Alice Cooper w/ Ace Frehley and Artificial Agent @ DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston, MI, 8/27/2011
Certain artists have a certain stature in my mind, and as such, are worthy of the big stage. I have seen both Alice and Ace countless times over the years, and have seen Alice play in places as dinky as the Royal Oak Music Theatre and Ace play in shitholes like Harpo's. I always felt bad that they were reduced to that, as both are part of my musical DNA, and as such, I've always felt that they deserved better than that. I was thrilled when they announced this show on the heels of Alice's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He has just finished making a new album and it would be nice to see him lifted from the slums of the State Fair circuit.
The weather was picture perfect in Metro Detroit, with a high of 82 and no rain. It was all sunshine as those Jendza rejects' latest retread, Artificial Agent opened the show. If you can't say anything nice then you shouldn't say anything at all.
Next up was ACE FREHLEY, at 7:45 sharp. Ace was the first show that I saw at Pine Knob back in 1987, when his short-lived Frehley's Comet co-headlined with Y&T. People were still streaming in during the first half of his set, so the crowd got much louder as the show went along. He opened with Rocket Ride, and I think that this tour marks the first time that he didn't do the extended guitar solo at the end of the song.
Next up was Parasite. This set was way heavy on Kiss classics, with only two songs not from his tenure in Kiss. One of those songs was Sister, from his latest album in 2009. Snowblind was a welcome surprise and sounded great. Ace's 1978 Kiss solo album is in my all-time top 20 albums. The song segued into a snippet of I Want You, which segued into Rock Soldiers. I love that first Frehley's Comet album, and would not be opposed to hearing other songs off it again live. I was pleased to hear Love Her All I Can, which is one of my favorite Kiss songs. New York Groove, Detroit Rock City, and Shock Me all followed. Ace did the traditional smoking guitar solo after that song. I mean smoking in the literal sense, with the smoking guitar.
Back in the '80s and early to mid-'90s when Ace was out of Kiss, there was sort of an unspoken oath that he wouldn't do Paul or Gene Kiss songs, and they wouldn't do his. Since they do Shock Me live now with Tommy Thayer wearing Ace's make up and him singing it, now Ace's band does Gene and Paul Kiss songs. Shout It Out Loud, Love Gun, and Cold Gin had the crowd cooking, and that was it. Only an hour, but Ace crammed as much Rock as possible into it. The end of Cold Gin had the Black Diamond outro, and the crowd was very into it. Detroit has always loved Kiss.
I always enjoyed seeing Alice at the State Fair because it was A) cheap and B) close to my house. It was cornball as all get out, though, and it was nice to see ALICE COOPER playing the big house to a full house. If the show wasn't sold out, it was very close to the capacity of 15, 274. There were no bald spots anywhere on the lawn or the pavilion where we were.
The Black Widow started the festivities off right, complete with the taped Vincent Price intro. Alice started the song singing on a pedestal and wearing a jacket that made it look like he had 8 arms. Awesome. Brutal Planet was next, as well as a traditional sounding I'm Eighteen. I've heard him do this song so many different ways, and tonight was close to the recorded version but had the old school live ending on there. (Youtube it.) Under My Wheels, Billion Dollar Babies and No More Mr. Nice Guy...classics all. The crowd skewed older, and some of these folks probably haven't seen Alice live in years and deserved to hear the hits. Then we got Hey Stoopid, arguably the low point of his career in my opinion. Is It My Body? and Halo of Flies are album cuts that are done on again, off again live. I love hearing them both, and the extended instrumental at the end of ...Flies is a perfect pit stop/ drink refill oppurtunity.
I'll Bite Your Face Off, off of the forthcoming Welcome 2 My Nightmare (out September 13 in North America), was met with much enthusiasm. Could we see yet another Cooper career resurgence? Muscle of Love surprisingly had people sitting down in my section. I reserve that disrespect for Hey Stoopid and Feed My Frankenstein. Ha! Only Women Bleed and Cold Ethyl had Alice doing the blow up doll schtick, which offended my wife. I tried explaining to her on the way home that that was the point, about what a button pusher Alice was in his early days, etc. I found it fitting and somewhat satisfying that he can maybe still have that effect 40 years later.
Feed My Frankenstein is a terrible song, and the only thing that saved it from sucking up the set was this thing:
Clones (We're All)...now there's a rarity in the live set. I've seen Alice maybe 20 times, and this is only the second time that I've seen him perform it. (The first was the December 31, 1997 at the State Theatre.) Poison was a huge hit for him in 1989, and while I am not crazy about it, I can respect and appreciate that it means a lot to a lot of people. Wicked Young Man is one I am indifferent to. That whole Brutal Planet album is embarrassingly dated, and comes off as a lame Marilyn Manson influence. It's the other way around, and I think that's what bothers me about that album.
The traditional guillotine execution sequence was done to Killer (outro/ execution part)/ I Love The Dead (chorus snippet/ outro) as usual. I love the theatrics that Alice uses, and that is one of the reasons that he deserves to be immortalized in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Other bands have done it bigger and sometimes better, but Alice did it first.
School's Out (with chorus of Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 added towards the end) is one of those flawless, timeless songs that means the same thing in 2011 as it did in 1972. That is the hallmark of a classic in my opinion.
The huge beach balls rolled out over the crowd, and this schtick never gets old and never fails to work. The crowd always digs it, and isn't that sort of the point of performing? It closed out the set proper. Elected was the encore.
My only gripe is that he neglected his criminally underrated The Eyes of Alice Cooper (2003) and Dirty Diamonds (2005) albums.
All in all a great show. Great weather, and a great night for Rock and Roll in general. It was nice to see my childhood heroes elevated to a level of importance again, even if it was only for one night. Both Ace and Alice would do well to team up again for a full tour, as this bill works. It's better than seeing them play the Emerald Theatre (Ace in '08) or the State Fair (Alice in '08 as well; I missed him in '09 at Freedom Hill). I think that the crowd of 15,000 strong agreed.