We showed up at the arena, Alice Cooper tickets clutched firmly in hand, to hear a busker outside singing the same Poison song, over and over and over.
And the night only got better from there.
Trusts Sadium Arena was out in the middle of nowhere, and I’d never seen a gig there before. The weather was just turning shite and we were worried we’d be in an outdoor arena with the rain sheeting in. Thankfully, we walked in to a cozy, warm and well-lit venue. We’d paid for the more expensive seated tickets and I was stoked to discover our seats were in the front section, row 16, fairly close to the stage. Not as close as some of our mates though. Lee and Chrissy (of NZ heavy metal band Forsaken Age – who have a new album out soon) were second row, with Chrissy’s son Vinnie – probably the biggest Alice fan I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, sandwiched between them, his face made up and the biggest grin on his face.
First up were Head Like a Hole – a prominent NZ rock band who started back in the late 90s. Head Like a Hole have are an interesting footnote in NZ music history, having apparently recorded their debut 8 track for $100 and a bottle of whisky. They performed outrageous shows in dingy NZ venues, playing completely naked, caked in mud, or wearing chicken suits. At Thursday’s show they were dressed more like a modern country rock band, and sounded a bit like it, too, but they did have a single naked fan dancing down the aisles. The band reformed in 2008 and, since I’d never seen them in their heyday (CDH had, opening for Shihad, of course), it was interesting the see them.
The stage was cleared, the screen came down, and we waited while Alice’s stage was put together. Finally, the music faded away, smoke twined from behind the screen, and with a bang the stage lit up, and out of the smoke came Alice, standing on a twelve-foot-high platform with spider arms and singing Black Widow. His band for the No More Mr. Nice Guy tour has a few stars, including the extremely talented and deliciously beautiful Orianthi Panagaris. If you’ve never heard of her, she’s a 24 year old Aussie guitar goddess with seriously good chops. Other guitarists Tommy Henriksen and Steve Hunter put on an admirable show, and bassist Chuck Garric bounded about the stage with unrelenting energy. The imposed double-bass kit and punchy style of drummer Glen Sobel gave the old songs a kick.
But the star of the show was Alice. Older now, and wiser, he has a kind of confident saunter as he waves his cane around like a mad conductor. His voice shows signs of age – catching a few times, rasping at others, but his unerring energy made up for these few small tinges. He played the classics like a true master, and the crowd reacted to his presence with enthusiasm. Everyone was having a great time.
About halfway through the 21-song set I couldn’t stand it anymore and raced to the front where a crowd had exited their seats in order to stand around the stage. People were rocking out – dancing, screaming, waving their hands in the air, but there’s no pushing or aggro behaviour. Lee and Chrissy had got Vinnie a prime spot right on the barrier, so I stood behind them and watched the rest of the show.
Alice played a set of classics – Only Women Bleed, Poison, Hey Stoopid, Clones, Feed My Frankenstein – and one new song “I’ll bite your Face Off”. For this song Alice came out wearing a jacket with “New Song” emblazoned on the back. He was only beheaded once, but it was via guillotine – the best method – and I got to watch from right near the front. He came out during the encore wearing an All Blacks jersey and waving a NZ flag while singing “Elected”.
Even for an Alice Cooper show there were a surprising number of people yelling “Play some Slayer!” It was great to be in a crowd of people just there to have a good time.
At the end of the show one of the techies came out with Alice’s cane and gave it to Vinnie, saying “Alice wanted you to have this”. You should have seen Vinnie’s face! What a special kid!
Having been to far too many NZ shows with shit sound and shit service, I want to give a big shout out to the team who organized this show. The seats, when I sat in mine, were cushy and comfortable, the sound was perfect, the bar at the back was organized and efficient. I was well impressed.
Brendon Adam of House of Noizz radio and Slaughterama zine has another review of the Alice show on the House of Noizz website.