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Alice Cooper/The Mission/The Tubes: Wembley SSE Arena, London

dave bonney
Words: Dave Bonney, Pictures: Robert Sutton
1st December 2017

alice cooper

By the time I had navigated Wembley Arena's new airport-style security checks, The Tubes could already be heard doing their thing inside the hall.

Along with the main support of The Mission, the line-up was slightly diverse and a matter of opinion whether suitable as the warm-up acts for the immortal and evergreen Alice Cooper. Talking about warming the place up, why was it so bloody cold inside?

Ironically, one had to go and get a cold beer at the bar on the concourse just for a respite from the air conditioning that was blowing out at hurricane proportions, at least Cold Ethyl will have no such complaints.

The Tubes had enough pull from their forty-five years standing to get the venue maybe half full, which in a hall this size and for the first band on, is no mean feat. With no new material for the last eight years, this was a greatest hits show, which is obviously subjective.

alice cooper

Having missed the opening three songs, it wasn't until the last couple that it started warming up for me, those songs being 'White Punks on Dope' and 'Talk to Ya Later', and saw the irrepressible Fee Waybill in his trademark silver spandex pants and matching mega high platform boots, in what was the third costume change in the short time I had been there.

The crowd were won over by this time, but for me, the songs leading up to the last two left me as cold as the air conditioning.

alice cooper

The Mission, unlike The Tubes, do have recent material up for grabs. Last years 'Another Fall From Grace' being represented tonight by a solitary track, the ironic 'Met-Amor-Phosis' which is standard Wayne Hussey fayre, the frontman also complaining about how cold it was in the venue.

The very fact the band decide to play a cover of Neil Young's 'Like A Hurricane', rather than another new song, maybe tells you all you need to know about the latest album, relying on stronger older material, kicking off with 'Tower of Strength' and finishing with 'Deliverance'.

It's London's turn to "Spend the night with Alice Cooper", and a menacing voice introduces tonight's setting perfectly:

"Well, well, well, what have we here, brave new visitors or unfortunate victims? You have been invited into this nightmare world, don't look him directly in the eyes or you will be doomed to be his plaything and just another one of his broken toys forever. You have been chosen to spend the night with Alice Cooper. It's too late now for you, he's coming".

The deranged Alice is back and it's almost enough to send a shiver down one's spine, though curiously I wasn't cold anymore, very strange indeed, and in keeping with what we were about to witness.

alice cooper

As the curtain dropped a caped Alice emerged from a cloud of dry ice, centre stage before mounting his ego ramp and casting aside the cape in dramatic fashion in the time change that signalled the opening song 'Brutal Planet', the increasingly en vogue triple axe attack making their way down the steps from drum riser level to stage floor, in choreography that was to shape the entire show.

The baton-wielding fiend gleefully announcing "this is where your death begins", and it appears this will be slow and torturous, just how Alice likes it.

'Under My Wheels' really gets this show rolling and on the road, and along with 'Lost in America' it kind of lulls you into a false sense of security until 'Pain' brings you back to agonising reality with Alice reminding you that he is your "unspeakable pain".

'Department of Youth' and 'The World Needs Guts' continue with the bizarre theme, but for very different reasons. The former with its Donny Osmond namecheck and the latter with its storyline of a maniac butcher on the loose who wants to "hack away your balls", I'm not sure which is more disturbing.
alice cooper

'Woman of Mass Destruction' was aptly followed by Nita 'Hurricane' Strauss blowing up a storm and showing off her talent on her weapon of mass destruction, her Ibanez howling in pain like one of Alice's unfortunate victims.

From Van Halen like shredding to melodic thoughtful runs, this lady is a more than adequate replacement for Orianthi, coming through the ranks of The Iron Maidens and Femme Fatale, she has all the moves and shapes and is undeniably a bona fide guitar goddess who, like her ancestor Johann, a rock star of his time, revels in her rock opera surroundings.

alice cooper

'Poison', with the line "I want to hurt you just to hear you screaming my name", clearly shows Alice has issues. Clad in top hat and tails for 'Halo of Flies', he orchestrates proceedings like a ringmaster with his cane.

The Zodiac Mindwarp cover, 'Feed My Frankenstein', sees young scientist Victor's creation invade the stage like Eddie's little brother, after electric faults and sparks reign down amongst the dry ice.

The beautiful contradiction that is 'Cold Ethyl' and 'Only Women Bleed' being paired together, as the lifeless Ethyl takes a merciless beating from the deranged necrophiliac, only to come to life as a manic psychiatric nurse who exacts revenge on her paranoid tormentor.

alice cooper

With more fantasy than a Tolkien boxset, it would be easy to forget the reality of this show. The reality that Alice has surrounded himself with superb musicians who play superbly written songs.

Drummer Glen Sobel and Bassist Chuck Garric lay down more pulse than any of Alice's victims possess, and with three guitarists you might think there would be a fight for sonic space, but not a bit of it as all three compliment each other perfectly.

Tommy Henriksen is seemingly happy to play the old school part with hardly an effect in sight, contrasting wildly with the aforementioned Strauss who would probably rather be seen dead than without a whammy bar, and she probably would be if Alice got his hands on her. Ryan Roxie also has a trick or two up his sleeve, creating a great balance between them.

alice cooper

New song 'Paranoiac Personality' fits the twisted storyline perfectly, merging new with old without missing a beat. The 'Ballad of Dwight Fry' see's Alice trussed up in a straight jacket whilst Ethyl injects him with a larger than life hypodermic needle, well isn't everything in this warped fantasy larger than life?

Seemingly losing his mind in a world of insanity, repeating over and over "I gotta get outta here"…I'm afraid you've made your bed Mr Cooper! And anyway, losing his mind is the least of his worries, as he's shortly about to lose his head. As the guillotine is wheeled into position, a struggling Alice is manhandled by two of Ethyl's crazed assistants until his head is securely locked into place.

With the blade glistening in the spotlight, the rope is released to an almighty cheer as his head is removed from his pathetic body and held aloft like a trophy, leading perfectly into an anthemic 'I Love The Dead' with one of the crazies kissing the luckless Alice full on the lips. Pure theatrical gold.

alice cooper

This brought an end to normal proceedings and made way for what many older die-hards had eagerly waited for.

With the arena plunged into darkness, Alice was resurrected with the introduction, "ladies and gentlemen, the original Alice Cooper band" and when the lights go back on he has been joined by Dennis Dunaway, Neal Smith and Michael Bruce, with Roxie remaining, taking the departed Glen Buxton's place.

This hasn't happened in London since the mid-seventies, and there really was a sense of something special happening. Unlike some of his peers, Alice shows no sign of slowing up just yet, and when the band break in to 'I'm Eighteen', one could almost imagine him singing 'I'm Eighty' in another eleven years.

'Billion Dollar Babies' followed, with hundreds of 'Dollar' notes being released into the audience, 'No More Mr Nice Guy' ( when was this guy ever nice? ), and 'Muscle of Love' were delivered superbly, which just left Alice to declare "it's party time in London" as giant balloons and ticker tape descend from above.

alice cooper

'Schools Out' kicks in with the spectacle of both lineups on stage including two drum kits, which sees the band incorporating Pink Floyd's 'The Wall' into it brilliantly, the two songs seamlessly intertwined with the school theme intact, as Alice spits out the words "teacher, leave those kids alone". Genius.

alice cooper

That just leaves the ringmaster to introduce everyone to the crowd, referring to the original band as the OGs, as in original guys, and I reckon there are a few more years left in them yet.

Alice Cooper was a barrel of fun, and is still the Master of Macabre Musical Musings, leaving the Marylin Manson's of this world playing catch up. It appears his shock rock, hammer horror, vaudeville crown will remain intact on his severed head for some years yet.


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