All you need to know about the enduring power of Alice Cooper is this.
In 1989, I was about 14 years old and Tommy Vance played a track called “Poison” on the Friday Rock Show, which I used to listen to religiously on my personal radio every week. The next morning, I relayed this news to my dad – who hid his indifference pretty well when his children showed an interest in things (to be fair to him he still does).
The conversation went something like this: “Dad I’ve got a new favourite singer! Heard this bloke called Alice Cooper last night…..” “Yes, son, he was around in the 70s….”
And I trudged rather disconsolately out of the room.
Fast forward 29 years. I am watching Hollywood Vampires in Birmingham. And Joe Perry walks out, so does Johnny Depp, but the biggest cheer of them all is reserved for their singer.
Alice Cooper is a living legend. Simple as that.
And that’s why this 2CD live album is so much more relevant than most. This show that Coop has been touring away from the Vampires for a couple of years is incredible. Arguably – as he himself says – armed with the best band he’s ever had, and a spectacular, well, spectacle to match.
The “Paranormal” show was no different. I had seen it myself a couple of weeks before this gig in Paris was recorded at the iconic Olympia venue, a place where, as the press pack that came with this put it: “since opening in 1888, has witnessed changes in entertainment and pop culture for 130 years from the can-can through Édith Piaf to Johnny Hallyday and the Beatles and now…Alice Cooper.”
Whether or not any live album compares with being there is open to debate, but it is a fact that nothing much compares with the phrase: “you’ve been chosen to spend the night with Alice Cooper” and the getting on for two hours on these discs reflects that just fine.
It is odd, perhaps, that you find yourself listening to it visually, imagining, remembering the gig how it was. It is pointless, me saying that it works without seeing the show too, because I have seen it so many times. So I know “Brutal Planet” rules, but I also know the stage props.
That said, there aren’t many that can match this setlist. “No More Mr Nice Guy” – surely one of the finest songs ever committed to vinyl? – “Under My Wheels” and “The Department Of Youth” might represent the shocking past, when he outraged a continent, but things like “Pain” and “The World Needs Guts” – with its AC/DC like opening – are why he’s strayed relevant throughout all these decades. The schtick might be the same – there’s always “Cold Ethyl”, “Only Women Bleed” and Alice always dies – but the songs around them change.
Then of course there’s “Poison” – the one that began all this for me and thousands more, no doubt – and “Feed My Frankenstein” comes on with the thought that it might contain the filthiest double entendre of all time, but when all is said and done, if you’re gonna listen to someone sing about drinking wine from fur tea cups it might as well be your uncle Alice.
“I’m Eighteen” – it should be law to play this to all boys on their 18th birthday (me and my best mate did a month apart, that’s basically all I am basing this on….) – and “School’s Out” end this party (and a party is what it is too) and as he says here: “playing the part of Alice Cooper tonight is Monsieur Vincent Furnier….” And he’s the best. Yeah, if you want to quibble, they might have had a couple more from the new album in the set, but that’s a bit churlish.
I’d rather focus on the sheer perfection of this. Right at the end of “Department Of Youth” he’s doing his: “who’s got the power?” routine to the crowd, with the response “we do” like always. He then asks “who gave it to you?” The backing vocals come back: “Justin Bieber.”
Yeah, right. Justin who? For nearly thirty years everything I needed I learned from Alice Cooper. This show is a celebration of that. He makes the Paranormal look everyday.