Now in its third year Alice Cooper's annual spook-fest has already become something of a tradition for the initiated, and with a venue change this time round it’s time for thousands more to get in on the act. Eerie music blasts outside as attendees sombrely walk through the rain towards the entrance, strange things awaiting them. Sex sirens on stilts and howling musical ghouls fill the lobby, not to mention some of the weirder fans. Corpse brides, Jokers and the odd Beetlejuice help bring the Halloween vibes before the music has even begun, and while crowd participation in the dressing up sense isn’t quite as high as previous years, it does the trick.
Un-dead filing in and Duff McKagan's Loaded bring the noise, the former Gun's N' Roses four stringer's brand of American hard rock never really finding its footing. It's an energetic racket and Duff is in chatty form, but the songs just don't hold up, especially when compared to his previous outfits. Second support Ugly Kid Joe are a whole different beast, tight as skin fit jeans and as much fun as a box of cats. 'Cats in the Cradle' and 'Everything About You' unsurprisingly appear but it's the group’s mix of funk mental, rock and humour that ensures that, no matter what the number, things go down a treat. An ass-kicking cover of Motorhead's 'Ace of Spades' with Duff on bass ensures the venue is suitably warmed for Copper's arrival.
It's not long and the original shock rocker appears, time seemingly doing little to age the icon. Moving and belting out the tunes like a much, much younger man, Cooper's three guitar strong attack is an epic ear-bleedingly loud affair lead by former MJ guitarist Orianthi. You expect the theatrics and stage sets but this amped up, breakneck speed run through the classics is a revelation to Clash. 'House of Fire' leads into a 'No More Mr. Nice Guy' soon followed by a ferocious 'Caffeine'. The crowd, a mix of young and old, lap it up, more than aware with every opening chord or jacket change what number is coming. After all, for some this may easily be their tenth or more Cooper concert, but that's not the point. It's fun, plain and simple.
A sarky version of 'Hey Stoopid' proves a great sing-along while 'He's Back (The Man Behind the Mask)' comes complete with Jason Voorhees coming out and killing a paparazzi while 'Feed My Frankenstein' lets giant monster Alice run amok onstage. An interesting tribute to those friends lost to ‘70s excess appears: a pitch perfect run through of The Doors’ 'Break on Through (To the Other Side)', The Beatles’ 'Revolution' as well as 'Foxy Lady' and 'My Generation' hitting the mark.
A finale of 'Poison' and 'School's Out' nicely end the night. It's predictable, but hell, it's Halloween, and subtlety and envelope pushing is not on the menu. Alice Cooper is one of rock's great survivors, and with this performance it's clear to see why.
Words by Sam Walker-Smart
Photos by Richard Gray