Alice Cooper @ Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 31/10/12

Alice Cooper is the original (and best) Horror Rocker on the scene. He’s been doing it longer and better than any other imposter out there.

Tonight it makes sense to go see him since it is Halloween. Halloween with Alice is Edinburgh this year. In the Usher Hall, a venue more used to classical shows actually. The seats have been removed on the ground floor of this gorgeous Victorian building to create a fantastic slanted standing area allowing virtually zombie, vampire, sexy nurse, nun, priest and many other Halloween costumed fan to see the stage from wherever they are stood. Having seen Alice many times before this definitely felt like the smallest and most intimate venue of them all.

The whole bill tonight is a stellar one, with both Duff McKagan’s Loaded and Ugly Kid Joe in support. I don’t always mention the support act when reviewing a show, but it is worth noting such a strong bill when one like this comes along. It felt like a mini-festival with both bands playing their hearts out and definitely re-animating the many zombies amongst us!

The time soon came for Alice, and the traditional curtain was raised at the front of the stage. The curtain dropped and a shower of fireworks fell from the lighting rig above, as the band kicked into ‘Hello Hooray’. Alice did not appear at the top of any crazy rigs or dressed as a spider with flames in his hands (a la Black Widow from many previous shows). He walked to the front of the stage through the firework shower and just started singing.

The acoustics were immaculate, and for the first time I can really remember Alice’s vocals were impressively perfect. Don’t get me wrong, he is always good, but tonight he was on very much top form.

Soon ‘House of Fire’, ‘No More Mr Nice Guy’ and ‘I’ll Bite Your Face Off’ had passed and what we were experiencing was a dirty rock show. Tonight seemed to be more about focussing on the music and the musical performance than the theatrics. And it worked wonderfully. There was still the usual sword and dollars for ‘Billion Dollar Babies’ and diamond necklaces for ‘Dirty Diamonds’ but much of the usual slapstick seemed reduced. It was probably the logistics of such a small venue, and in fairness it wasn’t missed.

Alice didn’t die in one of his more normal way. He was electrocuted and turned into a 20 foot Frankenstein of himself for ‘Feed My Frankenstein’ which definitely wasn’t the same as the hanging or guillotine of previous shows. This however was where the show really took a turn toward the fantastic.

After ‘…Frankenstein’ original Alice appeared back on stage and was clearly in a graveyard. A voiceover bellowed down at him saying he has finally arrived where he always should have been; in a rock star graveyard. Then a gravestone appeared at the back of the stage displaying the name of Jim Morrison and the years he was alive.

The band kicked into ‘Break On Through (to the other side)’ and Alice sung it. All of it, a proper cover version! This is something I’ve never seen Alice do in all the years I’ve watched him live. I’ve never seen a cover version. Tonight then was going to blow that away.

Soon as the band finished another gravestone appeared and had John Lennon’s details on it. The band started ‘Revolution’ and we got treated a full on venom version of this. More gravestones appeared and a song was played for Jimi Hendrix (‘Foxy Lady’) and Keith Moon (‘My Generation’). The quality of the covers were fantastic and this had become the greatest jukebox ever!

Four covers later we were now 20 tracks down the setlist. It definitely felt like the end of the show but the band started ‘I’m Eighteen’, which immediately went into ‘Under My Wheels’. No sooner had that finished and the crowd still going wild the opening strains of ‘Poison’ ripped through the venue.

Surely this had to be the end? Almost. After a brief encore the band were back out and tearing through ‘School’s Out’. 24 songs down and that was it, it was over. From Arenas to Festivals to a small club-sized venue this was definitely the strongest Alice Cooper show I’ve ever seen. Everything just fit tonight and the end result was mesmerising. “Welcome to my Nightmare”? No welcome to what felt like a dream show!

Alice Cooper Setlist Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland 2012, Raise The Dead
Gareth Fraser
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