Saturday, October 04, 2008

Alice Cooper
Great Hall, Hamilton Place

Excerpt from Confessions of A Dylanomaniac

"the first concert I attended was held on Labour Day, September 02, 1972 at a mid-sized outdoor venue called Varsity Stadium, home of the University of Toronto Football Blues. in attendance, a large crowd of friends, at least 10-12 of us, most from the eatery where we all held summer jobs, others from the neighborhood we’d taken to hanging out during that summer joined us for the event.

I learned a lot of things at this show…one of them has stuck with me ever since. anxiously awaiting the opening of the doors I stand in the thick crowd, ticket held aloft in my right hand, when, pffft!, ticket’s gone. some one has wrenched it from my hands. I turn to look and they’re gone. well, not quite gone, but one of 10,000 possible freaks I see in the gathered multitudes. fortune smiles though, it was taken by someone in our party. he hands it back to me, warning me to take better care of my ticket. to this day, I am obsessive about leaving my ticket in my pocket until the moment I reach the turnstiles.

the other thing I learned: there IS better living through chemistry. already down the hatch are two hits of acid, soon to be chased by a nice chunk of black hash with the little white opium specs. too young to drink I was perfectly prepared for what was to come. even so, I still haven’t recovered.

this is the School’s Out Tour I guess. though it may have been the Killer Tour. Alice was doing the fake hanging scene near the close of the show. the set list consisted entirely of known songs from his third to sixth albums (Love It To Death, Killer, School’s Out and Billion Dollar Babies, none from the debut Pretties For You or the follow-up Easy Action).

as the show progresses the overcast clouds take on a more ominous look. brief flashes of lightning can be seen in the night sky…if you look fast enough. I was catching the trails mostly. a slight drizzle started to fall as Alice took to the scaffolding and the music built to a crescendo. the trapdoor opens, thunder cracks, the lights go out, someone begins to shout…no, wait, it didn’t go down in exactly that manner, but close. little did I know I’d just seen a master artist at the top of his creative game, if not the top of his ability to technically dazzle. some one who built a story out of a show. might have been the acid, might have been the company or it might have been the convergence of weather and art to create a canvass of music and wonderment, I just don’t know, but man, I left that show thinking this rock and roll stuff was pretty cool.

there was another lesson learned this evening: know their songs well before you start sinking your money into concert tickets. knowledge makes the night more enjoyable. doesn’t mean the set lists can’t be shaken up, doesn’t mean the melody can’t be reworked or the lyrics can’t be altered. those are all good things in a live show, elements I thoroughly enjoy about the art of live music. being prepared just enhances the experience. back in the day I was going to these shows, and the decade and a half that followed, it cost the same to purchase the new album as it did to see the live show ($5-$15 Cdn). with some artists, people chose to see the show instead of buy the album. other times they bought the album and skipped the show. doing the first with Mi-Sex and the latter with Iggy Pop would have been the right move. me, I bought the album and went to the show. most of the time it paid off. on this night, with Alice Cooper on stage, it was like reading from a book, book of the dead perhaps, the show was as scripted as a preteen wedding in Arkansas."

Here's the set list from that 1972 show.

Alice Cooper 1972-09-02 alt
Varsity Arena Toronto ON
01 Public Animal #9 / 02 Caught In A Dream>Under My Wheels>Be My Lover>I'm Eighteen / 03 Is It My Body>My Very Own / 04 Halo of Flies /
05 Gutter Cat vs. Jets / 06 Street Fight / 07 Killer>Long Way To Go>School's Out

Man, that was a long time ago. Let's see how the old guy's doing a mere 36 years later.

First, a 10 song opening set by CanCon sweethearts, Econoline Crush. They didn't get much of a stir from the crowd; their effort deserved a better response. One thing is evident...besides the fact everyone's here for Alice, the BASS is onsale tonight, so we're gonna use it all.

Lights go down at 9:10 pm and we're treated to a sword-fight in silhouettes.

Alice puts on a great show. He's got a shit-load of albums to choose from but he doesn't lose sight of the gems he created early in his career, those songs from 1971-1973 are sprinkled throughout the show and everyone of them energizes the crowd. He introduces a few new songs from the 2008 release Along Came A Spider and dips into his catalogue for a handful of other enduring tunes, making this a more than decent career retrospective if you want to mostly forget about the '80's. And who doesn't want to forget about the '80's? There's a long list of '60's and '70's stars who turned into pumpkins when Reagan was elected and didn't revive their careers until Bill was in da House.

Theatrically the show is a 'small venue' stage set...nothing too extravagant but a great drama enacted through the show. It's like Shakespear with a soundtrack. Alice is joined onstage by his dancing daughters and we get an assortment of horrific scenes from a slit-jugular (with some distance on the squirt), to a pummeled baby and the scaffold for the hanging scene.

Here's the full set list, with some mp3 samples:

Alice Cooper
Hamilton Place

Disc 1

Track 01 It's Hot Tonight (Lace and Whiskey, 1977)
Track 02 No More Mr Nice Guy (Billion Dollar Babies, 1973)
Track 03 Under My Wheels (Killer, 1971)
Track 04 I'm Eighteen (Love It To Death, 1971)
Track 05 Is It My Body? (Love It To Death, 1971)
Track 06 Woman of Mass Distraction (Dirty Diamonds, 2005)
Track 07 Lost In America (The Last Temptation, 1994)
Track 08 Feed My Frankenstein (Hey Stoopid, 1991)
Track 09 Guitar Interlude
Track 10 Be My Lover (Killer, 1971)
Track 11 (In Touch With) Your Feminine Side (Along Came A Spider, 2008)
Track 12 Dirty Diamonds (Dirty Diamonds, 2005)
Track 13 Vengence Is Mine (Along Came A Spider, 2008)
Track 14 Halo of Flies /Drum solo (Killer, 1971)

Disc 2

Track 01 Welcome To My Nightmare (Welcome To My Nightmare, 1975)
Track 02 Cold Ethyl (Welcome To My Nightmare, 1975)
Track 03 Only Women Bleed (Welcome To My Nightmare, 1975)
Track 04 Steven (Welcome To My Nightmare, 1975)
Track 05 Dead Babies (Killer, 1971)
Track 06 Ballad of Dwight Fry (Love It To Death, 1971)
Track 07 I Love The Dead (Billion Dollar Babies, 1973)
Track 08 School's Out (School's Out, 1972)
Track 09 (encore, audience)
Track 10 Billion Dollar Babies (Billion Dollar Babies, 1973)
Track 11 Poison (Trash, 1989)
Track 12 Elected (Billion Dollar Babies, 1973)

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