Monday, February 7, 2011

Alice Cooper - Theater of Death Tour 2009 CD/DVD

Now, please allow me to manage your expectations. I am a huge fan of Alice Cooper…there I said it. I’m not one of these fly by night types who got into Poison when it came out in the 80’s nor am I one of the sniffy purists who only claim allegiance to the original band between 1970 and 1974 (though obviously this has to be the best era…any fool knows that!!!). No, I am a fan, I won’t turn my nose up at the challenging first two albums when he was in bed with Frank Zappa. I can forgive him Lace and Whiskey because of the good songs and even his early 80’s era, which he forgot before it had even ended, has its moments of quality. So with all this in mind any hope of this being an impartial and objective review are pretty much zero. This was always going to be a good review but whether it would be a great review…well, that would remain to be seen….

When I heard that Alice would be playing a show local to me on his 2009 “Theatre of Death” tour I almost literally busted a nut to get tickets. Impoverished, I begged and borrowed to be able to get two tickets for myself and my wife (one of the fly by night Poison-era fans!!!). On the night Alice delivered backed up by an incredible band…obviously not the classic Buxton, Bruce, Dunaway and Smith line-up, but a stripped down 2 guitar line-up that played the catalogue with skill, fire, passion and due reverence. It’s one thing though standing amongst 2000 other fans watching the spectacle unfold in front of you and it’s quite something else listening to it on a CD in the comfort of your room or watching it compressed to a TV screen on DVD. But this is a good review right? So you already know that I dig the living shit out of this release!!!

Given the benefit of a crystal clear, low end powered, punch in the nuts sound Alice’s live albums have never sounded so good. Chuck Garric’s bass tones threaten to pull your guts out of your ass (maybe a future stage prop?), while the duelling guitars of Keri Kelli and Damon Johnson are the closest Alice has come in years to nailing the Michael Bruce/Glenn Buxton partnership of the original band or even the mid 70’s pairing of Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter. Both players play as if they were born to be in Alice’s band. Former Y&T and Megadeth man Jimmy Degrasso is obviously reveling in his role playing out the hits and the more obscure tunes with millisecond perfect precision. And what of Alice? What of the main man himself? In his 60’s and 40 plus years into his career we could forgive him for sounding a little jaded right? We could forgive him if his voice wasn’t what it used to be, if he strained to hit the higher notes after rasping his vocals chords for more years than most of us have been eating solid food…not to mention blasting them for many years with alcohol? No fucking way!!! Alice is a pro and delivers with the guts and determination of a man a third his age and far from being shot his voice is as strong as ever. In fact the guy must have vocal chords like leather as his voice is tougher, stronger and meaner now than ever before.

What of the material I hear you ask? Is this an attempt to sell the latest album of the time (2008’s magnificent Along Came A Spider) or is this a cash in greatest hits package? Neither, this is Alice delivering the best show he can from a catalogue that that most of his contemporaries would even shudder to compete with. The choice of material stretches as far back as Love It To Death with all the classics you would expect, only Muscle of Love from this era is ignored but as the track list flies buy you’d be hard pushed to notice. Welcome To My Nightmare is featured heavily with no less than seven songs (perhaps setting the tone for his next project, a sequel to that classic album). Even Goes To Hell and From The Inside are represented with classics like the former’s title track and “Nurse Rozetta” from the latter. Most of the 80’s are sensibly ignored though Poison does get the back combed, scantily clad metal chicks frothing at the mouth. Even Alice’s more recent output is given some welcome airing with “Wicked Young Man” from Brutal Planet and the title track from the Dirty Diamonds album. Whatever era is represented here, none of it sounds out of place which is remarkable considering the number of musical u-turns Alice has taken in his career. The band holds it all together with faithful arrangements that give the set a sense of continuity and cohesion.

The added bonus here is that, not only do you get to hear Alice do what he does best in a live environment, flip the DVD on and you can watch it all in glorious, glorious technicolour as it all went down on that fateful night in old London Town. Capturing the live Alice Cooper experience on film is never going to be easy but the direction is sharp yet retains that in-the-audience vibe that some live footage can miss. To see Alice putting everything into his performance at an age when most people are contemplating holidays by the sea and cocoa before bed is inspirational, particularly as he endures being killed onstage not once, not twice but four times by guillotine, lethal injection, hanging and in the Iron Maiden. Here, as well, Alice’s band prove themselves to be no mere side men. Each member works the stage and the crowd as if this was their own life’s work they were presenting. Garric even gets to take the role of front man during “I Love The Dead” while Alice is resurrected from one of his many deaths.

There must come a time when Alice Cooper has to consider how long he can keep doing things to this level but when he does decide to retire to his armchair to pull the legs off spiders this CD/DVD package will remain for the faithful to fill the void. The fact that I received this on Christmas Eve 2010 and it immediately hit the higher reaches of my top 10 for a year full of highlights should give some indication as to how essential a purchase this is. Buy it…unless you’re a pussy scaredy cat!!!


Buy here: Alice Cooper - Theatre Of Death-Live At Hammersmith 2009 (DVD W/Bonus CD)
Buy here: Alice Cooper - Theatre Of Death-Live At Hammersmith 2009 (Blu-ray W/Bonus CD)
Buy here: Theatre Of Death-Live At Hammersmith 2009 (CD/DVD)

1 comment:

Penfold said...

Ollie, I love the full disclosure up front. I have the same level of fandom for other acts, and based on those two video I should be a much bigger fan of Mr. Cooper. Also, while I understand the desire for movie-like shots, like you I often prefer the crowd shot footage of a show. It's more like being there for me.

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