No rocker has had more wild fun in the dark than Alice Cooper, who unveiled a renewed nightmare last night at L.A.’s Orpheum Theatre, an old vaudevillian palace befitting this master horror-rock showman. Cooper was joined by actor Johnny Depp on guitar for several songs as he delivered 90 fast minutes of Seventies glam and trash.
It was Alice Cooper in classic mode, with a stage crowded with horror props. The curtain fell in a fiery shower of sparks as the ringmaster strolled out wearing tails with vivid red and white stripes, skull belt buckles across his waist and white spats spattered with blood. “Hello, let the show begin!” he growled.
In Los Angeles in 2011, Cooper ripped through a quick four-song set at the Revolver Golden God Awards with his original band, shortly after their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This time he was with a younger five-piece band, often sharing center stage with Australian guitar virtuoso Orianthi, who was an energetic foil for Cooper in black leather and lace and platinum hair down to her shoulders.
During the riff-rocker “I’ll Bite Your Face Off,” Cooper and Orianthi spun around one another playfully, and on “Hey Stoopid,” she ignited a slippery solo as Cooper taunted her: “This ain’t your daddy talking . . . your story ain’t so shocking.”
On “Feed My Frankenstein,” Cooper was strapped to a mad scientist table amid sparks and smoke, then transformed into an oversized Alice monstrosity. It’s a persona that has lost nothing to age. The whole show was joyously decadent, cartoonish and rebelliously loud, for a standing audience ranging from first-generation fans to younger listeners finally witnessing the legend up close.
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Touring in celebration of the 40th anniversary of his School’s Out album (and with a new boxed set coming next week), Cooper’s set was heavy on the catchiest hits from his first decade, which still represent his best material: “I’m Eighteen,” “Under My Wheels,” etc.
He has a way with props, cutting the air with a long rapier sword or snapping a riding crop by his leg. He had a holster for his mic and a snake slithering around his neck during “Devil’s Food,” and he swung a black cane at the crowd for a sneering “No More Mr. Nice Guy.” For 1971’s “Ballad of Dwight Fry” he was fitted into a filthy pink straightjacket. Twitching and singing on his knees, it was Alice at his melodramatic best.
Depp stepped onstage for the Doors’ “Break On Through (To the Other Side),” the first of several classic rock covers, and he remained for the rest of the show as just one of four guitarists supporting Cooper, who stood amid grave markers for late icons Jimi Hendrix, Keith Moon, Jim Morrison and John Lennon. During a cover of the Beatles’ “Revolution,” Depp leaned into the riff Keith Richards-style as Cooper offered the peace sign, singing, “Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right!”
Orianthi ripped open Hendrix’s “Foxey Lady” on a gleaming white guitar, the first song to really show her chops, and Cooper bit into a stuttering cover of the Who’s “My Generation.”
The night, of course, ended with a celebratory version of “School’s Out.” Depp laughed as Cooper skulked around the stage in a silver snakeskin coat, tossing in a few lines from Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” as he wailed, “Teacher, leave those kids alone!” The room exploded with confetti, bubbles, streamers, feathers and balloons, finally sending fans home with their eardrums and eyeballs shaken and stirred.