December 7, 1989 and a chilly Mosh (along with schoolfriend Jon Heron and a couple of thousand other people) queued up outside Whitley Bay Ice Rink to see Alice Cooper on his Trash tour. Underwhelming support from Britney Fox and Great White led up to the legend that is Alice Cooper playing for ninety minutes for my first ever live gig. And I was… erm… underwhelmed. At the time I had Trash, Raise Your Fist, and Constrictor. No songs off the latter two and a ton of older material I didn’t know took the edge off things for me.
November 15th, 2005 and an older Mosh (along with work colleague Mike Walls) enjoyed Alice’s show at Sheffield Arena. By then I was more familiar with the classic material and found his show a bit more enjoyable. Unfortunately he’d brought along Twisted Sister who absolutely blew the headliner away, and not in a groovy, blood-spatter special effects way.
May 28th, 2022 and headline show number three for an increasingly aging me (I’ve also caught him at a festival or two over the years), this time at the Hydro in Glasgow. Two bands to get through first, and then Alice gets another chance to wow me.
And now an apology. Due to childcare reasons I didn’t get to the gig in time to catch openers Creeper. This is a huge shame as I’d been looking forward to finally seeing them live. They’re a great bunch, put a ton of effort into promoting themselves and I can’t think of an act (other than Ward XVI who would need more than a 30 minute opening slot) who would be better opening for the legend that is Alice. I asked around those who’d got there early enough and feedback was universally positive. Next time, Creeper!
Main support was The Cult who, like Alice Cooper, probably hit their peak popularity-wise in the 80s/90s. I’ve definitely a “greatest hits” person when it comes to this particular band so I’ll be honest and say that I found most of their set a bit of a slog, mainly out of a lack of familiarity with the material. They put on a decent show with Astbury seeming to want to relive the wild rock days of the 80s – chucking bottles past drummer Tempesta’s head, trashing tambourines, kicking mic stands and monitors over, tipping over amps at the end of the gig… Thirty years ago this might have been a bit cooler, but it all just seemed a bit cringy to 48 year old me. There’s no knocking his voice, though. After a shaky start with a non-functioning mic for the first few lines of “Sun King”, there was no mistaking the vocal cords that had sung many of these songs since the 80’s. Distinctive and hardly aged at all.
Props to the rest of the band, though. Tempesta and Grant Fitzpatrick were great keeping things in rhythm, Damon Fox gave extra depth with the keyboards, but Billy Duffy stole the show for me. The top notch sound (not a phrase you’ll often hear me say in relation to the Hydro) meant that you could hear every crystal clear note from his six strings. Also, I’m no guitar nerd, but the one he used for the majority of the latter half of the set was beautiful. Looking more like something you’d expect to see being wielded by a 1960’s pop band, it thrummed through the definite show highlight “She Sells Sanctuary”.
Indeed, it was obvious that the majority of the audience were there for the better known numbers. While most were on their feet for the whole show (this was a 100% seated gig, surprisingly), the atmosphere lifted noticeably for the likes of “Sweet Soul Sister”, “Fire Woman”, “Rain” and “Sanctuary”. Nice to say I’ve seen them, and thoroughly enjoyed those songs, but otherwise they just kind of washed over me.
And then… Alice. Spoiler alert – 90 minutes of awesome. Finally I got to enjoy an Alice Cooper show as much as everyone else there and appreciate the man himself, and his fantastic band, for the entertainers they are.
Right from the word “go”, it was obvious there would be no letup. “Feed My Frankenstein” blasted out, a huge walking monster backed up the 5-piece band and Alice himself, and the crowd erupted. The setlist was a great cross-section of a very long history, covering no fewer than eleven albums up to and including the recent (and absolutely superb) Detroit. I finally had my Constrictor (“Teenage Frankenstein”) and Raise Your Fist (“Roses on White Lace” – YES!) itches scratched as well as hearing a bunch of other songs that couldn’t have been better curated. Obviously, with 90 minutes and 50 or whatever albums there was no way everyone’s favourites would be played but this was as good a selection as anyone could have hoped for.
Whatever brand of virgins’ blood Alice is bathing in should be publicising themselves better as this is a man who doesn’t look anywhere near his 74 years. Constantly on the move for the entire show, he absolutely commands attention. While never known for having the most harmonious voice, his gravelly tones seem unchanged after all these years and not a song goes by with a missed note or pause for breath.
Despite being a massive rock icon, Alice doesn’t hog the limelight. Throughout the show, full credit and a chance to show off was given to every member of the band. Courtesy of the superb sound (again… wow, Hydro), all three guitars were crystal clear and Chuck Garric’s bass kept the head nodding. Glen Sobel is a dummer many will have heard of already, and he did a great job all night, including not milking it too much for his solo.
The four on strings, though, (Garric along with Ryan Roxie, Tommy Henriksen and Nita Strauss) were just brilliant and every bit as much of the performance as the man himself. Each has a different style of their own – Roxie’s blues approach, Henriksen a bit more classic rock and Strauss’s shredding – but as well as their musicianship their backing vocals were spot on. Much as this is sold as the Alice Cooper show, it simply wouldn’t have been what it was without these guys.
The choreography, the interplay, the brief solos, the obvious camaraderie, the smiles… This is a band on the top of their game, backup a living legend who pretty much has never been anywhere but the top of his game.
This was the show I always wanted to enjoy and for the second time in a week I’ve walked out of the Hydro with goosebumps and a stupid big smile on my face.
Photos by Gary Cooper Gig Photography