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Review: Alice Cooper is an eternal legend, long may he reign

Still a world-class performer, exemplified by his Melbourne show. 

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Anna Madden

Ace Frehley and Alice Cooper may come out of roughly the same era - the 1970s - but in 2017 their live shows present two extremes.
 
Frehley really played up the fact that he brought the ‘street’ to KISS’s classic sound, infusing his set with a sort of garage-rock edge and a certain roughness around the edges. Cooper, on the other claw, ran a very slick, very tight set with a world-class band and great theatrics.
 
That’s not to knock Frehley at all. He seemed to relish being more of a straightforward rock’n’roller outside of the KISS theatrics, although yes, there was still the legendary smoking Les Paul moment during ‘Shock Me’. There were plenty of KISS songs in the set (‘Parasite’, ’Talk To Me’, ‘Hard Times’, ‘2000 Man’, ‘Detroit Rock City’, ‘Love Gun’ and ‘Deuce’) plus some tracks from his self-titled solo album. Interestingly there was nothing from 2009’s Anomaly or 2014’s Space Invader, both pretty strong solo records. This was basically a tribute to Frehley’s time in KISS, and unapologetically so. Given that he was performing to an arena crowd, some of whom were there for Cooper, instead of a club full of Frehley die-hards, this made a lot of sense, and made for a lot of fun. I brought my son with me (he’s 11) and he recognised plenty of the KISS songs despite me not playing KISS very often around the house.
 
Cooper last played here as support for the Motley Crue farewell tour, and this particular set seemed to load the theatrical set pieces towards the second half (the famous ‘Feed My Frankenstein’ transformation into a giant, and legendary guillotine routine). But Cooper and band have such stage presence that they didn’t need to put on a ‘best-of-Alice-onstage-deaths’ show. Now, here’s part of why Cooper is so great: he may be 69 but he sounds virtually identical to how he did in the ‘70s thanks to his four-decade-ago choice to keep his vocal range in that dark, low register instead of being a shrieker like many of his contemporaries. So he’s never battling against his own vocal range.
 
Cooper’s band is phenomenal – especially guitarist Nita Strauss, who has the stage presence to keep up with her boss. Which is no mean feat when your boss is Alice Friggin’ Cooper. Nita’s guitar playing was flawless and she has that unique ability to make everyone in the crowd feel like they’re in the front row, even if they’re at the back of the arena.
 
Cooper is a somewhat regular visitor to Australia and he’s showing no signs of slowing down. Next time he comes, you have to go. There are very few shows like this anymore that combine true showmanship, world-class musical technique and an appreciation for filthy rock’n’roll.
 
Highlight: Nita Strauss’s guitar-goddess stage presence going toe-to-toe with Cooper’s refined menace.
 
Lowlight: The ‘Poison’ chorus doesn’t really translate well in an arena.
 
Crowd Favourite: ‘Feed My Frankenstein’.