Alice Cooper travels with snakes, guillotines and straightjackets – who would pass up a chance to see the Godfather of Shock Rock in action?
Not anyone at the F.M. Kirby Center. Alice Cooper “officially, completely, totally” sold out the place Friday, as staffers put it on the theater’s Facebook page. More than 1,800 people came to rock out at the Friday evening concert in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
The Detroit rocker meant business with his “Raise the Dead” tour, slamming through about 15 songs in just the first hour as he took the screaming audience on a tour of his extensive catalogue. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer tackled songs from at least 10 albums – with a sneak peek of his covers of Hollywood Vampires’ songs.
Cooper delved right into the album that brought him the most commercial success with his former band – 1973’s “Billion Dollar Babies.” He opened with “Hello Hooray,” a Judy Collins cover, emerging amid heavy smoke in a red-and-black striped suit, a skeleton design on his back above his coattails.
With his signature screams and charisma, he led his band into “House of Fire” off the 1989 album “Trash,” cowritten by fellow rocker Joan Jett. He fed off the audience’s energy as they roared for one of his biggest hits, “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” also off “Billion Dollar Babies.” That song, along with “School’s Out,” reached new fans in 1993 when they appeared on the soundtracks for the movie “Dazed and Confused.”
Cooper, born Vincent Furnier, started his 26 album streak with 1969’s “Pretties for You.” His most recent release, the 2011 concept album “Welcome 2 My Nightmare,” calls back to his classic 1975 solo debut, “Welcome to My Nightmare.” Both records take the listener on a journey through the nightmares of a child named Steven.
Cooper invited the audience into those nightmares with open arms – well, except for the giant snake wrapped around them. He switched to a bloodstained doctor’s coat during, “Feed My Frankenstein,” the song featured in the 1992 film “Wayne’s World.”
The audience howled for his signature showmanship as he gripped a riding crop in his teeth during “Department of Youth,” threw confetti on them from a giant white coffee mug during “Caffeine,” or tossed necklaces during “Dirty Diamonds.” During the latter, he faked out one front-row audience member twice, dangling the strands above her before flipping them off to others. (Don’t worry, he gave her the third one.)
As two men hustled Cooper into a straight jacket, he crooned – well, growled – the “Ballad of Dwight Fry.” A sadistic nurse forced him into a guillotine, laughing as it beheaded Cooper and the band swung into “I Love the Dead” from “Billion Dollar Babies.”
A serial killer carried off a woman who ran onstage during “He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask),” the lead single from his 1986 album “Constrictor,” and the theme song of slasher film “Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives.”
Standing before headstones for Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Jim Morrison and Keith Moon, Cooper gave the audience his take on hits like The Doors’ “Break On Through (to the Other Side)” and The Beatles’ “Revolution.” Those covers will appear on his next album, scheduled for a spring 2014 release. On it, Cooper pays homage to the late rock stars, members of the so-called “Hollywood Vampires” of the early and mid-1970s.
Throughout the night, the band kept up the cohesive rocker vibe, whether dodging Cooper’s whip or surrounding him while he struggled in a straightjacket. Australian guitarist Orianthi actually appeared on that stage once before, according to Kirby staffers – she opened for Adam Lambert back in 2010. Cooper followed her around stage as he growled the lyrics to “I’ll Bite Your Face Off.”
Cooper summed up the evening during “Welcome to my Nightmare,” singing the line, “You know inside you feel right at home here.”
Based on their fervent reaction, the crowd at the Kirby Center certainly did.