at The First Direct Arena, Leeds, U.K., November 11, 2017

ALICE COOPER (Live at The First Direct Arena, Leeds, U.K., November 11, 2017)
Photo: Mick Burgess

It’s been five years since Alice Cooper last did a headlining tour although he did gatecrash Mötley Crüe’s Farewell Party a couple of years back and left with all the accolades leading to a new adage, never, ever, follow Alice Cooper on stage.

Over the years there’s been a few odd pairings on the touring circuit with Aerosmith and Shed Seven, Bon Jovi and The Feeling and most bizarrely Blue Öyster Cult and Japan springing to mind. Whoever paired The Tubes with Alice Cooper deserves a knighthood. The fact that it’s taken over 40 years to realise the perfection of this pair on the same stage is staggering.

The Tubes and Alice Cooper go together like bread and butter, they are so totally compatible they could be twins. The spectacle of their show is more Broadway to Cooper’s theatrical nightmare shock horror show but both contrast and complement each other perfectly.

Lead singer Fee Waybill’s quick change image from gameshow host to washed up Glam Rocker brings a unique twist to Rock ‘n’ ‘Roll. In She’s A Beauty and Talk To Ya Later they have some seriously catchy tunes and the evergreen White Punks On Dope never fails to shock as the wasted Quay Lewd staggers around on stage in towering silver platform boots.

The Mission feature former Sisters of Mercy duo Wayne Hussey and Craig Adams and as Leeds is their spiritual hometown this makes their performance on the opening night of the tour all the more special. The grandiose Gothic drama of Tower of Strength, Wasteland and Deliverance sounded cinematic in scope and warmed the pot perfectly for what was to follow.

What was to follow, was of course Alice Cooper. Currently basking in the glow of rave reviews for his 27th album Paranormal and chomping at the bit to waste the Arenas of the UK, Cooper promised a special show for this tour and he certainly kept to his word.

Standing in front of a waterfall of sparks, encased in a black silk cape, looking like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders, Cooper menacingly surveyed the crowd before the grinding riff of the apocalyptic Brutal Planet kicked in. Under My Wheels and the gonzoid Lost In America followed in quick succession. Cooper certainly knows how to hook the crowd right from the start.

Unlike many artists who have been round the block a few times Cooper knows how to pace his set, mixing the must hear classics with new material together with hidden gems from deep within his catalogue meaning Pain from Flush The Fashion was dusted off for a first airing in decades along with Constrictor’s The World Needs Guts that rocked like an absolute beast. Woman of Miss Distraction saw Cooper’s humour at its twisted best all wrapped up in an irresistible gang vocal fuelled chorus.

Cooper has the knack of surrounding himself with fired up, hungry musicians. His current band featuring long-time guitarist, the apocalyptic Punk, Ryan Roxie alongside the Queen of Shred, Nita Strauss and Tommy Henriksen looking like a renegade from Mötley Crüe alongwith the imposing Chuck Garric and powerhouse drummer Glen Sobel were sensational. The level of energy reached fever pitch and never strayed from that path interacting with Cooper and becoming such an integral part of the show. The band simply looked and sounded fantastic and brought a renewed vigour to Department of Youth and Poison.

It wouldn’t be a Cooper show without the monsters and of course Feed My Frankenstein was the perfect song to exploit this with Cooper dressed as the sinister, blood soaked Dr Frankenstein. After a series of bangs, fizzes, explosions and a mountain of dry ice, the monster was unleashed onto the stage.

During Cold Ethyl, Cooper serenaded and abused a somewhat sinister looking doll before singing a tender Only Women Bleed, alone on stage for a moment with only Roxie before Ethyl tried to wreak revenge on Cooper.

New song Paranoiac Personality slipped into the set seamlessly and as the only song from the new album it was a shame that the driving Punk of Fireball couldn’t have found its way into the set too but then you can’t have everything.

Unfortunately for Cooper his demise was imminent as he was jumped by a gang of cyber ghouls and encased in a straitjacket for the evergreen Ballad of Dwight Fry and abused by a zombie nurse with a rather large needle. Worse was to come as he was dispatched forthwith to Madame Guillotine during I Love The Dead.

There’s a tradition in Rock ‘n’ Roll to return to the stage for an encore and play a couple of crowd pleasers. Take note everybody. This is how to do an ENCORE!!

Returning to the UK stage for the first time in over four decades was original band members Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith joined by Roxie fulfilling the role of the much-missed Glen Buxton for an incredible five song encore featuring the classics I’m Eighteen, No More Mr Nice Guy and Billion Dollar Babies with Cooper flashing the cash.

Better still was a rare outing for the sleazy Muscle of Love where Bruce, Dunaway and Smith locked in so tightly that you’d never have believed that so much time had elapsed since they last played together on tour. Roxie was in dreamland sparring with Bruce and right in the middle of the historic first reunion show.

How on earth could you top that? How about School’s Out with the original band and current band on stage together. Two drummers, two bassists and no fewer than FOUR guitarists and only one Alice complete with bubbles, giant balloons, sparklers, billows of smoke and enough pyro to start a small war. Talk about breathing new life into a much-loved old classic. This was seriously powerful stuff and with the addition of Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall into the song this was the perfect curtain closer.

Cooper has always put on a great show but this reached a different level. For the opening night on their UK tour and the first appearance on a UK stage in over 40 years this was a historic occasion and those leaving the Arena at the end of the show knew they had been part of something really, really unique.

See below for an extensive gallery of photos of the show including shots of both the current and the original band.

Review and Photos by Mick Burgess


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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