Guess who Linda and I saw last week? Do you need a hint?
As a surprise to some, I actually have a slightly darker side when it comes to music. I say slightly, because it does NOT include any death-metal or “Look at me I’m so cool because I can act moody” crap. Nope, I prefer old school theater with smooth riffs and lyrics with a catch. At the heart of this genre is Alice Cooper (by definition I am referring to the band even though Vincent Furnier has since assumed this alter ego himself). Somewhat as a confession, this interest came about when I was in high school. I ran around with a slightly older crowd from work who used to drag me out to cruise the Springfield strip after work. One of these friends (ironically named the same as a famous comedian for those in the know) would always crank Alice as we drove around – we know all the lyrics and passed the time singing along. Ever since then, I’ll pull out a Cooper album and catch up on old memories. A few years back Linda and I actually saw them at the Peoria Civic Center Theater and totally enjoyed the performance. Surprisingly, my wife ended up enjoying it as well (her first time) but she is a huge people watcher as well so it was probably a natural fit. So when we heard he was going to be at the Mississippi Valley Fair (Davenport , IA) we jumped at the chance.
I need to explain something that made this night a little more intriguing that usual. This fair runs their concert tickets a little different that most places I have been at. The event goes on for about a week with a different band/singer each night. The acts tend to vary with a lot of country, a lame 80’s reject (this year it was Kenny Loggins filling this role) and then a rock band (we have seen Poison there twice now although some people would put them in the lame 80’s reject category). So you would expect the older crowd buys the tickets for the country, the George Michael fans gather for the lame act and the rockers hit the show geared for them. But this has a drawback in that the specific entertainment for that particular night is responsible for the draw/gate revenue. The clever men and women on this fair board figured you can charge everyone for a high priced fair card that gets you into all shows (actually the only way to get into the shows). This means no matter how much the act sucks or how bad weather is, the fair still has guaranteed money. Since Alice Cooper was the only band we wanted to see, we paid the full fair ticket price and just let friends and family use them when they wanted on the other days. All shows ticketing like this has an interesting side effect in that people tend to check out shows they normally would not attend because they basically paid for it anyway. Having experienced this from the Poison concerts, we were wondering what would happen at this particular concert because both my wife and I agreed Davenport was not ready for an AC performance. Sure enough, the gray hairs were standing in line when we got there along with a a number of families I am guessing did not do any Wiki searches before agreeing to take their kids. The goths were out along the usual mix of rockers making the lines a true mix of cultures. Linda and I were busy calling out numbers representing the amount of songs it would take for them to get disgusted and tear out of there.
I recommend catching an Alice show if you get the chance. Just be sure and keep an open mind and take the time to understand what is actually happening and more importantly why. If not, you will likely jump to some incorrect conclusions (especially if you are overly sensitive to the perceived improper treatment of the women on stage – for the curious fans out there, note the last time he was in Peoria his daughter was playing the role of the evil nurse which made it even creepier).
I did manage to take some crappy pictures during the concert. It was too much of a pain to take the expensive glass, but I had slipped the Stylus in my pocket to capture some stills – original thought is there would be interesting activity in the stands. Keeping with the more classic material theme, they opened the concert with shortened version of School’s Out. At 61, Vincent still sounds great and he is still sporting the leather.
He ripped through the songs building up the tortured soul storyline. Again, if you do not understand the songs, you will be struggling to understand the actions on the stage. Slowly you are brought into the nightmare playing out in his mind until the sanity starts to slip.
The fair stage did not leave much room for all his props and gadgets, but he did his best along with his ghoulish stagehands to bring out the required equipment on time and drive the show. They actually backed a semi truck up to the stage right before the show started to have an additional place to store the balloons and other contraptions.
Do to the number of pictures (yes, they are crap) you will need to take the jump to read on
The evil nurse arrives to extract her revenge on Alice. Goosestepping to the beat, the demons drag Alice to the guillotine to set his mind free. This was pulled off much better in Peoria where there was room on the stage to have it sitting there beforehand (they brought it out during the middle of the song). They also had a much more visual execution with Vincent walking around stage with the top half which didn’t go so well on this outing (he struggled getting it out of the basket).
(wow, I could draw stick figures better than these pictures.) This is the time I started looking around the crowd. Sure enough, the exit was on, but not at the volumes I was expecting. Apparently the band had trapped them with the desire to see what was going to happen next. At this point I also lost my bet with my wife regarding to elderly people sitting behind us. I had guessed 3 or 4 songs at the most and they would be high tailing it out of there for the comfort of the Golden Girls or something similar. Although typically a good judge of people (thank you college psych classes) I totally blew it on this one. They stayed the ENTIRE concert although they did roll their eyes at each other every once in awhile.
Once such time was the hanging event which actually worked out pretty well. The darker lighting helped out on the picture a tad in the sense you can kind of tell a person in white clothes is indeed being hung.
Slowly this evolves into the part that makes me a little uncomfortable. This awkwardness is not so much the concert as the concern that some of the women in the crowd were not comprehending that the lady was the real evil on the stage and hell bent on destroying Alice (hence the beheading, hanging and lethal injections). If you didn’t catch this, you might be a little taken back on the actions he takes when he gets his hands on the nurse and subsequent throwing and kicking of the effigy around the stage. Now progressing through the classics like Only Women Bleed they query the audience on what makes Ethyl So Cold? I am not going to answer that (it’s right there in the lyrics people) but I can tell you that for some unexplained reason this was our favorite song to sing during our cruises.
As the concert neared the end, Alice emerges out hell with renewed vigor. Some say Vincent lamed out with his pro-am golfing passion and his radio show, but seeing him rock this hard at age 61 in 91+ degree heat is extremely impressive.
Note, I attribute the blurriness to the heat vapors coming off of the lights on the stage. My favorite Alice song is Billion Dollar Babies and it was clear it was coming when he wheeled out the wagon full of baby dolls covered in beads (diamonds). Unfortunately, he decided to go through the song I like the least out of all his offerings. That song was Dirty Diamonds and I just do not think it musically flows well at all and it just kind of grates on me. The crowd tends to like it because it includes throwing the beads (diamonds) out to the audience which gets them all worked up for the ending.
As I write this entry, it just occurred to me that Alice did not bring out his snake during the show. I cannot believe that escaped me during the show. Oops, I almost forgot. Alice’s band did a fantastic job and obviously they have all been hand picked for their talents. The benefit of being the backing band for Alice (yes, in the golden years, Vincent AND the band were Alice Cooper, but Vince has been the one driving the persona and cranking the money machine) is that you get to jam during the costume changes and a jamming they did. They shredded through their solos and even though they were sweating off some serious pounds they were working hard.
As you can probably tell, we felt we got our money’s worth and looking for the next time his tour bus makes into the Midwest. If you like Alice, rest assured he is still delivering, if you have not seen Alice then we recommend taking the performance in before making judgments and lastly for those who do not like the group, show me someone today that will still be selling out concerts at 61…. maybe it will be the Jonas Brothers are maybe Miley.. good luck on that.
“She asked me why the singer’s name was Alice I said listen baby you really wouldn’t understand”… Be My Lover