Friday, 30 October 2015

Alice Cooper - Plymouth Review

Alice Cooper is known as much for his over-the-top live performances as he is for his music, and it might have been this that put me off his somewhat for years. I always thought that, with Cooper, the music came second to putting on a good show so I often dismissed a lot of his work despite liking some of the obvious hit singles. However, when I decided to buy a ticket to see one of Mötley Crüe’s farewell shows next month, with Cooper supporting, I decided it was time to finally give his music a proper appraisal. I was surprised by just how good a lot of it was, so I was annoyed at myself for dismissing it for so long. It is good to be proved wrong sometimes, and on plus side I now have a large discography of his to work through in slow time and really get to grips with his catalogue. After some hesitation, I decided to also see one of his two UK headline shows used as warm ups for the Mötley Crüe tour. The tickets were a little on the expensive side I thought, but the fact it was local and that Michael Monroe was supporting persuaded me to go – and I am glad that I did! Plymouth has never been one of the greatest cities for live music, but it does alright. The Pavilions is one of the worst venues of its size I have been to, and I believe it does put some bands off. The sound was historically awful, but recently it seems to have improved somewhat. Machine Head’s gig in December sounded good, and the sound for both Monroe and Cooper was great. The show attracted a large crowd too, and place was full by the time Cooper hit the stage.

Before that however, former Hanoi Rocks frontman Michael Monroe (vocals/saxophone/harmonica) and his band delivered an excellent 40 minutes of pure punk rock for the gathering crowd. I saw him at High Voltage Festival in 2011, and have been a big fan of his since, but this is the first time seeing him live since then. As it was then, his set was made of pure energy, and he never stopped rocking until he walked off the stage. His recent solo career has been very strong, with three great studio albums released since 2011, with a largely stable group of musicians backing him up. His most recent album Blackout States was released earlier this month, and his set contained four songs from it; along with other solo material and songs from his bands Hanoi Rocks and Demolition 23.. Steve Conte (guitar/vocals) and Rich Jones (guitar/vocals) made for a formidable guitar pairing, as the two traded riffs and solos throughout, and they are great foils for Monroe’s energy. It was certainly a crowd pleasing set, with plenty of big choruses and memorable moments. Early highlights were the new number This Ain’t no Love Song and older solo track Trick of the Wrist which both seem to go down very well. More and more people seemed to be getting into his set as it went along, and the final three songs were probably the best. Demolition 23.’s Hammersmith Palais, Hanoi Rocks’ Malibu Beach Nightmare, and his own Dead, Jail or Rock ‘n’ Roll made for a rousing closing trio. The setlist was:

This Ain’t no Love Song
Old King’s Road
Trick of the Wrist
Ballad of the Lower East Side
Man With no Eyes
Goin’ Down With the Ship
Hammersmith Palais [Demolition 23. material]
Malibu Beach Nightmare [Hanoi Rocks material]
Dead, Jail or Rock ‘n’ Roll

What Michael Monroe has in energy, Alice Cooper has in showmanship. From the outset, Cooper’s performance was spot on as he and his band delivered a great set made from material from throughout his career. Early on in the set, the songs came thick and fast. Classics like the AOR-friendly House of Fire, the anthemic No More Mr. Nice Guy, and the raw Billion Dollar Babies all went down really well as Cooper strutted his stuff on the stage. His band were excellent too. No less than three guitarists: Nita Strauss, Ryan Roxie, and Tommy Henriksen all took turns to solo and complimented each other well; while Chuck Garric (bass guitar/harmonica/vocals) and Glen Sobel (drums) laid down some solid rhythms. Sobel seems to be invigorated from his few fill-in dates with Mötley Crüe, and he played really well all night, especially during his solo section in the newer song Dirty Diamonds. Other newer material such as I’ll Bite Your Face Off and Wicked Young Man were also played and went down as well as the classics. The first half of the show focused more on music, and the second half was heavy on the theatrics. Go to Hell saw Cooper with his trademark snake before Feed my Frankenstein really got things going with a mad scientists slab and a huge Frankenstein’s Monster puppet. The medley of Ballad of Dwight Fry, Killer, and I Love the Dead saw the most theatrics however, with a creepy nurse character acting with Cooper before he was ‘beheaded’ via guillotine. He has been doing this trick for years, but it was still a lot of fun to see. The covers section that followed was a little odd however. While I enjoyed it, I would have rather he played more of his own stuff – especially as he has plenty of albums to draw from! Two classics I’m Eighteen and Poison rounded out the main set and the band left the stage to huge cheers. There was time for one more however, and School’s Out was the perfect way to end the evening with lots of confetti and bangs. The setlist was:

The Black Widow
House of Fire
No More Mr. Nice Guy
Under my Wheels
I’ll Bite Your Face Off
Billion Dollar Babies
Be my Lover
Lost in America
Hey Stoopid
Dirty Diamonds
Go to Hell
Wicked Young Man
Feed my Frankenstein
Ballad of Dwight Fry/Killer/I Love the Dead
Five to One [The Doors cover]/Break on Through (to the Other Side) [The Doors cover]
Cold Turkey [Plastic Ono Band cover]
Manic Depression [The Jimi Hendrix Experience cover]
My Generation [The Who cover]
I’m Eighteen
School’s Out/Another Brick in the Wall – Part 2 [Pink Floyd cover]

Overall, this was a fantastic evening of music and showmanship in Plymouth that was enjoyed by all. It will not be long before I see Alice Cooper again, as I will be seeing him with Mötley Crüe next Tuesday!

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