On Thursday night I headed to The O2 Arena to see the legendary Alice Cooper as part of his seven-date “Ol’ Black Eyes Is Back” UK tour. This was the biggest show I had ever photographed so I was excited on so many levels!
Opening the show were American protopunk band MC50, celebrating the 50th anniversary of their debut album Kick Out the Jams. The line-up included original MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer, plus Kim Thayil and Matt Cameron of Soundgarden, Brendan Canty of Fugazi, Marcus Durant and Don Was, together with Faith No More bassist Billy Gould. The band opened their set with “Ramblin’ Rose” and put on an energetic performance which included some of their biggest hits such as the titular “Kick Out The Jams”.
Next up were British 70s punk rock legends The Stranglers who started their set as they meant to go on with “Toiler On The Sea”. It was a real treat to photograph and watch one of the longest-surviving and most successful bands to have originated in the UK punk scene, and to hear them play some of their classic tracks including “Golden Brown” and “Peaches”. Jean-Jacques Burnel and Baz Warne still had their strong punk attitude, and it was a pleasure to finally get to see the band live.
At around 9:15pm our rather large group of photographers were ushered into the photopit for the third and final time, and prepared for the star attraction. Alice Cooper needs little introduction – even friends of mine who have not a single clue or interest in rock / metal music have heard of him. The arena was entirely seated, which is something I had never seen before at The O2, but the first couple of rows of people were standing up against the barrier ready for the show to begin. Amongst them was a guy dressed as Alice (complete with blood-stained shirt, jet-black hair and the trademark black eyes), and a lady holding a “dead baby”. There were a wide variety of people in the crowd, which is always good to see, and proves how popular and generation-spanning Alice’s music is.
As the curtain covering the stage dropped to the floor, the godfather of shock-rock was visible for the first time and the crowd roared with excitement. Alice and his band opened their set with “Feed My Frankenstein”, which was a great choice and really got everyone in the mood straight away. Despite being 71 years old, Alice was full of beans (as always) and was a pleasure to watch as well as photograph. His current live band includes Chuck Garric on bass and Glen Sobek on drums, together with Ryan Roxie, Tommy Henriksen and the fantastic Nita Strauss on lead / rhythm guitars.
The stage set was like that of a classic horror film and featured castle turrets, coffins and a whole manner of creepy items which added extra atmosphere to the show. I particularly liked the chandeliers that hung from the ceiling, which were not present last time I photographed Alice Cooper and his band at Tons of Rock festival in 2016, presumably due to it being a festival show rather than part of a headline tour. Alice Cooper pioneered this theatrical brand of hard rock mixed with dark humour, and is still the king of it in my opinion.
We were treated to an incredible show featuring tracks from Alice’s huge back-catalogue such as “No More Mr Nice Guy”, “Bed Of Nails” and “Poison” (the first track I learned to play all the way through on Guitar Hero and one of my all-time favourite songs), as well as “Fallen In Love” from his 20th solo album Paranormal (2017). The show ended with one of Cooper’s most famous songs “School’s Out” as giant balloons fell from the ceiling and confetti cannons erupted – a glorious sight and the perfect end to a brilliant evening. If you get the chance to go and see this spectacular show you should definitely take it.
Alice Cooper’s latest EP Breadcrumbs was released last month and is available from all the usual places.
Photos by Katie Frost Photography