Not since Metallica’s ‘And Justice For All’ tour had I ventured into the Hordern Pavillion in Sydney, and prior to that it was only to purchase showbags at the Royal Easter Show as a young kid, back in the 70’s and long before the show moved to Homebush.
So, here I was at that historic venue to see both Alice Cooper and Ace Frehley for the first time, along with able support Strangers who originally hailed from Sydney, however now base themselves in Melbourne.
So it was rock outfit Strangers that kicked off proceedings which, given that it was only a very short set really only served as a warm up, although this band clearly are beginning to emerge as a force and well worth the effort to see them live when you can. Ben Britton’s vocals are very distinctive and a perfect blend with the other band members, particularly the always energetic guitarist Mark Barnes.
For mine it was the right amount of energy to begin the night. The band captured the attention of the already assembled crowd, and delivered a nice entrée to the main acts with their almost indie style of punchy and hard hitting rock, with plenty of very thought provoking lyrical content – be sure to catch them live, along with checking out their new album Mirrorland.
A relatively short break before Ace Frehley and band took to the stage – The Spaceman!
If you thought that the Strangers set was a warm up for the main acts, then Ace Frehley and band were clearly intent on really taking it up a notch and setting the tone for the rest of the entire show, because right from the first few songs it was evident that this was gonna be a kind of nostalgic run through the early KISS catalog, and you know that a lot of hand raising and singing from the crowd would ensue, and why not?!
Ace, both vocally and physically is in good shape, throw that in along with his guitar techniques and you have a performer that knows the business, and knows how to deliver the goods in big shows, and the crowd lapped it up.
Throughout the fifty or so minutes Ace and band tore through many KISS classics such as Hard Times, 2000 Man, Love Gun, Shock Me, and Detroit Rock City featuring that magnificent dual guitar harmony which gave me goosebumps, also thrown in were some of Ace’s most memorable solo songs such as New York Groove and Rip It Out.
To be honest there was not a lot of banter with the crowd, however it was seemingly not required as Ace and band instead chose to keep the momentum of the set pumping with one catchy and memorable groove after another – a real trip down memory lane of sorts, and I am super grateful to have been able to witness it – Ace Frehley still has what it takes, and he does not appear to be slowing down at all!
So here we are, the finale, the incomparable Alice Cooper!
There I was, in the photo pit along with many other photographers, in line with the center of the stage and staring up at the huge curtain adoring the Alice Cooper graphics with spiders and evil eye detailing, on the other side of that curtain was a show ready to loom larger than life!
The curtain falls and out strides Alice, cane in hand and heading for the platform centre stage, upon stepping onto the platform Alice extends his arms and is showered by sparks raining down from above – luckily we were pre-warned.
I am here to tell you that the noise coming from behind me was deafening, Alice Cooper was here, and this crowd was here to rock and be entertained as only Alice Cooper can!
Man, right from the start Alice was conducting his band with relative authority and clearly there was harmony and a flow and transition from one move and riff to another, perfectly in sync and capable of delivering real effect. The show was basically a large selection of old classics, with one track from the new album Paranormal being Paranoiac Personality, however the man has a huge catalog of material and you can’t have Alice Cooper shows without many of the classics.
And how about this damn band that Alice has assembled – three guitarists being Ryan Roxie, the raunchy Nita Strauss and Sydney native Tommy Henriksen, along with Chuck Garric on bass and Glen Sobel on drums – superb, these people can play!
We didn’t have to wait too long for classics such as Billion Dollar Babies, where Alice preceded to flick note currency into crowd from his cane, typical of an Alice Cooper show, you don’t just play that song – you throw currency into the crowd, unreal!
Department Of Youth was another classic, as well as Woman Of Destruction which featured some stunning guitar work by Nita Strauss, which led so beautifully into the opening riff of Poison – they worked that transition majestically and the crowd went berserk! I don’t know about you but that opening riff to Poison destroys me, it somehow gives me a chill every time I hear it, even better during a live show though eh?
You want more detail regarding the theatrical stuff? Well how about the transition from Alice being thrust into a machine which ultimately has a large electrical current exploding through it, to re-appearing as a, I’m gonna say six metre tall monster during Feed My Frankenstein which preceded to storm around the stage between performers – oh, and also the beheading of Alice by a guillotine during The Ballad Of Dwight Fry which was for me the standout song and theatrical performance of the night – the energy from both the band and crowd in those instances was breathtaking, simply bloody breathtaking!
Consistently throughout the show Alice would conduct the performers, often actually conducting the guitarists with his cane, as if he were some type of puppet master, because in many ways that is exactly what he is!
On and on the classics came, one after another, each accompanied by magnificently choreographed and performed theatrics and random guitar moves and grooves that helps to make Alice Cooper shows a rock/metal extravaganza filled with heavy riffs, interplay on stage and a real and honest salute to the old vaudeville era – I freakin’ love this stuff!
Other notables (the whole show was notable but you get the idea) were Cold Ethel where Alice dragged around a large doll on stage, and also I Love The Dead with those haunting verses, as well as I’m Eighteen and School’s Out which are both anthemic and obviously pumped the crowd, especially the latter with that magnificent trademark riff!
You know when you exit a music gig or even a movie theatre and you have been totally blown away by the performance, whether it was expected or not? Well that happened to me last night, and judging by the crowd’s reaction during the show, and also post show where I overheard several discussions about the way people felt about the performance, it would appear as though all were thoroughly entertained and gasping for breath, figuratively speaking.
Thank you Alice, thank you Ace and thank you Strangers for giving the punters a real experience – very real!
|Tue 24 Oct – Newcastle Entertainment Centre, NSW|
|Wed 25 Oct – Brisbane Entertainment Centre, QLD|
Review Contributed by Roger Brooks