Alice Cooper At Jones Beach Theatre, Saturday, August 26th, 2017, Reviewed
Sitting backstage for a meet and greet after Alice Cooper’s Jones Beach set Saturday night, my friend and rock nyc partner John Pasquale raised an eyebrow at me as the sound of Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” drifted upwards from the stage. I’d been disagreeing with John, I thought they’d hold both of their hits for late in the set, John thought they’d open with it, John was right. The three classic rocker line up at Jones Beach included a fine Edgar Winter Band when Edgar wasn’t dicking around and keeping to Stones covers (Grade: B-), and a headlining Deep Purple which we were in the process of missing, but what were the choices open to us? Either John, with our friends Rick and Jason (Jason used to play drums for the Leslie West Band), gave up on saying howdy to Alice, who decided to collect the cash straight after his set, or we waited, so we waited. Despite the gloves and the make up, Alice was one of the most casually brilliant meet and greeters I’ve ever met and greeted. Giving each of us just a half minute or less, he signed everything, took a selfie, and gave you a sense that you had, well, actually met him. I heard Alice, who stopped drinking some 30 years ago, and will be 70 years old in February 2018, claim to John that he was in the best health of his life, and express great pride in his excellent new album Paranormal, he talked about Leslie and the old days with Jason. It was a bravado performance: Alice is born again and the gentleness with his fans is probably reflected in his religion. His stage performance, on the other hand, still has enough of the dark side to it.
Saturday night was the Alice Cooper we have known and loved for decades, not significantly superior to the set I saw four years ago at the Beacon (here), and he hasn’t integrated enough of the newbie yet, but his ode to necrophilia, “Cold Ethel” has improved with age, it is the only creep out here, “School’s Out” is a masterpiece to end the show, with even the interloping of the inferior “Another Brick In The Wall” not enough to derail a song with the legend “we don’t even know how to rhyme” in it. The Detroit native’s condemnation of the American Public schooling system, especially within the inner sadness that is the hard luck Motor City’s legacy, remains even truer today.
Yeah, it was a fine set with all your old faves, Frankenstein’s monster, death by guillotine, billion dollar bills y’all, hitting the spots with the ease only time can bring. The theatrical nature of the innovative Cooper means that while he is the embodiment of going through the motions, the motions are his own personal “Hamlet” -he can perform the role via instinct if he has to. His band are quite as enthusiastic and knowing, bassist Chuck Garrick used to play with Ronni James Dio, guitarist Ryan Roxie has been with the band for over twenty years, guitarist Nita Strauss has been featured in Revolver Magazine’s annual “Hottest Chicks in Hard Rock” issue, and you’ll get no argument from we four guys. Third guitarist Tommy Henriksen is a sessionman’s sessionman (and local talent, he is from Long Island), and drummer Glen Sobel is one of the best drummers in metal (Alice called him the best). They are good enough to allow the theatrics to thrive and to batten down the hatches when they need to. What they can’t do is solo and both the drum and the guitar solos were interminable. “Only Women Bleed” remains an excellent change of pace.
Even so, Alice looked and sounded great. One of the great rock and roll innovators, listening to a song like “Poison,” which sounds like a blueprint for hair metal, I can only admire the great man. Later, I felt his gloved hand in mine and luxuriated in his long smile before I was shuffled out to the Mayweather-McGregor con job.