Alice Cooper

support Black Stone Cherry
author AP date 25/09/19 venue Royal Arena, Copenhagen, DEN

It would seem that Alice Cooper’s stock is truly on the decline. His latest headlining appearance here in Copenhagen was expected to at least come close to selling out the 17,000-capacity Royal Arena, yet the reality is that when I arrive just before the opening act, the venue has both blocked off the upper seat sections and moved the stage itself forward, in order to produce the desired atmosphere in spite of what looks like a pretty lacklustre turnout for such a revered artist as Cooper. I was never the biggest fan of his music myself, though I will of course admit to having sung along to his classics on multiple occasions, especially the hazier, beer-powered ones. As such I am here to be impressed, and to find out if Cooper’s shock value still holds water in the scene today.

All photos courtesy of Lykke Nielsen


Black Stone Cherry

I have heard a lot of positive things said about this Kentuckian four-piece since they debuted with “Black Stone Cherry” in 2006, yet as so often is the case, I never really latched onto the hype, and as such, this concert marks the first time I get to watch the band live. I won’t lie — Black Stone Cherry’s announcement as the support act for this tour played played a big part in my deciding to attend tonight in the first place, and as such, I am full of anticipation when the lights dim just after 8 p.m. and the four musicians take the stage, supplemented by a session organist. And as “Burnin’” from their latest album, 2018’s “Family Tree”, sounds from the PA, lead guitarist Ben Wells, bassist Jon Lawhon and drummer John Fred Young explode into action immediately, making it clear there is a good reason for the Edmonton-based outfit’s reputation as fantastic live act. I will concede that in musical terms, their southern flavoured hard rock is anything but novel, and loses its sheen once the first few blends of smoky riffage and gravelly, bourbon-soaked singing by frontman Chris Robertson have passed. But if you accept that and just focus on the antics of Wells, Lawhon & Young in particular, then there is a lot of entertainment value to be found in the likes of “Me and Mary Jane” (off 2014’s “Magic Mountain”) and “Blame It on the Boom Boom” (taken from 2011’s “Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea”). With hardly a pause to catch their breath in, Wells & Lawhon seem to be everywhere at once, twirling around and executing countless jumps as they switch sides multiple times in each song, while Young is putting on his own spectacle behind the drumkit, spinning and throwing his sticks and really applying force to every strike.

During both the country-rocking anthem “In My Blood” and the penultimate “Lonely Train” (the latter of which appears on the aforementioned, eponymous 2006 offering), the band is joined on stage by a bongo drum percussionist donning some interesting hippie attire, contributing a touch of reggae to certain parts of these songs, which does spice them up but is, for me, not enough to compensate for their otherwise generic character. Once Robertson has offered the usual platitudes about this being ”the loudest show on the tour so far!”, the show is brought to a conclusion with “Cheaper to Drink Alone” (off 2016’s “Kentucky”), and although I am still taken aback by the energy of this band in the live setting, I am also left with the impression that Black Stone Cherry’s music is designed to cater not to connoisseurs, but to a beer-drinking, radio-listening crowd that probably lists Volbeat as their favourite artist. Early on in the set, the desert rocking riffs in “Blind Man” (from 2008’s “Folklore and Superstition”) had me convinced the Kentuckians had a few aces up their sleeve besides their excellent showmanship, but once the 45 minutes allotted to them are up, I must admit that I am not exactly counting the days to the next opportunity to watch the quartet live.

6


Alice Cooper

After the curtain drops and is carried away by a litany of ceremonially dressed stage hands, it reveals a stage mimicking a medieval castle, with a variety of horror mannequins scattered around and five chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Cooper himself is wearing his signature top hat and wielding a circus staff, directing his band of misfits into a somewhat muddy rendition of “Feed My Frankenstein” off his 1991 album “Hey Stoopid”. And although lead guitarist Nita Strauss looks like she is living the dream, brandishing her instrument and spinning around as she rips out the first of many solos, it does not take long for my skepticism to take over. Quite frankly, even as the classic “Bed of Nails” (taken from Cooper’s 1989 album “Trash”) elicits the first resounding singalong, it feels like Cooper is simply going through the motions here. The set is missing edge, it is missing nerve, and certainly the shock value that should be this man’s trademark is hard to detect in the vast majority of the set, which feels more like the evening entertainment at some amusement park than a classic rock concert. Thankfully, it is not all dreary. The newer song “Fallen in Love” (off 2017’s “Paranormal”) instantly strikes a chord with me thanks to its heavy blues influence, yet once again it is Strauss rather than Cooper who takes the spotlight with her impassioned performance. For most of the song, she remains right by Cooper’s side, which draws a stark contrast between the aging has-been collecting his last pension payments, and a young guitarist with an already successful solo career to fall back on.

As ever, there is no shortage of oomph in the production, however. The audience is treated to a scene of what looks like Jason from the horror film “Friday the 13th” cutting the throat of a caricature high-school student on the fortress ramparts during “He’s Back (the Man Behind the Mask)” (from 1986’s “Constrictor”); there is a ghostly bride with a candelabrum dancing around during “Roses on White Lace” (off 1987’s “Raise Your Fist and Yell”); and there are plenty of corpse babies, including a large one staring us down, emphasising the lyrical content of the older “Dead Babies”, which was released in 1971 as part of the “Killer” album. But all these props are little more than smoke and mirrors hiding a very average performance in which Cooper looks more faded with each passing song while his band of hired hands do what they’re paid to do: rock out and ensure that there is still some attitude left in the likes of “I’m Eighteen” (taken from “Love it to Death” — also from 1971). But their enthusiasm has an unfortunate side effect during the staple “Poison” (from 1997’s “A Fistful of Alice”): as the backing vocals are added to an already tremendous singalong from the audience, Cooper’s own voice (which has seen better days, if I’m honest) drowns in the mix, rendering this classic track a letdown instead of the highlight it really should have been.

A number of memorable moments do however arrive after a dedicated guitar solo by Strauss halfway. Both the aforementioned “Roses on White Lace” with its King Diamond-esque atmosphere and tone, and especially “Steven” (off 1975’s “Welcome to My Nightmare”) make their mark thanks to a heavier and more baroque style, and while most of the audience remains unimpressed as it has until now, my head is definitely banging, and my horns are in the air during both of of them. What a lonely feeling it is to be one of only a few enjoying (parts of) a concert — it underlines just how flat and tame these proceedings are until the expected, brief upsurge of energy during the revered “School’s Out” in the very end of the encore. If this is indeed the standard one can now expect from Alice Cooper, then it is time for the shock rock icon to retire and focus his energy on recording podcasts for radio channels around the world, instead of subjecting his loyal fanbase to these kinds of travesties.

5

Setlist:

  • 01. Feed My Frankenstein
  • 02. No More Mr. Nice Guy
  • 03. Bed of Nails
  • 04. Raped and Freezin’
  • 05. Fallen in Love
  • 06. Muscle of Love
  • 07. He’s Back (the Man Behind the Mask)
  • 08. I’m Eighteen
  • 09. Billion Dollar Babies
  • 10. Poison

guitar solo by Nita Strauss

  • 11. Roses on White Lace
  • 12. My Stars
  • 13. Devil’s Flood
  • 14. Black Widow Jam
  • 15. Steven
  • 16. Dead Babies
  • 17. I Love the Dead
  • 19. Escape
  • 20. Teenage Frankenstein

— Encore —

  • 21. Under My Wheels
  • 22. School’s Out

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