 audience sat there and had no idea who they were. Over the set they won over the crowd just be being a bloody good psychedelic blues band. By the time they’d finished security were asking people not to dance in the aisles and they got a standing ovation from the front rows. Those of us who’d made a point of getting to our seats to hear them left with big smiles on our faces.

The Stranglers, by contrast, didn’t seem to want to be there. Or at least their singer didn’t - he was pretty much phoning it in, although Jean-Jacques Burnel had fun making the building shake with his bass on overdrive at the start of ‘No More Heroes’. The other high point was a cover of ‘Walk on By’, which I didn’t know was a single for them back in the day. They did have some very excited fans at the front, but after MC50 they just sounded tired.

It’s an interesting thing with Alice Cooper gigs that piped music in the breaks is all Alice Cooper songs. So at least you know what you won’t hear, and when ‘Years Ago’ hits the PA it’s time to stand up.
The live band has been fairly stable over the decade and very good they are too. The three guitarists are different enough to be interesting and charge around the stage in choreographed chaos as Alice strides across the front. His voice isn’t what it used to be and there’s a few lines lost, but the presence is everything. It’s striking that when he leaves the stage for costume and staging changes, the audience loses focus despite the best efforts of the band to put on a show.

The staging for this tour is focused on the Billion Dollar Babies, but also takes time to bring back Jason from Halloween to dispatch a young visitor to the castle. We got a good selection of obscure songs in amongst the hits and even some harmonica from Alice on the recent blues number ‘Fallen in Love’. ‘Roses on White Lace’, the last song on a duff ‘80s album was brilliant - tasteless and accompanied by the dead teenager from earlier in a blood-soaked wedding dress.

There’s no snake anymore, but there is the straightjacket escape and of course the guillotine. This was the first time I’ve seen them blow the trick. The timing was just a little bit out so that Alice’s head fell off before the blade hit him. Maybe it’s just that I’ve never been this close to the stage before.

As ever, they finished with ‘School’s Out’; balloons and streamers falling from the roof and a guest appearance by the original Alice Cooper band bass player. On the tube, a woman clutched a balloon nearly as large as she was, and discussed how this wasn’t as a good as the show she saw last week, but was looking forward to tomorrow’s show in the midlands. It’s that sort of audience, and we’ll all be back next time the pantomime rolls into town.

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Alice Cooper - 10/10/19 - O2 Arena
Alice Cooper - 10/10/19 - O2 Arena
Alice Cooper - 10/10/19 - O2 Arena

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