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Posts Tagged ‘Alice Cooper’

 (Above: The Zac Brown Band pays tribute to Charlie Daniels with this performance of “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” recorded at the Independence Events Center in 2009.)

By Joel Francis
The Daily Record

The Missouri Mavericks hockey team has only been playing for two seasons, so there aren’t a lot of championship banners hanging above their home rink at the Independence Events Center. But doesn’t mean the rafters are empty.

Scores of black sound baffles drape from the ceiling and dozens more hang perpendicularly around the seating perimeter. They’re all part of the design to make the arena’s music sound better.

“Before this place was even built, engineers mapped the space,” said Paul Fray, chief engineer for the Events Center. “They mapped every frequency using a 3D computer program so they’d know how each frequency would react in the room.”

The catwalk high above the arena floor provides a unique look at the sound baffles strategically hung from the ceiling.

Based on those findings, strategically placed ceiling baffles were hung and wood-fiber panels were placed along the walls at the back of the seating level. When Fray pops Sting’s greatest hits into the arena’s sound system the playback is crisp and clear, as if it is being played in a giant living room.

“This is the best-sounding arena I’ve been in,” said Fray, a four-decade veteran of the Kansas City concert scene. “The overhead speakers are aimed at specific seating areas, then we have clusters of subs (subwoofers) at each end.”

When the Events Center hosts concerts, the act brings their own sound engineer and equipment. Their sound system is run through a separate power transformer devoted solely to audio equipment. This, Fray said, eliminates the hum that often arises when the transformer is shared with the lighting rigs.

“A guy from the Zac Brown Band crew told me we had more power available for them here than when he worked on the crew for the Bon Jovi show at Giants Stadium,” Fray said.

Fray said when he mixes he tries to visualize the sound as a 3D image, with the vocals in front and the guitars, bass and drums filling out the space behind.  When an instrument solo occurs he moves that to the front of the mix.

Audio engineers used 3D sound captures like the one above to gage how different frequencies would react in the room.

“A lot of the time, when there’s a problem with the sound it’s how the front-of-house engineer is mixing,” Fray said. “In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s I saw a lot of shows at Memorial Hall and they sounded good when you didn’t try to overpower the room. When I saw Velvet Revolver there a few years ago it was the worst sound I’d ever heard. You couldn’t pick out any of the instruments.”

A well-engineered room offers more forgiveness to the sound crew.

“All of the front-of-house guys have been very pleased with the arena,” Fray said. “Alice Cooper and Rob Zombie were here a while back and they were very happy with the venue. They thought it was a nice place to play.”

That’s good news for music fans on a couple levels. Not only will they be able to better enjoy the show while it happens, but it means there’s a good chance the performers will come back and fans will be able to live the moment all over again.

Keep reading:

Review: Goo Goo Dolls at the Independence Events Center

Review: Alice Cooper

George Kalinsky: Painting with Light

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(Above: Modest Mouse’s concert at the Uptown Theater in March deserves an honorable mention.)

By Joel Francis

Stevie Wonder, Starlight Theater, June 27

One day after the shocking death of Michael Jackson, Motown legend Stevie Wonder took the stage before a packed Starlight Theater to both grieve and celebrate his old friend. Wonder’s songbook and the scarcity of his performances – he last played Kansas City in 1986 – already guaranteed a special evening. The timing made it historic. Keep reading….

Bela Fleck, Uptown Theater, April 2

Banjo legend Bela Fleck ditched his band the Flecktones for a half dozen African musicians he encountered on his musical adventure across the continent. The three-hour showcase not only exposed the audience to artists they likely wouldn’t have otherwise been able to experience, but brought the performers to the nooks and crannies of America. Keep reading ….

Sonny Rollins, Walton Arts Center (Fayetteville, Ark.), April 16

Saxophone legend Sonny Rollins marked his first performance in the state of Arkansas by reminiscing about radio host Bob Burns, aka the Arkansas Traveler and crowing about his idol, native son Louis Jordan. In between stories, Rollins and his four-piece band made transcendence standard with extended performances of chestnuts like “In A Sentimental Mood” and newer material. Keep reading ….

Leonard Cohen, Midland Theater, Nov. 9

Leonard Cohen knew that most of his biggest fans had never seen him in concert and that this tour would be their only chance to experience him in person. Accordingly, Cohen, 75, generously packed his three-hour concert with all his big numbers – “Hallelujah,” “Famous Blue Raincoat,” “Chelsea Hotel No. 2,” “Everybody Knows,” and about two dozen more – some album cuts and one new song.

Helping Cohen through this immaculate musical buffet was an impeccable six-piece band. Javier Mas’ performance on bandurria and 12-string acoustic guitar frequently stole the spotlight. His playing added new shades and textures to the songs and his solos were always breathtaking. Reed man Dino Soldo was also impressive on clarinet, sax, harmonica and other wind instruments. Three backing vocalists, including Cohen’s longtime collaborator Sharon Robinson, helped smooth the rough patches in Cohen’s gravely baritone.

The adoring, sold-out crowd marinated in every moment, cheering at choice lines and raining ovations on the surprisingly spry singer as he skipped and hopped joyously around the stage. Cohen may have been forced back on the road for financial reasons, but both he and his audience delighted in celebration.

Sly and Robbie, Folly Theater, June 6
Lee “Scratch” Perry, Beaumont Club, August 30

This summer was a great time to be a reggae fan in Kansas City. Jamaican visitors included two biological sons of Bob Marley, and several metaphorical ones, including Toots and the Maytals, the reconstituted Wailers and Matisyahu. Pioneers Sly and Robbie and Lee “Scratch” Perry were the season’s bookends.

Sly and Robbie, veterans of literally hundreds of reggae recordings, kicked off the unofficial summer of reggae with nearly two hours of rumbling riddims at the Folly Theater. Nearly three months later, the eccentric and prolific producer “Scratch” Perry kept a small Beaumont Club crowd waiting for hours, before finally appearing with a psychotropic set of Bob Marley numbers he produced and originals like “Roast Fish and Cornbread” and “Pum Pum.”

Keep reading:

-          Sly and Robbie
-          Lee “Scratch” Perry

Jimmy Cobb, Gem Theater, October 17

As the last living performer from Miles Davis’ landmark jazz recording, Jimmy Cobb left a crowded Gem Theater crowd feeling anything but kind of blue. The drummer and his five-piece So What Band celebrated the 50th anniversary of “Kind of Blue” by playing all of its numbers, but treating the lauded original recordings more like an outline than a blueprint. When Cobb finally unleashed a drum solo more than an hour into the set, he was rewarded with the standing ovation he deserved. Keep reading ….

Pogues, Midland Theater, October 25

It took the renowned Irish acoustic punk band nearly three decades to reach Kansas City, and the groups notorious singer Shane McGowan wasn’t going to vacate the stage quickly. Alone onstage, the dying chords of “Fiesta” still ringing out, McGowan delivered a very inebriated, off-key version of “Kansas City.” A drink in each hand and cigarette dangling from his mouth, McGowan finally shuffled off to whoops and cheers.

The rest of the Pogues, recently reunited and sober (with one exception), have learned to live with these incidents. It’s probably safe to say a good portion of the crowd showed up because of them. Both the morbidly and musically curious had plenty of cause to be glad. After his only face plant of the evening, McGowan replied with aplomb “That’s why they call me Mr. Trips.” Overall, though, he was in good enough shape to deliver great versions of “If I Should Fall From Grace With God,” “Dirty Old Town” and “Bottle of Smoke.”

Despite suffering from a muddy mix, the rest of the band held up their end of the bargain, especially accordion player James Fearnley who ran and slid around the stage like Bruce Springsteen at the Super Bowl and tin whistle-ist Spider Stacy’s percussive beating of his head with a cookie sheet during “Fiesta.” The McGowan songbook was augmented by the traditional Irish numbers “Irish Rover” and “I’ll Tell Me Ma” and late-Pogues number “Tuesday Morning.” There were a few stones left unturned – “Fairytale of New York” was missed – but more than enough good moments to justify the wait.

Alice Cooper, Ameristar Casino, August 8

Alice Cooper’s theatrics aren’t as shocking as they were 30 years ago. What is shocking is how captivating and entertaining his stage show remains. Cooper’s adventures with the noose, guillotine, iron maiden, hypodermic needle, wheelchair, guns and swords mesmerized a fist-pumping, sold-out audience who sang along to every syllable of “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and nearly every other song in the set. Keep reading ….

Raphael Saadiq, Voodoo Lounge, March 13

While not officially tied to the 50th Anniversary commemoration of Motown, Raphael Saadiq’s 75-minute concert in front of a pitifully small crowd at the Voodoo Lounge was an homage to old-school soul, complete with David Ruffin’s horned glasses, tight suits and choreographed dances. The best aspect, though, was that all the music was new and original material written by the former Tony! Toni! Tone! frontman, much of it drawn from his incredible album “The Way I See It.” Keep reading …

Keep Reading:

Top 10 Concerts of 2008

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(Above: One of the many deaths of Alice Cooper – and “School’s Out.”)

By Joel Francis
The Kansas City Star

Friday’s concert was barely 15 minutes old when Alice Cooper was forced under the guillotine. The crime was impaling a roadie and the sold out Ameristar Casino crowd was witnesses to his guilt.

As his head flopped into the basket, Cooper emerged unscathed and unamused, briefly holding up his severed head like a “Twilight Zone” Hamlet before signaling his band to start “Welcome to My Nightmare.”

From the guillotine to the hangman’s noose to the iron maiden, Cooper’s Theater of Death definitely lived up to its name. More than a rock concert, the 90-minute spectacle was a brutal slab of rock theater set to a heavy soundtrack.

Backed by a tight, thunderous four-piece band, Cooper both opened and closed the show with “School’s Out.” In between he hit on nearly every phase of his massive back catalog. Flipping from blues-based hard rock to industrial metal, Cooper and co. did a good job unearthing album tracks and delivering the hits.

Big numbers like “I’m Eighteen” and “Poison” got the expected responses but lesser-known numbers were just as good. Cooper belted the “Ballad of Dwight Fry” from a straightjacket. Later he performed “Nurse Rozetta” from a wheelchair, setting up her PG strip-tease during “Be My Lover.”

The only time the group dialed down from 11 were the back-to-back acoustic numbers “Only Women Bleed” and “I Never Cry.” Cooper delivered “Bleed” with a lifeless Rozetta across his lap and “Cry” hanging from the gallows. The setting rendered the ballads less tender but more powerful.

Cooper uses props in the same way as the Flaming Lips. The added spectacle definitely makes the evening more entertaining, but would be worthless without the great music supporting them. Cooper’s band drove this point the two times they were given the stage alone. Deprived of their leader and all his tricks, they rocked hard and kept the audience riveted.

After an instrumental number, Cooper returned with some of his biggest numbers. It was hilarious to watch the group of graying mid-life dudes in the crowd go nuts over the silver Mardi Gras beads he tossed out during “Dirty Diamonds.” For the next number – “Billion Dollar Babies” – he presented a saber loaded with fake money, which was sprinkled over the front rows.

The main set ended with the one-two punch of “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and “Under My Wheels.” Although they’d been played to death, the band was clearly having a blast, duckwalking backward across the stage and grinning from ear to ear. It was hard to tell who was having more fun, the band or the crowd. Ultimately it didn’t matter. It was clear both sides lived for this stuff.

Setlist: School’s Out, Department of Youth, I’m Eighteen, Wicked Young Man, Ballad of Dwight Fry, Go To Hell, Guilty, Welcome To My Nightmare, Cold Ethyl, Poison, The Awakening, From the Inside, Nurse Rozetta -> Is It My Body, Be My Lover, Only Women Bleed, I Never Cry, instrumental, Vengeance Is Mine , Devil’s Food -> Dirty Diamonds, Billion Dollar Babies, Killer, No More Mr. Nice Guy -> Under My Wheels / School’s Out (encore)

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Above: Blondie’s superior, unused version of “For Your Eyes Only.”

By Joel Francis

When Roger Moore replaced Sean Connery as James Bond, the producers retooled the series to include the grittiness of the recent Dirty Harry movies and “The French Connection.” In “Live and Let Die” Bond chases a corrupt Caribbean politician who deals heroin and happens to be black. They also snagged one of the biggest stars on the planet to write and perform the latest Bond theme – ex-Beatle Paul McCartney.

McCartney’s theme song reunited him with Beatles producer George Martin, who scored the film. Martin was the first person other than John Barry to score a Bond film.

Not only was McCartney’s song the first rock Bond theme, but it was the first one to be written and performed by the same person. The film’s producers had wanted a soul singer, but Martin prevailed and McCartney was allowed to sing. The song starts with a soft melody and understanding lyrics, before bursting into a whirlwind of strings and horns. The change in tempo and texture underscores the protagonist’s philosophical change, from “live and let live” to “live and let die.” The song is a staple of McCartney’s live shows and was performed at his Super Bowl halftime concert in 2005. The less said about Guns N’ Roses 1991 cover, the better.

Barry was back in the scoring saddle for “The Man With the Golden Gun.” He teamed with lyricist Don Black on the title song and the results were predictable. British singer Lulu made her name with the No. 1 hit “To Sir With Love,” the title song to Sidney Poitier’s 1967 film, but she’s given little to distinguish herself with here. Deep in the mix, a guitar spews crazy licks underneath a battalion of churning trombones, but Lulu’s vocals stay safely in the Bassey mold.

Proto-shock rocker Alice Cooper claimed his song “The Man With the Golden Gun” was written for the film but rejected by its producers. The song is an aggressive slab of hard rock completely out of step with anything the producers had used before, so its unsurprising Cooper’s version didn’t appear until it was included on the tastefully titled “Muscle of Love” album.

In 1977, Carly Simon became the second American (after Nancy Sinatra) to sing a Bond theme. “Nobody Does It Better” was the first Bond theme without the same name as its movie, in this case “The Spy Who Loved Me,” although songwriters Carole Bayer Sager and Marvin Hamlisch did work the title into the lyrics.

The song revitalized Simon’s career which had been in a five-year gradual decline since her 1972 hit “You’re So Vain.” It was No. 1 on the adult contemporary charts for seven consecutive weeks and was nominated for two Grammys.

Despite its soft rock arrangement, “Nobody Does It Better” works well as a Bond theme. Writing about the character instead of the film is a refreshing change. Simon’s vocals are nearly devoid of the sex most female Bond singers infused in their delivery. Simon’s approach is more of devotion than lust, which not only supports the arrangement, but makes the song more honest.

Moonraker” paired Bassey and Barry for the final time. Bassey’s third turn on a Bond theme happened after Johnny Mathis declined the song at the last moment. Her delivery is much smoother than on “Diamonds Are Forever” and “Goldfinger,” but it compliments Barry’s lush orchestration. For the first time, Barry’s horns are pushed far to the background. His strings are suspended, weightless in space, and the arrangement is accentuated with a light touch of disco.

The formula of pairing the score composer with a lyricist and giving the song to a pop singer was very much intact as the Bond film franchise entered the ’80s (and its third decade) with “For Your Eyes Only.” Unfortunately, the results were not as memorable. Sheena Easton set a precedent when she became the first singer to perform the title song onscreen. The gauze of synthesizers and strings and forced melody have rightfully relegated the song to footnote status. The producers would have been better served accepting Blondie’s title submission, which appeared on their 1982 album, “The Hunter.”

For his 13th Bond film, Barry turned to Tim Rice, Andrew Lloyd Weber’s lyricist, for help. The result, “All Time High,” was sung by Rita Coolidge. Like Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better,” “All Time High” spent multiple weeks at No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart and does not share the its film’s title (in this case “Octopussy“). Unlike Simon’s song, though, “All Time High” hit the all-time low in Bond songs.

Keep reading:

The Music of James Bond: Part Three – The ’80s and Beyond

The Music of James Bond: Part One – The Classic Years

Below: Alice Cooper’s alternate “The Man WIth the Golden Gun.”

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