Alice Cooper at Vetter Stone Amphitheater (June 9th, 2017)

There is a certain vibe in the air when you enter the venue where an Alice Cooper concert is about to happen. You get the feeling that you’re inevitably about to experience something that is going to give you a sense of awe and wonder. This feeling is not one that has diminished over the years, even if the overall impact that Cooper has nowadays is different than in his heyday. The climate of popular culture looks much different in 2017 than it did in, say, 1972. The fact that Cooper remains a vitally important and excruciatingly youthful live act is the ultimate testament to his legacy. On Friday, June 9th, Mankato, Minnesota was made witness to all of this.

The opening act was Shannon Curfman, a blues-rock guitarist who managed to put on a more than competent set with her backing band. They kept things pretty low-key, perhaps a conscious decision to further amplify Cooper’s coming onslaught. Nevertheless, it was a fine set. There definitely seems to be a quality to heavily blues-influenced music that makes it the near-perfect middle ground for an audience. Most people, regardless of the core of their musical tastes, seem to be cool with this type of music, particularly in the live setting. This set, with all of its grace and comfortability, played a vital role in acting as a pre-show ritual to put the audience at ease. Curfman seemed to be quite aware of the juxtaposition of herself and Cooper on the same bill and she used this acute awareness to play things as earnestly as imagined possible.

By the time Cooper and his band came out on stage, the energy in the arena took no time in changing its tune. Appropriately enough for the change in atmosphere, the band immediately ripped into one of Cooper’s heaviest tracks, “Brutal Planet”.¬†Cooper is a relentless live performer, unapologetic and playing the role of the villain. Nothing about this has changed. In fact, at the age of 69, his ability to grab ahold of the audience and strangle them lifeless is just as good as it’s ever been. This time around, he carried a set that was full of deep cuts and little known gems that hardcore fans like myself have long dug (“Pain”, “The World Needs Guts”, “Escape”, etc.). Perhaps the single most impressive thing about this show was the absolute ease that Cooper was able to maintain his posture in character. There are no slip ups. None. He is the villain, period, and yet he is the villain that you can’t help but sympathize with. You understand why the villain does what he does and, of course, his lines are always much better and fulfilling than anything the boring hero has to say. The undisputed highlight of the set was the most spirited and nightmarish rendition of “Ballad of Dwight Fry” that I have ever heard. With sweat streaming down my face and the hairs on my arms raised as high as they can be, I was filled with the sense that what I was experiencing was something that was truly part of something that could never be again. Cooper is the best of a breed of artists that just doesn’t exist anymore. You can’t help but wonder if this undeniable fact is what keeps him so invigorated and inspired at this stage in his career.

Seeing Alice Cooper live is not something that a blogger like myself is capable of doing justice in explaining to you. It’s something that you absolutely have to experience for yourself, otherwise you’ll never know what you’ve been missing all this time. There is no other live act that can follow him up. Not one. He’s the best there is and that’s quite simply all there is to it. With the release of his upcoming record ‘Paranormal’ (which will be reviewed promptly on this site after its release) proves that he isn’t interesting in slowing down any time soon. This couldn’t be better news for the world of popular culture. At this stage in his career, Cooper knows that he isn’t the transgressive force of shock value that he used to be. Luckily, he’s smart enough to understand this and plays it all off today as nothing but pure entertainment and a celebration of all that has ever been great about rock n’ roll and heavy metal music. He’s a true treasure and it’s good to know that he’s not going anywhere for the foreseeable future. Do yourself a favor and go see him work his craft.

5/5

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‘Super Duper Alice Cooper’

For many years, there had never been an honest, well-intentioned look at the life and career of Alice Cooper. All of that changed in 2014 when Banger Films came together with the legendary shock rocker to create ‘Super Duper Alice Cooper’. There couldn’t have been a better crew to put this together than Banger; anyone who is familiar with their work knows that they always do their homework and there are no better ambassadors for pushing the understanding of metal music in a critical context. This makes Alice Cooper a perfect subject for the folks at Banger, as it’s no secret that Cooper has long been a misunderstood artist. The end result is pure magic and Banger points out a fact about Cooper’s career that fans (like myself) have known all along: underneath the trappings of outrage (which in and of themselves have long been misunderstood), lies one of the most profound minds and creative forces in all of rock and metal.

One of the cool things about this biopic that sets it apart from many of its contemporaries is the way the that Sam Dunn, the director, has chosen to portray this film. It isn’t your typical biopic and/or documentary in which the audience is subjected to interview sequence after interview sequence over and over again. This picture has lots of color, which is of course fitting considering that Cooper is the subject at hand. This is also particularly useful and important when looking their Cooper’s own eyes. He isn’t a man who is bitter or regrets the so-called good ole days in the least. Within his own recollection and the film’s very nature and essence, there is a warmness that is perpetrated and carried out by this film that is quite reminiscent, at least in spirit, to certain episodes of Banger’s great series, ‘Metal Evolution’. There is a love of subject matter that is always worn by Banger that perfectly supplements Cooper’s own devices and outlook on his own legacy and career. Another thing that this film does in incredible fashion is the way that it ultimately is able to separate the character from the man, playing off the Jekyll and Hyde concept in a striking, poignant sense. The humanization of Cooper, though, is perhaps the film’s greatest quality. As a fan, the conclusion should bring you to tears even if you’re already familiar with Cooper’s career resurgence and the sobriety that he has held on to for over 30 years. The lesser known bits, like about Cooper’s childhood, his family, pre-high school life is something that also goes the extra mile in painting a portrait of a man who is, above all else, human.

This biopic is a step above all of the rest. This film does everything right; painting a lovely and infectious view of Cooper’s life now as well the decadent times of the ’70s, while also being shocked and in horror on just how bad things were always capable of becoming. The guests on this biopic, including Elton John, Dee Snider, and John Lydon give you a picture of just how well-loved and accepted Cooper has long been, often contrary to conventional wisdom. One of the great underrated artists of the 20th century; there are many movements of rock and metal that, had Cooper never made his stamp on the scene, would never have existed. Aside from the fascinating subject that is Cooper, equal credit must be given to Dunn. After all, he was the man who took this project and allowed it to flourish. There is no be documentary filmmaker in the world to create a project like this. His mastery has done many things in the world of music biopics and, perhaps even more importantly, Dunn is the ultimate torchbearer for metal music, a broad genre that has long been misunderstood and misrepresented by those who aren’t on the same wavelength. This film will also (hopefully) change the minds of any naysayers out there who still think that Cooper is nothing but a theatrical performer with little actual talent. If this is you, you’re probably not a fan of this particular blog. Pity is reserved for you. This is as good as it gets.

5/5