***SPOILER ALERT: If you are attending tonight’s State Theatre show, it might be best to avoid reading this review as well as the set list until after the concert. Tickets are still available.
Guillotine? Check. Straight jacket? Check. Frankenstein? Check. Live python? Check. Ridiculously fun? Double check.
Alice Cooper has been offering a lot of the same gimmicks for three decades now, and a lot of the same songs for even longer. After local gigs as varied as the Cadott Rock Fest and Taste of Minnesota, however, it’s been quite a while since most Twin Cities fans got to see Cooper and his traveling horror show as up-close-and-personal -- and without daylight to spoil the vampirical proceedings as --on Sunday night at the State Theatre, his first of two shows there.
Along with a few new wrinkles in the show (no pun intended; Alice’s makeup doesn’t exactly hide his 65 years), the sold-out theater setting helped add new life to the standardized performance. The undead rock legend and his hired L.A. guns (also no pun on the band’s dated hair-band appearance) only performed 95 minutes and left out some of his best classics, including “Only Women Bleed” and “Cold Ethyl.” But they crammed in a lot of schtick and schlock along with some straight-up fast and feisty versions of the must-do songs in that time.
One new addition to the show is the inclusion of flashy, one-name guitarist Orianthi, she of Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” notoriety. The Greek-blooded, Australian-raised rocker didn’t exactly let loose with her solos but played them precisely and excitedly, as did the other two guitarists on occasion. That’s right: three guitarists, which seemed like one too many, but maybe Alice needs them to round out a foursome on the golf course.
Orianthi actually made her biggest impression during the “Raise the Dead” segment, which ended the concert pre-encore. This, too, is a new thing. After his electrocution for “Feed My Frankenstein” -- and then his execution by guillotine to raise “I Love the Dead” -- Cooper kicked off the tribute to his so-called “dead, drunken friends,” featuring one song apiece by the Doors (Jim Morrison), Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon and the Who (Keith Moon). It might sound hokey but it was actually one of the most gimmickless and hardest-rocking segments of the show, with Alice visibly enjoying himself.
“They were guys that I drank with back in the day,” he explained in a part of our interview that didn’t make the preview article in Friday’s newspaper. “Specifically, John Lennon, Keith Moon and Jimi Hendrix were my closer friends. Here are songs of theirs done the way Alice would do them. We turn it into a true tip-of-the-hat to those guys.”
The best tips-of-the-hat, though, were to the original Alice Cooper band, with whom the namesake singer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. His current lineup did the original Detroit crew justice with gritty, blistery versions of “Billion Dollar Babies” and “Under My Wheels” at the start of the show, and “I’m Eighteen” and “School’s Out” at the end – sparking good, old-fashion sing-alongs in each case that reiterated how much Alice, too, belongs in the Hall of Fame. Here’s the full set list from Sunday:
Hello Hooray / House of Fire / No More Mr. Nice Guy / I'll Bite Your Face Off / Caffeine / Billion Dollar Babies / Under My Wheels / Department of Youth / Hey Stoopid / Welcome to My Nightmare / Go to Hell / Devil's Food / Feed My Frankenstein / Ballad of Dwight Fry / Killer / I Love the Dead / Break On Through (to the Other Side) (the Doors cover) / Revolution (Beatles) / Foxy Lady (Jimi Hendrix) / My Generation (the Who) / I'm Eighteen / Poison ENCORE: School's Out