Review by Justin Allec, Photos by William Gross
Hear that? It’s your one minute warning. Find your seat amongst this capacity crowd (though you won’t be using it much) and prepare yourself. Billed as A Paranormal Evening with Alice Cooper, August 29’s Thunder Bay Community Auditorium show made good on the rocker’s devilish ability to blur the lines between concert and theater. A rock concert is a band playing songs on stage; I’ve seen that many times. This was an altogether different beast, a performance that Cooper has perfected over forty years by using his mutable, menacing persona to meld together campy horror with gigantic rock songs.
Part of the show’s success is the integrated pieces which support Cooper: a thrilling backing band, elaborate set pieces robbed from a Hammer movie set, and eerie characters right out of a budget horror movie. While vital, none of those pieces matter when compared to Cooper, who was in masterful form. Tireless, timeless, and sounding ten feet tall, Cooper strutted the stage like a spider stalking enraptured prey.
Start to finish, there wasn’t a second that wasn’t scripted for maximum drama. The lights darkened briefly between songs but that was to enable a quick costume change or the introduction of a new oversized prop. Every song had a narrative reimagined with Cooper as the lead. “No More Mr. Nice Guy” was an early excuse to flood the TBCA with pulsating light for a crazed sing-along; “Feed my Frankenstein” featured a mad scientist’s lair with plenty of electricity; and the labyrinthine “Halo of Flies” had Cooper’s top-hatted maestro falling victim to the guillotine. You couldn’t be bored. When Cooper wasn’t cavorting in costume and being ministered by a psychotic nurse, the band took center stage with wire-tight renditions of the classics with extended solos from each member. It wasn’t just a concert; it was, as promised, an extraordinary evening with a true rock legend.