Live Review: Alice Cooper, The Roundhouse, London, 1st November
Wednesday 10 November 2010
On paper, Alice Cooper is a ludicrous proposition. A 62-year-old man with a woman’s name in leather trousers and ghoulish make-up, he sings anthems mainly concerned with adolescent angst ('I’m Eighteen') lust ('Feed My Frankenstein') and rebellion ('No More Mr Nice Guy').
It should be claw-your-face-off cringeworthy, but like AC/DC, who somehow still get away with a 55-year-old guitarist dressed as a schoolboy, it’s anything but. In fact, over 90 minutes at a hysterical Roundhouse, Cooper puts forward a convincing case that he is greatest rock ’n’ roll showman on earth.
Part of the appeal is pure pantomime: this is a West End spectacular choreographed by Satan. During the course of the evening, Cooper is executed on stage by a team of hooded goons in increasingly macabre and amusing style. A 20-foot guillotine is wheeled out for a beheading; a lethal injection is administered from a colossal syringe, and he’s sandwiched inside a gigantic iron maiden.
Most startling, he is hanged during 'I Never Cry'. It’s bizarrely convincing - and Cooper once almost died when his noose malfunctioned onstage - but before you can even work out how he did it, the energetic frontman is on to something else: emerging from backstage on a 30ft platform dressed as a spider bellowing Vengeance Is Mine; being tortured by a pair of malicious nurses (one of whom is his daughter, Calico) and - during 'Billion Dollar Babies' - beheading an infant. Such is Cooper’s tongue-in-cheek likeability, this act of child murder earns a huge ovation.
It would be a mistake, though, to let the razzmatazz overshadow the music. Bob Dylan once told Rolling Stone that he thought Cooper was one of the most under-rated songwriters in America, and he is the antithesis of grumpy stars who refuse to play their best-known songs - Cooper opens and closes the show with the thundering 'School’s Out', and the hits keep coming, from the sleazy bar blues of 'Be My Lover' through the frantic stomp of 'Under My Wheels' and ballsy glam of 'Poison'.
The show encores with Cooper clad in a barmy silver suit, waving a Union Jack as he belts out his own personal leadership campaign, 'Elected'. He’s certainly earned the crowd’s vote, and at the age most would consider retirement, he won’t even contemplate it. “Mick Jagger is six years older than me,” he says, “and I will not let him beat me.”
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