Friday, 17 November 2017

Alice Cooper

12th November 2017

Glasgow Hydro

The good Mr. Furnier has visited these shores on numerous occasions over the decades, but I had never previously been even remotely tempted to toddle along.  Despite being a big fan in the early days I, like many others I would hazard, felt when Alice Cooper the band turned into Alice Cooper the solo performer, something both integral and indefinable was irrevocably lost.  A band which once inhabited the freaky, edgy boundaries of rock’n’roll morphed into some MTV friendly Halloween/pantomime character - whom I shall term AC here, for the sake of an attempt at clarity.

Not even the (potentially dubious) attractions of a pair of well-known support acts initially enticed me along.  But rather it was the news AC would be joined, for part of the show at least, by the three other surviving members of the original band line-up: Drummer Neal Smith, bassist Denis Dunaway and rhythm guitarist Michael Bruce.  Glen Buxton was the missing link, the lead guitarist having succumbed, back in 1997, to the consequences of his long-term over-indulgences.

The Tubes were the first of the support acts.  No Re Styles these days, she having taken her leave of the band, I was surprised to learn, as far back as 1981.  But we did get four guys who had played on that really rather fine Remote Control album, I had purchased back in the day on the back of their UK hit: Prime Time.

And they were entertaining enough; opening with perhaps their best known tune – She's a Beauty.  The aforementioned Prime Time was also given an airing - but in a stripped-bare punky style with singer Fee Waybill aggressively bellowing out his lines.  My cynical self initially felt this new arrangement had been perhaps put together to help disguise the fact Waybill's voice maybe no longer houses the range to perform the song as originally recorded.  But his fine rendition of the next one - Love's a Mystery - suggested otherwise.  Perhaps they just feel the tune is too poppy to fit in with their current sound.

During Roger Steen's lengthy – and really rather impressive - guitar outro on Mystery, Waybill disappeared off-stage to morph into his silly Quay Lewd alter-ego – all long blond wig, spandex leotard and foot-high platform boots.  Yep folks, it was White Punks on Dope time, with Fee staying in character for the last one, Talk To Ya Later.

The Tubes had been a whole load more fun than I had expected, and I rather wistfully wished I had gone to see them in Edinburgh a couple of nights earlier.  Oh well.

The Tubes set list

She's a Beauty
TV is King
Mr. Hate
What Do You Want From Life?
Prime Time
Love's a Mystery
White Punks on Dope
Talk to Ya Later

The Mission, I knew next to nothing about.  My sole excursion into Eighties Goth-land had been in the company of The Sisters of Mercy’s dull debut album First and Last and Always.  Wayne Hussey had played guitar on this one, before falling out with Andrew Eldritch and going on to form The Mission.  I could recall perhaps a couple of eminently disposable singles from the latter band’s early days, but nothing more.

Proceedings this evening opened with Hussey strumming along to a backing track which, as the rest of the band ambled onstage and joined in, became a really rather entertaining epic, I later learned to be titled Tower of Strength.  Regretfully, this proved to represent the high-water mark of the group's set.

Three songs in, we were presented with the opening few bars of Like a Hurricane, and I thought to myself: “This could be interesting”.  I was wrong.  It was not.  It was rubbish.  The band crashed thorough the song with all subtlety of a labourer dropping a hod of bricks down a well, with Hussey simply snarling out Neil Young's beautiful poetry.  The business could possibly (just possibly) have been saved had Simon Hinckler's guitar been more to the fore, but it was buried way, way down in the mix <sigh>.

Severina and Butterfly on a Wheel – both tunes I knew – were fair enough, but dispensable formulaic eighties fluff really - before the band closed their set with a piece of self-important nonsense called Deliverance.

Throughout, Hussey had come across as a bit of an arse.  Chewing gum incessantly – very Steve Harley – he initially had a go at the Scottish weather (he resides in Brazil these days, he delighted in informing us), before having a poke at Scotland's failure to qualify for the World Cup.  Probably doing so in an attempt to evoke some sort of response from the Glasgow crowd, who were reacting to his band's performance with general indifference.  Very clearly here was a man used to (and in his mind, deserving of) greater levels of admiration and adulation than we were providing.

The Mission set list

Tower of Strength
Beyond the Pale
Like a Hurricane
Like a Child Again
Butterfly on a Wheel

I later wondered if my experience with The Mission had not been tainted by the antics of my neighbour.  For in the seat next to mine had been the most alcoholically-wasted individual I have encountered for some time.  Barely able to stand, he had flailed around in his seat, buffeting me with his elbows before spraying me with first crisps (Ready Salted) and then beer.  

Towards the end of The Mission's stint he heaved himself to his feet and wandered off, I assumed, in the direction of the bar.  “Thank fuck”, I thought.  His only slightly less inebriated companion later apologised to me for his mate's behaviour, and warmed my heart by informing me I probably would not be seeing the oaf again, as he had apparently just succeeded in getting himself thrown out of the venue.  I expressed my sympathy, but inside rejoiced: “Result!”.

He went on to tell me this gig had actually been a gift for his mate, he had paid for.  On top of forking out for return flights from Luton and a hotel room, their VIP tickets had cost the eye-watering sum of £300 each.  I did not tell him I had obtained my prime position by using my time-honoured tactic of patiently waiting until the unsold VIP seats were put on sale for “normal” prices, a few days before the gig.    

Alice Cooper - Glasgow 2017

The four guitarists to the fore on Halo of Flies 

"She wanted an Einstein but she got a Frankenstein"

4/5 of the original Alice Cooper
Alice Cooper took to the stage to the doom-laden riff of Brutal Planet, scowling and prowling about in a manner more camp than menacing, for all his make-up and black leather.  Under My Wheels followed – reinforcing my long-held notion that David Bowie and Mick Ronson had likely heard this one more than a few times before penning Suffragette City.

After this excellent start, AC disappointingly proceeded to tread water for the next half-an-hour or so; he and his band churning out a selection of serviceable but hardly inspiring slices of Transatlantic metal.  The World Needs Guts – sounding not unlike Queen I thought, was fun, but much of the rest plodded.  This portion of the evening reached its nadir with the appalling Poison; a song which perfectly illustrates all that was wrong with mid-Eighties American AOR.

Halo of Flies – one of the epics from 1971's Killer album – got things back on track, I am pleased to relate.  An attempt, in the band's own words “to sound like King Crimson”, the composition is a selection of seemingly disparate bits of songs melded together to create an entertaining slice of Man from UNCLE inspired hokum.  It should not really work but it does, wonderfully - although I could probably have lived without the drum solo inserted into this evening's performance.

Most of the rest of the show was given over to AC's more theatrical efforts:  we had a 20-foot monster lumbering around the stage (Feed My Frankenstein), AC making out with a corpse (Cold Ethyl) before coming to a sticky end on a guillotine (Ballad of Dwight Fry).  As the singer's severed head was being held up for all to see, the band chanted the chorus to I Love The Dead.  And I reflected this was two encounters with necrophilia I had enjoyed this evening.  I generally limit myself to one.

With the lights down, the aforementioned trio of original band members replaced the newbies and I realised, as far as I was concerned anyway, there were had been not two support acts this evening, but three.  And the headliners had just taken the stage.  

A rumbustious selection of tunes from the band's halcyon days followed; reminding all of us (as if we needed reminding) just how unique an outfit they were back in the day.  School's Out – complete with bubbles, fireworks, confetti and big balloons – closed out the evening.  Tagged onto School's Out was a snippet of Another Brick in the Wall, as if these two songs were made for each other.  But then I remembered both tunes had Bob Ezrin's fingerprints all over them.

Next time AC, a full tour with the original band only please.

Alice Cooper set list

Brutal Planet
Under My Wheels
Lost in America
Department of Youth
The World Needs Guts
Woman of Mass Distraction
Nita Strauss guitar solo
Halo of Flies
Feed My Frankenstein
Cold Ethyl
Only Women Bleed
Paranoiac Personality
Ballad of Dwight Fry/Killer
I Love The Dead
I'm Eighteen
Billion Dollar Babies
No More Mr Nice Guy
Muscle of Love
School's Out/Another Brick in the Wall Part 2

Alice Cooper - Glasgow 2017

The crutch was a prop for "I'm Eighteen"

Band members old and current gathered for Schools Out

AC enjoyed great fun slashing away as these confetti-filled balloons as they were batted back towards him by the crowd.

Neal Smith, Michael Bruce, AC and Denis Dunaway.

At the end of the show there were a few fireworks, one of which set off this small fire.
Which led to a rather lively few moments for the roadies.

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