Last year’s Paranormal saw Alice Cooper release an album on the same level as Welcome to My Nightmare, Trash and Hey Stoopid. Whilst you couldn’t accuse it as a return to form as Welcome 2 My Nightmare in 2011 was another gem, this was some of his best material in almost thirty years.
Naturally, the tour which followed continued to show Alice and his band as one of the best live acts you’ll ever see. And that’s where A Paranormal Evening at the Olympia Paris comes in. Because if you’ve seen the master of shock rock at work, you’ll want to re-live it time and time again because it never becomes tiresome. This latest live release has Alice at the end of the tour and whilst it may not have the original band that UK audiences were treated to, all the songs are there.
Well, most of them. There are some weird choices here as well as some glaring omissions. “Go to Hell” is missing, as is “Hey Stoopid” and “Welcome to My Nightmare”, to be replaced with “Woman of Mass Distraction” and “The World Needs Guts”. Meanwhile the sinister “Brutal Planet” opens the show before launching full speed into the welcome territory of “No More Mr Nice Guy” and “Under My Wheels”, showing despite the strange opening, Alice wasn’t messing around.
Other than that, most of the classic Alice songs are there such as “Feed My Frankenstein”, “Cold Ethyl” and “Only Women Bleed” as well as one solitary Paranormal song in the shape of “Paranoic Personality”. Whilst there were a lot of great songs on last year’s album, to lean on it too heavily and disregard even more of the usual suspects would have been a disservice. But the single did fit with the visual story Alice was telling with the latter part of the set as his paranoia drives him insane (“The Ballad of Dwight Fry”) before being sentenced to death (“Killer” / “I Love the Dead”).
Elsewhere, you’ve got a band drilled to perfection and the triple guitar attack of Ryan Roxie, Tommy Henriksen and Nita Strauss work together excellently as they all weave around each other. With individual tones and characteristics, you can tell instantly who is whom and at no point does three become a crowd. There’s also a blistering solo from Nita Strauss at the end of “Woman of Mass Distraction” to herald one of Alice’s (and rock’s) best-known hits – “Poison”. Meanwhile, Alice is in fine voice with his snarls and howls and as ever, refuses to chat between songs. You’re there because Alice allows it but he doesn’t have to acknowledge it.
Crucially for a live album, everything sits well in the mix. The audience’s cheers and applause sit well and you can hear the French audience increase the volume or join in at the required moments. It gels well with the band’s performance and doesn’t sound like it’s been layered in on top. Although there are no visuals so there’s no myriad of costume changes for Alice and props, the album doesn’t need it. Because these songs were good on the albums, there’s a tight band playing them and directed by a master showman with his unique voice.
From a performance standpoint, this is probably as good a live album you’ll ever get from Alice Cooper. He’s got the best line-up he’s ever had backing him but the strange choice of songs and the glaring omissions will have people reaching for older live albums. But it’s Alice, spend the night with him and see how some of these stranger inclusions work in 2018.
Header image by Amplified Gig Photography