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)