Alice Cooper is forever 18
Godfather of shock rock returns to Winnipeg to show concertgoers age is not a number but an attitude
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/04/2022 (355 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Alice Cooper is 74 years old, but he’ll always be 18.
The godfather of shock rock returned to Winnipeg Saturday night, and sang I’m Eighteen, a 1971 song that was one of his first hits, midway through his 95-minute concert and proved age isn’t a number, it’s an attitude.
It’s a mystical commodity he has no shortage of.
Turn back the clock to 1966 when Vincent Furnier — Cooper’s given name — was 18 years old, and then imagine what a 74-year-old man would look like and what he would wear.
Sure, there were performers that age on stage back then, but they weren’t prancing about for nearly two hours while wearing leather trousers or a straitjacket.
But there the ageless Cooper was on Saturday, emerging from his “castle of nonsense” that was the set for his musical theatre of the absurd, wearing a top hat, a long black coat and a walking stick.
He has no need for mobility aids; he runs two miles a day, he said in a recent interview. When he wasn’t pointing the cane menacingly at the crowd of about 3,500 during the openers Feed My Frankenstein and No More Mr. Nice Guy, he twirled it like a majorette.
Backing Cooper was a five-piece band with a triple-guitar attack that brought an in-your-face heavy metal sound Cooper pretty much invented.
There were also a cast of characters — the theatrical part of the show — that ranged from a giant inflatable Frankenstein, warriors from the Crusades who helped move large props, a ghostly woman carrying a candelabra and an easily frightened Hunchback of Notre Dame, who was part stagehand, part Cooper manservant.
They played most of Cooper’s big songs from early in his career, such as Under My Wheels and Billion Dollar Babies, but his talent with a turn of phrase lingers, especially in one of his newer tracks, 2017’s Fallen in Love, which pokes fun at his age: “I’ve fallen in love, and I can’t get up.”
While many musical artists have become subjects of jukebox musicals, with impersonators acting as Buddy Holly, the Beatles and Janis Joplin, among others, Cooper sets an acting and singing bar that will be difficult to match, let alone surpass if he ever decides to forego his ghoulish makeup and put his guillotine in storage.
Imitations take one or two obvious aspects of someone and exaggerate them — a little bit can go a long way — to remind audiences what made that person so memorable.
Cooper has already been doing that for more than 50 years, and on Saturday he showed there isn’t one campy aspect of Alice Cooper, the character, that he hasn’t built beyond anyone’s imagination.
Cooper is also wily, bringing on the crazier costumes, characters and macabre scenes during lesser-known songs, keeping people’s focused on the stage instead of seeking out a final beer at the concessions.
The crowd had a wide variety of ages, but they all dug School’s Out, arguably his most famous song, during the encore, and a verse from Pink Floyd’s equally famous Another Brick in the Wall “Hey, teacher. Leave them kids alone.” fits the melody like a leather-studded glove.
Los Angeles metal group Buckcherry opened for Cooper and their set was definitely performed in the key of F-sharp. When they began with the song 54321, they tromped on the gas and kept it there for 50 minutes.
The isolation that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the world into has limited our normal social interaction, and that includes the casual use of obscenities with friends, relatives and colleagues.
Think about it. When you’re on one of those interminable Zoom calls from work, it’s seems so inappropriate to curse while a dozen people are staring at you, seeking workplace solutions rather than human-resource problems.
So when Buckcherry closed with their biggest song — it has a nasty word; go look it up, it’s got over 100 million listens on Spotify — their brigade of fans who were there to see them as much as Cooper found it cathartic to curse along with shirtless frontman Josh Todd.
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Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.