The sheer amount of top hats, ghoulish makeup and black attire on peeps wandering down Olympic Boulevard makes us wonder whether there’s been some kinda mistake and it is in fact Halloween rather than Hallmark Day.
Header photo and all included images: Carbie Warbie
Since Detroit proto-punk/hard-rock band MC50 – a supergroup featuring MC5’s Wayne Kramer – are first up this evening, we hustle inside and notice that Rod Laver Arena is set up in very rock’n’roll fashion with rows of seats laid out all the way to the back in GA.
MC50 are off and running with the sick guitar licks of Ramblin’ Rose. Sideshow Bob-style fro’d-up lead singer Marcus Durant (Zen Guerrilla) definitely looks like he’s from Planet Alice Cooper and borrows moves from Beyoncé’s Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) video, (but just from the waist down) – funky! Just add Fugazi’s Brendan Canty on drums, Faith No More’s Billy Gould on bass and Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil on guitar and you can just imagine the electric vibe up in here. Durant’s harmonica playing rips through us like a snort of wasabi. Kramer’s spiel about what we need our leaders to push for – a clean planet, justice for all people (“not just white people with money”) and equal rights/pay for women – segues effortlessly into Looking at You and he busts out some wild martial arts-style poses during the band’s closer. We sure wish MC50 were doing an intimate club show while they’re in town!
Warrnambool’s own Airbourne are up next and when frontman Joel O’Keeffe jumps off a sidestage amp we’re reminded of the good old days when he was famous for climbing sky-high scaffolding at festivals, one-handed while swigging from a bottle of red. To be fair, he does execute a killer guitar solo while standing up on the first tier’s perspex barrier during Girls in Black tonight, though. “We are Airbourne from Thornbury,” is how O’Keeffe introduces his band and punters knowingly guffaw. Bassist Justin Street and rhythm guitarist Matt Harrison’s unison hair helicoptering tickles our fancy as do the eight stacks of triple-decker amps that line the back of the stage. None can deny these boys can play. The hand-cranked air-raid siren while searchlights roam the stadium adds drama and you had better check the pulse of anyone not jumping around (in their seat) during Runnin’ Wild! And after a victorious set, O’Keeffe leaves us with his trademark signoff: “As long as you are alive and we are alive, rock’n’roll will never die!”
“The curtain drops to reveal Nightmare Castle and then Alice Cooper struts through the smoke complete with top hat and cane.”
A creepy voiceover sets the macabre scene as we gaze at a curtain featuring a closeup on Ol’ Black Eyes’ peepers with red illuminated pupils (this is the Ol’ Black Eyes Is Back tour after all). “FEED MY FRANKENSTEIN!” The curtain drops to reveal Nightmare Castle and then Alice Cooper struts through the smoke complete with top hat and cane. The Godfather of Shock Rock ain’t no amateur baton twirler, either, and handles his props (cane, fencing foil or sword) throughout with aplomb. We wonder whether all of this prop practice is what makes him such a handy golfer? Anyone who can swashbuckle around while wearing multiple belts with whopping buckles all the while somehow managing to not look like a dick is a clear winner in our eyes, and Cooper is always 100 percent committed during performance.
Giant Frankenstein even comes out during tonight’s opener – WTF!? Have they peaked too early? Coops’ lyrics are priceless and we can’t help but smile while we sing (eg. “Meet my libido/ He’s a psycho,” and then, “Baby, chow down”). During No More Mister Nice Guy, Coops nonchalantly piffs his cane into the crowd, which has gotta be the best gig souvenir going around.
The show is blocked like a complex theatrical production and at one point we see a stagehand materialising behind the rostra just in the nick of time to carry some kind of Bride of Frankenstein (played by Cooper’s wife, Sheryl) back to stage level, backwards, as if she’s slowly descending into the pit of Hell. This show’s stage manager must be so under the pump!
Cooper’s band is truly worthy of sharing his downstage hero platform, but Hurricane Nita Strauss dominates. All three guitarists – Strauss, Tommy Henriksen and Ryan Roxie – are constantly in motion, duckwalking a la Angus Young, jumping off risers and striking poses with Coops. Just add bassist Chuck Garric plus drummer Glenn Sobel and Cooper’s engine room is watertight – a band of pure thoroughbreds.
When Cooper plays harmonica alongside solo guitar during Fallen in Love, it’s a musical dialogue that speaks our language. Coops then double-fists double-maracas (of course he does). In one dramatic scene during He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask), a couple of performers enter the stage space playing teenage fans taking selfies before an evil-looking creature creeps up behind one of them and slits her throat with a sword – so realistic, but always done with such a sense of fun. “I’ve got a baby’s brain and an old man’s heart” – I’m Eighteen‘s lyrics pretty much describe the majority in attendance tonight.
Poison is always a set highlight and those chorus harmonies sound top-notch. Coops singles out front-row punters, pointing his cane at them with an accusatory, “YOU’RE poison!” Strauss’s guitar solo leaves us shaken before Cooper concludes, “You’re ALL poison!”
Our collective breath is taken away on the reg by the sheer power of Sobel’s drumming and his kick drum form is unparalleled. During his drum solo, he pummels out beats that are so fast and furious we can barely make out a rhythm within the spleen-busting rumble. And when he executes unison double-drumstick twirls between cymbal clashes? Okay then, showoff!
Ugh, those adult-sized babies are so creepy! We could never tire of the guillotine scene and still can’t figure out how it’s done even though we try not to blink. A giant inflatable ‘Billion Dollar Baby’ brandishes Cooper’s ‘dismembered head’ during I Love the Dead as Sheryl swans around, weaving between guitarists and just looking terrifying in general. Those who initially missed the Giant Frankenstein photo op score one last chance during main set closer Teenage Frankenstein.
A snippet of AC/DC’s Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap flows into Department of Youth to kick off the encore and then O’Keeffe takes the stage to join Cooper’s guitar allstars for School’s Out (which incorporates a segment of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2). As stagehands volley confetti-filled balloons Cooper’s way, he pops them with his fencing foil so confetti rains down on the crowd. Coops introduces his extraordinary band one at a time before introducing himself, “and playing the part of Alice Cooper tonight… ME!” Correct: There’s only one Alice Cooper.
“Thank you for coming to the Nightmare Castle!” Cooper extols before adding, “Happy Valentine’s Day!”
Does anyone else immediately think of Cooper while singing along with New World’s Living Next Door to Alice and wish he were their neighbour? We’re tipping Ol’ Black Eyes would leave the Halloween decorations up all year ’round as well.