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Concert Reviews:
Alice Cooper Legacy Lives In Theatre Of Death

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, September 20, 2009

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STERLING HEIGHTS -- You can certainly say this about Alice Cooper; death becomes him.

The Detroit-born shock rocker has been exiting the mortal coil on stage for nearly four decades -- and still comes back for more. But where his previous productions have built to a climatic death scene, his current Theatre of Death show goes a step -- or three -- further. Over the course of the 90-minute home town visit Saturday (Sept. 19) at the Freedom Hill Amphitheatre, Cooper was guillotined, speared with a lethal injection, hung and impaled by a box of large and sharp-looking spikes.

These were not gratuitous killings, of course, merely part-and-parcel of a crime-and-punishment epic in which Cooper got his just deserves for his own violence against a variety of characters played by actress/dancer Tiffany Love and, during "Billion Dollar Babies," a doll. And the near-sellout crowd, a hard-bitten, Saturday night Detroit rock 'n' roll audience, cheered him on every step of the way, from the opening strains of "School's Out" to the closing notes of, well, "School's Out," which Cooper and his band reprised in the encore.

Theatre of Death proved the ultimate kind of Alice Cooper experience, a proverbial kitchen-sink kind of show that poured out all of his familiar and much-loved tricks, added a couple of new wrinkles and celebrated the macabre spectacle that is his legacy. It had loosely narrative feel of a jukebox musical, albeit a dark one -- and that's not a surprise since it was written and directed by Robert Jess Roth, who brought Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" to the stage. If Cooper were ever to take a show to Broadway (or Las Vegas), this would be it, or pretty close to it.

But for all the visual dazzle, Theatre of Death also celebrated the strength of the songs that are an under-celebrated part of the Cooper legend. On Saturday more than two-dozen of them were carefully woven together to tell a series of bloody vignettes, and Roth's "plots" made room not only for big hits such as "I'm Eighteen," "Be My Lover," "Poison," "Only Women Bleed" and "No More Mr. Nice Guy" but also for deep album tracks like "Wicked Young Man," "Guilty," "The Awakening," "From the Inside," "Nurse Rozetta," "Devil's Food" (with a new verse written especially for the show) and "Killer." Their presence further freshened the Cooper stage act and made Theater of Death considerably more than a variation of a much-loved formula.

What more Cooper does with this particular show remains to be seen, but here's hoping it's a model he continues to pursue, because with Theatre of Death he's raised the bar as well as the body count.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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