I think I've been semi-fascinated with Alice Cooper since I was a kid. And ever since I saw Wayne's World and saw Wayne and Garth partying and rocking out at a kickass-looking Cooper show, I've wanted to see the mad man of rock n' roll live. I remember watching the Behind the Music special on Cooper back in the day and again, just being fascinated at the juxtaposition of this guy who, on one hand, was by all accounts a nice, genuine, humble good samaritan, and on the other was one of rock's great goth icons - a crazyman who seemed to walk on the edge of dark psychosis. But hey, he is a bonafide legend, no doubt about it. He influenced all sorts of artists, has a catalog packed with awesome tunes, and hey, he's about to become a certified (and much-deserved) Rock n' Roll Hall of Famer.
So yeah, seeing Alice Cooper play live, at Universal Studios, on the eve of October 1st, was just something that to me was inherently awesome. And man, the guy can still perform. A master of his craft, Alice Cooper burned through dozens of hit songs, barely pausing to take a breath in between tunes. But Alice doesn't just sing. Every song is a live stage show - darkly funny performance art in which the psychotic Alice Cooper character is killed repeatedly in all manner of amusingly gruesome ways - he's beaheaded by a guillotine, hung by a noose, and injected with a glowing syringe filled with toxic poison. He's tied up in a straightjacket, seduced by a femme fatale, and carried off by demonic monsters and sacrificed to their hellish gods. Sounds grisly, but it's all in good fun. All of Cooper's bits have an over-the-top sense of humor about them. He's a natural performer, too - donning a sparkling tophat and waistcoat for "Elected' and fencing on stage with a rapier during "Billion Dollar Babies."
Cooper blazed through 22 songs, kicking things off with iconic rockers like "School's Out," "No More Mr. Nice Guy," and "I'm Eighteen." I was hoping for a little bit more love for Cooper's more over-the-top 80's and 90's-era songs (I love stuff like Man Behind the Mask and House of Fire), but at least we did eventually get one of my all-time favorites, "Poison," which kicked ass and then some. Other highlights included "Be My Lover," as well as the aforementioned "Billion Dollar Babies" and "Elected."
But yeah, it was sort of surreal and unquestionably awesome to be welcomed into Mr. Alice Cooper's nightmare. To see the icon onstage, the classic black makeup streaks intact, the trademark bullwhip in hand - it was definitely an experience. May he keep on rocking for many years to come.
"Told her that I came
From Detroit City
And I played guitar
In a long-haired rock and roll band ...
She asked me why
The singer's name was Alice
I said listen, baby
You really wouldn't understand!"
Meanwhile, the show was opened by a band called the Murderdolls, a bunch of rockers in Kiss-style facepaint who were probably closer to Rob Zombie in terms of edge and bite. They had a couple of pretty decent tunes that, at the least, got the crowd primed and ready for Cooper and Zombie.
Speaking of the crowd, they were an eclectic bunch to say the least. You had your old-school classic rock dudes who saw Alice Cooper back in '78 and swore he hadn't lost a step. You had your goth kids in white makeup and fishnet arm-stockings. You had families, old guys, young guys, goth girls, rocker girls, and everything in between.
Eventually, after Alice Cooper finished up his set and got a well-deserved ovation, it was time for ROB ZOMBIE. I'm a longtime fan, although definitely only a casual one. I like Zombie's hits, and songs like "Dragula" and "Feel So Numb" are great pump-up songs to blast at full volume on the ride home from work. But I definitely do not consider myself in the cult of Zombie or anything like that. I've never even seen any of the guy's movies - I'm sort of intrigued by them, but I rarely go in for horror movies who's biggest selling point is extreme gore and brutality.
But I'll say this - I came away from Halloween Hootenanny a bigger Zombie fan than before. The guy put on a truly awesome show, and had some of the best sets, props, and theatrics I've seen in a concert. As Zombie blasted through sci-fi inspired songs like "Jesus Frankenstein" and "Mars Need Women," the stage was assaulted by giant monsters, aliens, and robots. There were huge pyrotechnics, clips of old horror and sci-fi movies playing on the big video screen, and crazy lighting and secondary video displays. Plus, a lot of the songs that I may not be playing on repeat in my car nevertheless made for great arena-rockers, with easy-to-chant choruses that had the crowd on their feet, banging their heads, and pumping their fists.
I didn't know a lot of the Zombie songs beforehand, but we got some of the big hits that any rock n' roll fan is familiar with. "More Human Than Human" and "Living Dead Girl" were two of the big crowd-pleasers, and Rob closed out the show with an absolutely thrashing rendition of Dragula that had the fans at Universal going wild. We even got the hilarious "Werewolf Women of the SS" trailer from GRINDHOUSE, followed by the song of the same name. In between songs, Zombie had some pretty amusing banter, waxing philosophical about the appeal of the Jonas Brothers, and giving some huge props to Alice Cooper. Rob and his band even played a quick cover of "School's Out" in tribute to the icon who preceeded them onstage. I was really surprised by how great of a showman Zombie is though - he was dancing and leaping around the stage like a man possessed, and just brought huge overall energy to what was on the whole a crazy show. By the time the epic Dragula concluded, we had all been thoroughly rocked.
Overall, it was a blast to see these two horror-rock icons together and each on top of their game. I can't think of a better way to kick off October.