Horror-glam legend Alice Cooper returned to London last month with Detroit pal Wayne Kramer's MC50 and the UK's own men in black, The Stranglers in tow. Vive LeRock's Paula Frost was there...
The O2 Arena was overrun by shock rock fans dressed in black head to toe with black eye makeup, celebrating the original glam goth Alice Cooper, ‘Ol’ Black Eyes’! And for the return of Cooper to the UK, rock royalty turned out including Bobbie Gillespie of Primal Scream and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, ready for their masterclass in mayhem. Cooper was supported by a stellar line-up of MC50 and The Stranglers.
Proto punks MC50 opened the show, 50 years on from MC5’s debut album ‘Kick Out the Jams’ with the iconic guitarist Wayne Kramer, a close friend of Cooper’s who’s gigged with him since way back in Detroit in the ‘60s. The line-up also included Faith No More bassist Billy Gould, Kim Thayil and Matt Cameron of Soundgarden, Brendan Canty of Fugazi, Marcus Durant of Zen Guerrilla and Don Was from funk band Was (Not Was). The band opened with ‘Ramblin’ Rose’ and rolled out the hits including the essential ‘Kick Out The Jams’. They played with full on energy and brought spirit to their set which got the crowd going early. MC50 flaunted their 50th Anniversary black banner stating ‘1968 – 2018’.
Next, The Stranglers stepped up their banner game with a huge backdrop of a dirty crumbling sewer, we’re amongst the rats now. Original members JJ Burnel and keyboard/organist Dave Greenfield played their slick whirling riffs almost effortlessly. Opening with ‘Toiler On The Sea’, they gave the audience a hits set including the classic ‘Golden Brown’ and ‘Peaches’. Frontman Baz changed the words of ‘Peaches’ to “I can think of a lot worse places to be like in a room full of people with black eyes.” And jeered at an audience member “Did you paint your eyes on the way over here from work?”
Soon enough it was time for the main event. The room turned to black and as everyone began to cheer in anticipation of Cooper’s appearance, a snarling character vocal played out like the beginning of a horror movie. The opening sounds of ‘Feed My Frankenstein’ beam out of the stage and a curtain dropped to reveal a haunted castle reaching across the stage. Cooper’s five-piece band take charge and we’re in for the ride. A ten-foot-tall ghoul emerges from behind the castle tower and charges for Cooper, but two castle guards capture it and bring it back to its cage. Throughout the performance there’s a lot of horror theatrics including a giant baby covered in blood running around the stage, two girls being murdered and a zombie widow in a wedding dress dancing around.
Cooper goes from evil ringmaster to straight jacketed madman and is even decapitated onstage – which looks impressively real. Stand out songs of the night are ‘I’m Eighteen’, ‘Dead Babies’ and the finale ‘Schools Out’. At the end of the show hundreds of giant purple balloons drop from the ceiling onto the audience below and make for an incredible wow moment. You’ll never see another show like it.
Pic © Dod Morrison