Live At Montreux 2005
Alice Cooper has always defied convention. He’s often defied authority with his shocking stage act that pushes the bounds of acceptability further than most. And this performance is evidence that he is also defying father time.
‘I’m in better shape now than I was twenty years ago,’ he said not long before the performance in Montreux. ‘When I get up there, I don’t have any thought of how old Alice Cooper is. I think more about “Am I physically able to do this show?” And I answer “Yes, absolutely!” There’s nothing standing in my way at all physically, to stop me doing the show as good as I’ve ever done it in my life. If I ever get to a point where I just can’t do it, physically, then I will probably never do it again, ‘cause I would hate to do half a show.’ Is this why he kicks off with his 1975 hit ‘Department Of Youth?”
Pinch yourself and realise that some of the standout songs here – ‘Be My Lover’, ‘Is It My Body’ and the closing ‘Under My Wheels’ among them – are over three decades old. But while Alice has inspired a host of others to take a leaf out of his shock-rock book, he regards these younger rivals as a spur. ‘I look at it very competitively,’ he smiles. ‘I’m friends with all these people, but my idea is never go up on stage if you don’t think you can blow them off the stage. So that’s maybe why I don’t get old and fat and stupid and slow.’
‘Live in Montreux’ was recorded in July 2005 near the beginning of the tour promoting the new album ‘Dirty Diamonds’ – so no surprise the title track shows up early on in the running order. A second taste comes with the punningly titled ‘Woman Of Mass Distraction’, but two’s the limit – there are so many eagerly anticipated Cooper standards to shoehorn into the set. Fans who latched onto his 1989 album ‘Trash’ will note the presence of first encore ‘Poison’, but Y2K Coop is well represented by the likes of ‘Between High School And Old School’ and ’What Do You Want From Me’ from 2003’s ‘The Eyes Of Alice Cooper’ and ‘Gimme’, the latter a highlight of 2000’s underrated ‘Brutal Planet’.
When Alice Cooper first trod the boards back in the late Sixties, the name referred to a group, with the man himself featured as the singer. Now, Alice is the MAN, and his band is, as ever, a fine one. Eric Singer, one of the masked Kiss quartet in another life, is behind the drum kit and is rightly given an ovation for his solo in ‘Black Widow’. And who’s the nubile young female giving us her take on society darling/paparazzi plaything Paris Hilton during ‘Wish I Were Born in Beverly Hills’? None other than Alice’s daughter Calico, playing one of her many roles this evening.
Instrumentally, the hardworking quartet completed by sticksman Singer is made up of three hard-working guitarists: Ryan Roxie, Damon Johnson and four-stringer Chuck Garric. All have impeccable hard-rock pedigrees, Roxie having recorded with former Guns N’Roses guitarist Slash in Snakepit and Johnson being the former frontman of the underappreciated Brother Cane. Bassman Garric, for his part, featured in the bands of Ronnie Dio and LA Guns, among others, before joining up with Alice.
Johnson also takes to the keyboard for the mid-set suite of songs from 1975’s concept album ‘Welcome To My Nightmare’. In all honesty, though, there’s little room for subtlety here as everything from the stage set upwards screams hard rock. At a jazz festival? Only in Montreux!
The Hammer House of Horror organ intro having set the scene, Alice emerges from the clouds of smoke and immediately the Stravinski auditorium, warmed up by Finnish hard rock cello quartet (!) Apocalyptica, are on their feet. With scarcely a breath drawn between songs, ‘Dirty Diamonds’ sees Cooper grab the first of many props – a string of jewels – before swapping his bling for a fencing foil laden with bills from the Bank of Alice for ‘Billion Dollar Babies’. Perhaps the most impressive piece of rock theatre, though, is reserved for the legendary guillotine sequence when, having been beheaded, he emerges intact in white suit and matching top hat to lead the crowd through a chorus or three of ‘School’s Out’, as rousing an anthem today as it was when it topped the charts in 1972.
By the time the 100-minute set is complete, Alice has the audience chanting his name over and over. No matter that, when he recorded ‘I’m Eighteen’ and ‘The Ballad Of Dwight Fry’ back in 1971, some of them weren’t yet born…the shock-rock Coop pioneered is still very much in vogue today. And judging by his shadowboxing and mock-aerobics as the set comes to an end there’s still plenty left in his tank.
When Alice Cooper’s incredible journey started back in 1969, theatrical rock was still in its infancy. Now, despite having inspired acts from Kiss and Ozzy through Marilyn Manson to chainsaw-wielding Eminem to follow in his footsteps, the old master finds it ever more difficult to get the desired reaction. ‘There’s so much violence in the world,’ he explains, ‘insane violence that’s coming out of nowhere. It’s like you get shot now for beeping your horn. It used to be someone’d just flip you the finger, now you get shot!’ Yet he’s determined to carry on shocking the unshockable for as long as he avoids self-parody. ‘If the day ever comes that we don’t think we can blow any band off stage then we shouldn’t be there.’
On the evidence here, this dirty diamond of rock is good to glitter for some while yet…