Using every shock rock stage prompt and cavorting around the Verizon stage like a man half his age, legendary rocker Alice Cooper put on a vulgar display of power Wednesday night that spoke to the cathartic nature of heavy metal.
At 68, Cooper is in better health than a vast majority of his audience. Looking fit and vigorous, Cooper led his youthful backing band through his nightmarish lengthy back catalog. Beginning with "The Black Widow" (from 1975's Welcome to My Nightmare), Cooper quickly transitioned into the well-worn riffing of "No More Mr. Nice Guy" and "Under My Wheels."
Cooper's three guitarists embraced songs from four decades as if they had just learned them. Songs such as "Billion Dollar Babies," "Long Way to Go," and "Is It My Body" demonstrated just how much Cooper had influenced the likes of Guns N' Roses and Marilyn Manson. Cooper's brand of rock may have been shocking, but it was never unintelligent. Throughout the 70's and into the early 80's, Cooper deftly struck a vibe with adolescent males. Judging by the fist-pumping 40-, 50- and 60-year-old fans in attendance Wednesday evening, Cooper still maintains such a connection.
Always a snappy dresser, Cooper roamed the stage like a carnival barker in front of a high end tailor shop. He tossed out canes and brought out his signature anaconda and the crowd ate up every well-rehearsed move. He has always been an entertainer, even though his songs can stand on their own.
Midway through the show, Cooper and crew played deep cuts such as "Halo of Flies" and "Ballad of Dwight Fry," songs that are as complex as they are powerful. With his cane in hand and his back to the audience, Cooper was the conductor of some bizarre, heavy metal symphony. By the time he got around to the expected finale of "I'm 18" and "School's Out," Cooper had the audience in the palm of his leather-clad hands.
This was much more than a man simply coasting on his legacy. Sure, there were silly, remotely sexist ditties like "Woman of Mass Distraction," but for the most part, Cooper and his band keep things tight and tantalizing. The tributes to David Bowie ("Suffragette City") and Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmister ("Ace of Spades") were thoughtful and intense.
Encoring with "Elected" while poking fun at both major candidates, Cooper showed that his brand of rock could still be shocking, funny and immensely entertaining. Wednesday night's performance was everything a great rock and roll concert should be.
By Darryl Smyers, Special Contributor