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Photos by Philamonjaro.
October 1 was close enough to Halloween to draw the goths and ghouls to Milwaukee for Alice Cooper’s vaudevillian spook show. The groundbreaking shock-rocker brought chills and thrills, but he also had quality songs and first-rate musicianship to match the spectacle. Fresh material from 2021’s Detroit Stories album made fine additions to a set of Cooper’s classic singles and a few adventurous deep cuts.
The singer strode onto the stage in top hat and tails with a dagger in his boot. He tore into the randy innuendo of 1991 single “Feed My Frankenstein,” accompanied by the first appearance of a larger-than-life Frankenstein’s monster puppet. Next was Billion Dollar Babies favorite “No More Mr. Nice Guy.” When fans weren’t marveling at the stage props or singing along to Cooper’s most familiar choruses, songs like “Bed of Nails” provided ample opportunity to appreciate Ryan Roxie, Nita Strauss, and Tommy Henriksen, the trinity of high-octane guitar virtuosos in Cooper’s band.
Cooper was in fine snarl during “Rock and Roll.” His voice extended into a rich baritone during the Velvet Underground’s song of musical salvation, given a muscular treatment on Detroit Stories. The heavy swagger of “Fallen in Love” followed, as Cooper traded harmonica licks with pirate-garbed Henriksen. The singer’s lyrics were laced at least equally with humor as they were with horror. “I’ve fallen in love, and I can’t get up,” sang Cooper.
The punk rock blast and call-and-response vocal of “Go Man Go” represented another set list entry from the singer’s latest album. The breakneck pace and tale of grand theft auto led naturally into Killers classic “Under My Wheels,” a 1971 single with a glam-rock sound that was later echoed by David Bowie’s glam stomper “Suffragette City” and The Rocky Horror Show romp “Time Warp.”
The Constrictor album’s “He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask)” saw the untimely demise of a pair of selfie-taking fans at the hands and blade of a masked slasher a la Jason from the Friday the 13th movies. The song served as the theme for 1986 film Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. When the killer later threatened Strauss and Cooper himself, the singer rebuffed him with a raised fist and the villain slunk sheepishly off stage.
More glitzy songs followed including “I’m Eighteen,” propelled by the melodic bass of longtime sideman Chuck Garric. The air was filled with green and gold confetti and streamers during “Billion Dollar Babies.” As the show’s prima ballerina, Cooper’s wife Cheryl played roles including the Dead Bride during “Roses on White Lace.” After the famous guillotine gag during “My Stars,” the dancer twirled gracefully about the stage cradling her beloved’s severed head.
The eerie “Steven” and anthemic “Escape” were captivating additions from 1975’s Welcome to My Nightmare. Both songs benefitted from the dazzling dynamics of drummer Glen Sobel. The main set concluded with “Teenage Frankenstein” and the return of a crewmember wearing the oversized and gruesome Frankenstein’s monster puppet.
The music and sights did the talking during the tightly paced, theatrically produced show. There was ample interaction between Cooper, the band, and the audience, but there were no stories or anecdotes until the final farewell. “Thank you, Milwaukee,” said Cooper after a bombastic encore of “School’s Out.” He recited his famous explanation of the city’s name from the Wayne’s World film, adding “Algonquin for the good land!” As a parting blessing, Cooper added, “It’s very close to Halloween, so may all your nightmares come true.”
Former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley opened the show with a set of solo songs including “Rip it Out” and “New York Groove” alongside Frehley-penned Kiss standards “Rocket Ride,” “Cold Gin,” and “Shock Me.”
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