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Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne February 14, 2020
Review: Greg Phillips Photos: Jason Rosewarne

There are a number of ‘heritage’ rock acts that regularly tour Australia and for many of them, there’s an incremental loss of vocal quality or stage energy with each tour which make you wrestle with the decision to acquire a ticket or not when you hear they’re coming out again. However there are a few exceptions to that rule and with Alice Cooper, even at 72 years of age, you just know that he’s going to deliver a quality, memorable, fun rock and roll show.

In his pursuit to always keep things interesting, for this tour Cooper had fellow Detroit rock pioneers MC50 tag along as openers. It’s the 50th anniversary version of the iconic punk band MC5, which has been touring the US for the last couple of years. The band originally formed by Wayne Kramer, Rob Tyner and the legendary Fred Sonic Smith made an impact in the late 60s, early 70s with their politically charged brand of punk rock, 6 or 7 years before anyone had heard of the Sex Pistols. Tonight guitarist Wayne Kramer was the only original member on stage but the spirit of MC5’s powerful garage rock music was represented well by a band full of alt rock heroes such as Kim Thayil (Soundgarden), drummer Brendan Canty (Fugazi), bassist Billy Gould (Faith No More), and frontman Marcus Durant (Zen Guerrilla). In late 2019 Cooper paid tribute to the Detroit rock sound himself with the release of his six track garage rock EP Breadcrumbs but none of those tunes got an airing tonight, leaving it to the MC’s to fill that void in an all too short but nonetheless sweet rockin’ set. How about a club show guys?

Next up Airbourne, the carriers of the flame of the classic Australian pub rock sound ran onto stage and didn’t stop running. Vocalist, guitarist Joel O’Keefe continuously ran from one side of the stage to the other, then into the crowd to triumphantly stand precariously on the rails of the wings to salute us with his Gibson Explorer. After all these years, it was the first time I’d managed to see the band live and was heartened by the the power and tightness of the Warnambool-bred rockers. Backed a by an impressive wall of Marshall amps, it certainly sounded like they were all plugged in!

But is was the prince of darkness, the master of shock rock that everyone had come to see and before long, there he stood, wielding his skull-headed cane, looking as imposing and threatening as ever as the band ripped into Feed My Frankenstein, getting this “Ol’ Black Eyes Is Back” show off to a killer start. Merely two songs in and the crowd had already found their voice. “No more mister nice guy, No more mister clean,” they sung with vigor. With around 30 studio albums under his belt, there was a fair spread from all corners of his career, going as far back as 1971 with early hits Under My Wheels and I’m Eighteen to the most recent Fallen in Love from 2017’s Paranormal. Classic Cooper shock rock came mid-gig in the form of Billion Dollar Babies and Poison, which allowed guitarist Nita Strauss to have her time in the shredlight.

Of course it’s the theatrics which the Alice Cooper fans had come to see and he never disappoints. The longer the show went, the more theatrical it got and the larger the characters and props became. All the old faves were there, Frankenstein, giant babies, the guillotine queen, and other assorted freaks and curiosities.

Not only do we expect Alice Cooper’s shows to be a visual spectacle, from day one he’s also surrounded himself with great bands featuring some of the world’s finest guitarists. Over his career these have included: Steve Hunter, Dick Wagner, Davey Johnstone, Vinnie Moore, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Orianthi, Reb Beach and Slash to name a few. Tonight’s exceptional band were no slouches either, consisting of the incredible Glen Sobel on drums (DW drums, Sabian cymbals, Vater sticks), Chuck Garric on bass (Epiphone Thunderbird Vintage Pro), and guitarists, Ryan Roxie (an assortment of SG, Flying V, 2014 Les Paul, 2012 Gibson ES-335), Tommy Henriksen (Gibson SG Les Paul Custom), who plays with the Hollywood Vampires and the amazing ‘Hurricane’ queen Nita Strauss, who played some astonishing licks on her signature Ibanez JIVA 10 in beach burst.

As we headed for the pointy end of the show, the drama built with the Welcome To My Nightmare segment featuring Devil’s Food, Black Widow, Steven and Escape, performed both instrumentally and vocally with such dynamic energy by this sensational band.

Paying respect to the land he was standing on, a Dirty Deeds intro morphed into a raucous Department Of Youth. School’s Out summoned Airbourne’s Joel O’Keefe to the stage to join the already fierce guitar assault and brought the audience to their feet. Huge confetti balloons bounced into the crowd, only to be pricked by Cooper’s sword upon their return, showering his fans with glittery, Valentine’s day love.

Creepy babies, guillotines, monsters, murderers and hits. Just another day at the office for the great Alice Cooper but for his fans, an explosion of sight and sound which should be on the see-before-you-die bucket list of any true rock ’n’ roll fan.


Alice Cooper’s remaining Australian date:
Tuesday 18 February  Brisbane, Entertainment Centre Ticket info

Nita’s remaining Ibanez/Boss masterclass dates:
Melbourne: Wednesday February 26 at Manny’s Musical Instruments & Pro Audio
Sydney: Thursday February 27 at The Artist Centre

Gibson and Ibanez guitars distributed in Australia by Australis Music Group

Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil with MC50
Marcus Durant MC50
Airbourne’s Joel O’Keefe

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