Rock ‘n’ Roll royalty visited Brighton on Tuesday (8th) when Alice Cooper brought his Ol’ Black Eyes is Back tour to the stage at the Brighton Centre. I was pretty delighted to be covering this one and a little bit in disbelief that I was going to be photographing The Godfather of Shock Rock and also, I hear, one of the nicest guys in the industry.
I got to the venue half way through the set of MC5 or under their current guise of MC50 recognising the 50th anniversary of ‘Kick Out the Jams’. Little did I realise that Kim Thayil of ‘Soundgarden’ and ‘Faith No More’ bassist Billy Gould are part of the current line up along with original member Wayne Kramer; this turned out to be a nice little bonus for the evening. Following MC50 were none other than The Stranglers, this was the first time for a while that I’d manage to catch the band play live and as per normal I wasn’t disappointed. The Stranglers have an extensive back catalogue to play and the musicianship is very tight as you would expect. The crowd responses for ‘Golden Brown’, ‘Peaches’ and ‘No More Heroes’ were lively ones.
During the stage turnaround after The Stranglers I got a glimpse of the set up for Alice’s show and you could tell that it was going to be a big production. The lighting rig was BIG, the drum riser was HUGE and I saw what looked like some kind of castle in the background. The anticipation was building nicely, and the front barrier was adorned with fans who had dressed in Alice Cooper style attire along with others who had gone for the Alice make up or some that were just sporting some kind of band t-shirt!
The photo pit was a busy one tonight with around a dozen of us huddled together waiting for Ol’ Black Eyes to take to the stage. A curtain was covering the front and was adorned with Alice Cooper’s eyes in the middle. The lights dropped, and the eyes lit up, a voice that was straight from something you’d hear in a horror film then welcomed everyone to Alice Cooper’s nightmare castle and told us we were all doomed! The vocals for ‘Feed My Frankenstein’ then started, the curtain fell, and the set exploded into action! Guitarists Ryan Roxie and Nita Strauss were stood on the top half of the castle before Alice himself appeared in a cloud of smoke into the centre of the stage through the doors of the castle! Both Nita and Ryan moved down to join the rest of the band with Nita prowling the front of the stage sizing up the crowd.
Being a rock n roll legend means that Alice can surround himself with the ‘A list’ of hired guns to make up his band and the current arrangement are incredible. Ryan Roxie is on guitar (Slash’s Snakepit, Lost Angels) along with Tommy Henriksen (Hollywood Vampires, Warlock) and the awesome Nita Strauss. Glen Sobel (Motley Crue, Richie Sambora) keeps them all together on the sticks with Chuck Garric (Ted Nugent) providing the bass lines.
Alice Cooper is renowned for putting on dramatic shows and tonight’s was just that. During ‘He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask)’ a serial killer parading around the stage and then ‘Roses on White Lace’ saw a bride take to the stage with red roses in her hand, Alice pursued her around and up to the top of the castle with a knife in hand, only for him to discard this, kiss her and then she disappeared into the night. A huge guillotine appeared on stage for ‘Dead Babies’ with Alice in a white straight jacket, a corpse bride dressed all in black danced around the stage before handing Alice a ‘Chuckie’ style doll which he tries to cut the head off with a cleaver after wriggling free of the straight jacket. He is stopped by two adult babies dressed in boiler suits who then lead him to the guillotine, where the corpse bride proceeds to drop the blade chopping Alice’s head off and passes it to the Chuckie style baby which is now a giant inflatable version if its previous self! Trust me, I definitely haven’t made this up!
Sandwiched between all of this action was an immense guitar solo by Nita Strauss which saw her bounce all around the stage, shredding with her guitar, with what seemed like her unlimited energy. An an epic drum solo by Glen Sobel followed and Alice’s more well-known hits ‘Poison’ was also played.
Not content with corpse brides and Chuckie babies, ‘Teenage Frankenstein’ sees a giant Frankenstein-esqe character marauding around the stage with huge chain around his neck. Sensing that the crowd needed a small break from all the excitement the band leave the stage before returning for the encore which sees them play ‘Under My Wheels’ and the classic ‘Schools Out’, which is mixed in with Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2’ and Cream’s ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ in tribute to Ginger Baker who passed recently.
This gig for me was an absolute masterpiece of a rock show from start to finish and I don’t think I’ve witnessed guitar playing or drumming like it before. The fact I didn’t get back to Portsmouth until 1am and asleep until 2.30am didn’t really matter given what I’d just experienced!