August 12 2018, Greek Theatre, Los Angeles CA: Even in the year 2018, there is a vast plethora of classic hard rock and heavy metal bands of the ’70s and ’80s, still playing shows around the world. In all honesty, most of them have become a caricature of their own past glory days and make for terrible live acts in the present day, milking their hits to the absolute last drop. But there is a handful of classic bands that are still at the peak of their powers. Last Sunday at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, we experienced both ends of this spectrum.
The lovely, historic open-air theatre was expected to be packed to its 5800-capacity by the time the headline act was to take the stage, but there was a sizable audience in attendance for the high-profile opening act, none other than Ace Frehley of KISS fame, who started his set promptly at 7:45. The four-piece of Ace Frehley, Chris Wyse (bass), Scot Coogan (drums/vocals) and Richie Scarlet (guitar) proceeded to play a 45-minute set comprising six KISS songs, two selections from Frehley’s 1978 solo album, and of course, the signature guitar solo complete with fireworks. The modern-day Ace Frehley has, for the most part, failed to impress in recent years, and unfortunately this performance was no different.
There are classic hard rock musicians and bands that are well past their prime, then there are some who would perhaps be better off stopping and retiring altogether. Ace Frehley comes in the latter. His vocal delivery was sluggish at best, and it would be generous to describe his guitar playing as sloppy, as he stumbled his way through even the most generic hits with flubbed notes and scrambled solos galore. There is no denying Ace Frehley’s legendary status, his contribution to KISS, and his influence on aspiring rock and metal guitar players through the past four decades, but his 2018 incarnation is a sad representation of everything he stands for. That said, the musicians in his band are excellent, and are usually able to rescue the performance from absolutely abysmal to passably mediocre, as they did here. All in all, a barely tolerable opening act that heightened the restless anticipation for the headline act even further.
Ace Frehley set list:
2. Rip It Out
3. Love Gun
4. New York Groove
5. Detroit Rock City
6. Shock Me
7. Ace Frehley Guitar Solo
8. Cold Gin
Immediately after the end of the opening act’s set, a massive curtain depicting a very familiar set of eyes engulfed the stage while it was being prepared for the evening’s main attraction. Soon after, the lights went out, the curtain dropped, and time stood still …
The stage exploded into life, and from behind a wall of fireworks raining straight down from the top, appeared the man himself, Alice Cooper. Fans who have attended his shows regularly would invariably say, “Alice always delivers .. Alice never disappoints”. They are not wrong, but the fact is, Alice Cooper does not give you the same show from one year to the next, and that’s what makes the consistency in quality all the more admirable, as he goes out of his way to change the set list for every touring cycle. This “Paranormal Evening with” show has been enthralling audiences all over the world this year, and Los Angeles finally got to experience it last night, as the band put forth a hearty 20-song set, featuring some songs even longtime fans would never have witnessed live before and certainly would not have expected to hear. The brilliance with which Alice and his band blended the classics, deep cuts and new material was paranormal in itself, almost like a fanboy’s wet dream being played out in reality.
The set began with the title track off of the 2000 album Brutal Planet and went into a short sequence of well-known and much-loved tunes, but then came a very unexpected and pleasantly surprising 3-song segment, “Be My Lover” off of Killer (’71), “Lost in America” off of The Last Temptation (’94) and “Serious” off of From The Inside (’78). Alice Cooper is known for the theatrical elements of his live shows, but the sheer musicianship itself is never downplayed or undermined. With little to no theatrics, this segment served as a glorious representation of the pure songwriting genius Alice Cooper is and always has been, and exhibited the musical excellence of his group in full. Then came two post-2000 selections, “Fallen in Love” (Paranormal, 2017) and “Woman of Mass Distraction” (Dirty Diamonds, 2005). Unlike many other veteran acts who ignore a large chunk of their own material and stick to the hits, Alice Cooper always attempts to touch upon many different albums in his vast discography, a task seemingly impossible but handled masterfully by Alice. This particular set was even more comprehensive and career-spanning than that of most of his recent tours.
As fans would know, an Alice Cooper show is not all about him, and his band mates are each given their time in the spotlight. Nita Strauss scorched the stage with her standalone guitar solo, and the 8-minute “Halo of Flies” served up several instrumental sections that highlighted the individual and collective mastery of Strauss and her fellow axe-slingers Ryan Roxie and Tommy Henricksen, while the song also treated us to the grooviest bass-drum jam ever, as the talents of bassist Chuck Garric and drummer Glen Sobel came to the fore. The end of this spellbinding epic was greeted with raucous applause by the audience, and such a response for a song that hardly had any involvement from Alice Cooper himself, says all you need to know about his band.
First-timers and casual fans were taken care of just as much as the diehards, with the set still including plenty of classics and hits that brought out the theatrical aspect in full effect, from the ever-grandiose “Feed My Frankenstein” to the dark, provocative, maniacal visual presentations of “Cold Ethyl”, “Only Women Bleed”, “Killer” and “Ballad of Dwight Fry”. And of course, no Alice Cooper show would be complete without fan-favorites “Poison” and “I’m Eighteen”. This Alice Cooper performance had already left no stone unturned in making it the most epic, spectacular and memorable show ever, but it was not done yet, as a very special encore awaited us …
The encore was expected to be a typically bombastic rendition of “School’s Out”, but it turned into a whole lot more when the band was joined by former guitarist Orianthi. It was an endearing moment, as Orianthi found much love and admiration among Alice Cooper fans even in her relatively short 3-year tenure in the band from 2011-14 and the audience welcomed her back with open arms, albeit for one song. It really put the cherry on top of what already was a wholesome treat.
This show leaves no doubt that Alice Cooper is still at the peak of his powers as a performer, and with the help of the finest group of musicians going around, he continues to put on shows of such unparalleled magnificence. Many have tried to imitate, many have claimed to be the heir to his throne, but none have come even remotely close, as Alice Cooper is still the undisputed king of shock rock, a national treasure and a musical icon like no other.
– words by Andrew Bansal, images by Chad Alexander
Alice Cooper set list:
01. Brutal Planet
02. No More Mr. Nice Guy
03. Under My Wheels
04. Billion Dollar Babies
05. Be My Lover
06. Lost in America
08. Fallen in Love
09. Woman of Mass Distraction
10. Nita Strauss Guitar Solo
12. Halo of Flies
13. Feed My Frankenstein
14. Cold Ethyl
15. Only Women Bleed
16. Paranoiac Personality
17. Ballad of Dwight Fry
19. I Love the Dead
20. I’m Eighteen
21. School’s Out (w/ Orianthi)
Remaining Tour Dates:
8/14/2018 – San Jose, CA @ City National Civic
8/15/2018 – Jackson, CA @ Jackson Rancheria Casino
8/18/2018 – Bonner, MT @ Kettlehouse Amphitheater
8/19/2018 – Everett, WA @ Angel of the Winds Arena
8/20/2018 – Vancouver, BC @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre
8/22/2018 – Calgary, AB @ Southern Jubilee Auditorium
8/23/2018 – Edmonton, AB @ Northern Jubilee Auditorium
8/25/2018 – Saskatoon, SK @ SaskTel Centre
8/26/2018 – Estevan, SK @ Affinity Place
8/28/2018 – Winnipeg, MB @ Burton Cummings Theatre
8/29/2018 – Thunder Bay, ON @ Thunder Bay Community Auditorium
8/30/2018 – St. Paul, MN @ Ordway Center for the Performing Arts
9/10/2018 – Ft. Wayne, IN @ Foellinger Theatre
9/02/2018 – Huber Heights, OH @ Rose Music Center at The Heights
9/04/2018 – Cincinnati, OH @ Taft Theatre
9/06/2018 – New York, NY @ Beacon Theatre
9/07/2018 – York, PA @ York Fair