mon 14/10/2019

Alice Cooper, The Stranglers, MC50, Brighton Centre review - a triple-headed blast of vintage rock | reviews, news & interviews

Alice Cooper, The Stranglers, MC50, Brighton Centre review - a triple-headed blast of vintage rock

Alice Cooper, The Stranglers, MC50, Brighton Centre review - a triple-headed blast of vintage rock

Alice Cooper holds his own alongside 24 carat support acts

Just your average Septuagenarian

The Ol’ Black Eyes is Back Tour celebrates Alice Cooper’s 50 years using his stage name. He’d been around under other names before 1969 but Alice Cooper – originally the title of the band rather than the man – achieved success as the Seventies began by combining trash-glam drag with stompin’ riffy music. He’s famed for his theatrical shows but needed to be on especially fine form tonight to match support acts who are both riveting.

First on are MC50, a supergroup iteration of Sixties Detroit countercultural rockers MC5, consisting of original MC5 guitar warrior Wayne Kramer, Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil, Faith No More bassist Billy Gould, Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty, and fronted by San Francisco singer Marcus Durant who, with his wild curly hair, shades and attitude, is a good stand-in for MC5’s late singer Rob Tyner.

MC50 exude raging rock’n’roll energy, taking the blues and zapping then with ire and distortion, led by the lean, wiry figure of Kramer, throwing his trademark stars’n’stripes guitar about, even apparently mating furiously with its rear sockets at one point. 24 carat proto-punk classic “Kick Out the Jams” is in there, of course, sounding ballistic, but their snappy 40 minute set also includes peaches such as “Sister Anne”, a pummelling “Call Me Animal” and closes with a roaring version of “Looking at You” which is dedicated to getting the US president “out of the White House and into the big house”. Although the vocals are too low in the mix, MC50 give an electric performance. It’s an incongruous shot in the arm at seven pm, shortly after the venue has opened.

Original punks The Stranglers cannot match such explosiveness but they have the songs to hold their own. Clad in black, as always, they kick off with 1978 album track “Toiler on the Sea”, which twists and turns intriguingly but doesn’t set things alight. Their set also contains relatively recent songs such as the forlornly propulsive “Freedom is Insane” but, sensibly, is mostly made up of hit singles which they play with increasing verve, slowly bringing their audience - who are mostly wearing heavy metal T-shirts - onside. The hits delivered range from relatively obscure banger “5 Minutes” to a fantastic elongated version of “Walk On By” to the closing double-punch of the venomously dynamic “Hanging Around”, then everyone singing along with “No More Heroes”, during which keyboardist Dave Greenfield plays his solo one-handed while downing his drink.

Happily Alice Cooper is up to the job of playing after these two sterling turns. Startlingly fit at 71, he marches on brandishing a cane which he soon throws into the crowd, then kicks off with the goofy, priapic paean to sex, “Feed My Frankenstein”, ably supported by a phalanx of three guitarists, the Amazonian blonde Nita Strauss, the Guns N' Roses-ish Ryan Roxie, and Hollywood Vampire Tommy Henriksen, all strutting around the kitsch B-movie castle set.

Clad in leather trousers, a frilled white Elizabethan smock and a top hat, Cooper sends up his age performing 1970 breakthrough hit “I’m Eighteen” leaning on a crutch. He plays a mean harmonica on newie “Fallen in Love” but mostly focuses on older fare such as “Muscle of Love” and a whooping “No More Mr Nice Guy”. There’s plenty of hokum for the eyeballs too, from crowd-engaging stuff such as a confetti canon or balloons falling from the ceiling, to bigger fare. One of the “babies” songs - “Billion Dollar Babies” or “Dead Babies” - features a giant sinister walk-on baby. And, as is traditional at his shows, Cooper has his head guillotined off at one point. Alongside such entertaining horror film pantomime, the tasty, riffy songs come alive, concluding with “School’s Out” merging into Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”, which ends things in a joyous sing-along.

So, in brief, The Stranglers have the chewiest songs, Cooper is still one of rock’s greatest theatrical showmen, and MC50 are just pure, amped rock’n’roll.

 Below: Watch Alice Cooper live in Sydney (full hour-and-a-half concert)

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