Alice Cooper ushers in the start of Halloween season with a return visit to West Yorkshire.
And whilst many arrive at the First Direct Arena bedecked in all manner of costumes, the only legitimate ghoul in attendance is the Hollywood Vampire himself.
Both the opening and the closing band have a couple of things in common this evening. Firstly, both MC50’s Wayne Kramer and Mr Cooper himself are now in their 70s, although based on their energetic stage performances you would struggle to believe it. Secondly, they both cut their teeth in Motor City or Detroit, to the uninitiated.
If you were to look up the term supergroup in the dictionary you might just see a picture or description of MC50. Aside from MC5 founding member Wayne Kramer, the band features a who’s who of ’90s rock legends that includes Kim Thayil from Soundgarden, Brendan Canty from Fugazi and Billy Gould from Faith No More. And in frontman Marcus Durant the band has found a lead singer who has the moves, swagger and even the hairstyle of the late great Rob Tyner.
The group are presently celebrating the landmark 50th anniversary of MC5’s seminal debut/live album. And at the top of the set, the band smashes their way through proto-punk anthems such as the unmistakable Kick Out The Jams, Ramblin Rose and Come Together.
Grasping a Strat which is emblazoned with the Stars and Stripes Kramer attacks his guitar with a windmill like ferocity in a similar manner to The Who’s Pete Townsend.
Whilst the inclusion of Sister Anne also sees another tenuous connection to Mr Cooper, due to Kramer’s recent collaboration on a cover of the song recorded for the Breadcrumbs EP.
A politically tinged airing of Looking At You, which includes a mesmerising twin part guitar solo between Thayil and Kramer closes out the set. Kramer may have been in the game for 50 years plus but even at 71 years out he still kicks out the jams harder than most artists half his age.
Brit rockers The Stranglers sit in the middle of the evening. The band endured some technical issues early in the set resulting in Baz Warne having to entertain the fans with some witty banter for a short while. Despite this, the inclusion of timeless classics such as Golden Brown, Peaches and No More Heroes were enough to make the Leeds crowd forget about their initial gremlins early in their set. Similarly, Jean-Jacques Burnel’s prominent bass lines underpinned the band’s distinctive sound.
When it comes to showmen there are few greater than Alice Cooper. His theatrical brand of shock rock has entertained, influenced and inspired both the public and his peers for decades.
But what makes tonight’s show even better is the rich songbook that Cooper has to delve into. And from the top of the set, it’s nothing but back to back classics from Feed My Frankenstein, No More Mr Nice Guy, Bed of Nails through to Raped and Freezin’.
It takes something special to stand out against a legend like Alice Cooper, but each member of this band is a showman or showwoman in their own right. The five-pronged attack is often congregated at the front of the stage. And with their engaging personas, dazzling skills and unrivalled talent each member of the band holds their own throughout.
Asides from Cooper, guitarist Nita Strauss is one of the stars of the show and steals the spotlight mid-set with a cloaked and somewhat blistering guitar solo delivered from a tower elevated above the castle stage set. Nita’s speed, technical execution, and on-stage energy are simply astounding.
Although Alice may have left his former bandmates including Dennis Dunaway, Neal Smith and Michael Bruce behind this time around, classics such as 18 and Billion Dollar Babies are enough to please the old school fans in attendance.
When you go to see Alice Cooper perform it’s almost like you are watching a play, and with each song that unfolds, so too does the next act. And the inclusion of Rose’s on White Lace is a testament to this. Each song in the set and accompanying theatrical routine is choreographed to perfection.
Of course, summer is now just a distant memory, but this evening’s career-spanning set would not be complete without Schools Out.
Tonight’s show is as visually stimulating as it is enjoyable. Armed with an arsenal of props, garish monsters, a sprawling castle of a stage set and backed by a world-class band, a rock show doesn’t get any better than this. Our favourite month of the year simply would not be the same without Alice Cooper.