Let’s do the rock n roll math. It had been 27 years since Alice Cooper was last in the nation’s capital and this is his tenth tour downunder (a jaunt which celebrates his first Aussie tour four decades back). Yet when the live rock n roll is this hot – numbers are irrelevant.
If it’s rock n roll you came for – it was rock n roll you got – dished out in very loud, copious amounts. This venue has spent most of its life as a concrete laden basketball venue and to be honest – is in need of an upgrade. When that happens, they would be well advised to consider tossing the chairs – which tonight are in neat rows on the floor. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, nothing kills a rock n roll show like chairs. People wanna stand up and dance – get the ya ya’s out. Not easily done sitting down, though fortunately as the music heats up tonight – so too the audience who are on their feet.
The instrumental tune Fractured Mirror means it’s show time and iconic former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley opens the show with a crunching take of ‘Parasite’. Folks, when Frehley is on form, you’d better believe there is no one better. Tonight’s hour long set is beyond superb – one which is littered with tunes from his Kiss career and also his 1978 solo record. Highlights are many: ‘Strange Ways’, ‘Hard Times’, ‘Rocket Ride’ and a blazing ‘Rip It Out’. ‘This number was supposedly a hit here’ utters Space Ace – before belting into ‘Talk To Me’. It didn’t hit the pointy end of the charts back in 1980, but I sure as hell bought it back then, and it’s a treat to hear it live. Frehley’s band are top shelf and give his tunes added muscle. Co-hort Richie Scarlett has paid his dues and his history with Ace goes back to the early to mid-80’s NYC club days. Another highlight of Frehley’s set are indeed his vocals which sound stronger than ever. New York Groove and a sizzling Shock Me end proceedings – showing all and sundry – how the big boys do it. With Ace looking and sounding better than ever, I eagerly await his next studio effort.
One studio effort which has won me over is Alice Cooper’s latest titled ‘Paranormal’. It’s as solid an outing as anything he’s cut in the last twenty years and importantly, it oozes vitality. Further to that – I think that this is one aspect of his live show, which Cooper addresses and nails so so well. I am talking about penning a set list where the more recent tunes sit alongside his rich catalogue of classicks. Some artists don’t do it as well as he does and tonight – it’s a cool mix of newish and old. Case in point is 2000’s ‘Brutal Planet’ which kicks off proceedings and is capitol H – heavy. ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy’, a raunchy ‘Under My Wheels’ and ‘Department of Youth’ follow and it’s smiles a mile-wide from many. Like Frehley, Cooper’s voice sounds incredible and he too looks like he’ll be raising hell for some time to come. ‘Paranoiac Personality’ from the aforementioned Paranoral is kicked out tonight to maximum effect and it’s a shame this is the only song off the new record to cop an airing. Lead guitarist Nita Strauss, like Orianthi before her – adds loud, blonde-flavoured guitar and it works so well. Strauss is no slouch and gives the Cooper show added starch. Bassist Chuck Garric has been with Cooper for some time and is rock solid. Surely I can’t be the first writer to mention that he bears a resemblance to original Coop bass man Dennis Dunaway ? Yes ? No ? I bought the ‘Constrictor’ record back in the day and loved it – ‘The World Needs Guts’ from that album is up next and it cooks. Another relative new tune Woman of Mass Distraction – from the Dirty Diamonds album is another of the more recent track on offer and again, sits in well with the familiar material. ‘Feed My Frankenstein’ is always great live as is the super infectious ‘Poison’ – which reached no 3 here back in the late 80’s. Evening highlight for me is ‘Ballad Of Dwight Fry’, always a special moment to see live – from his amazing 1971 LP ‘Love It to Death’. Another special moment to savour – in a lifetime spent devouring cool rock n roll. Fan favourite ‘I’m Eighteen’ still generates crowd electricity before an obligatory Schools Out ends the show. To summarise, this run of Australian dates is clear evidence that when it comes to spitting out rock n roll with broad appeal, Ace Frehley and Alice Cooper both remain at the top of their game.