Alice Cooper – Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow – 31/10/11
In the same week that the cigar smoking, eccentric and most charitable doyen of the former Top Of The Pops presenters heads off for that great gadget-filled armchair in the sky, I took a wee bit of time to reflect over my abiding memories of that paragon of British pop-culture, that institution that was the centre-point of the week for 70′s kids like me. My earliest memory of the show (and indeed of any sort of pop culture) predates that decade by a couple of years of course. It is a mental image of grainy black and white footage of sultry crooner Engelbert Humperdink asking us to Please Release him. I can’t think why this has stuck in my mind for all this time other than it must have been a favourite of my mothers at the time. I was five years old and knew nothing of affairs of the heart myself.
My next TOTP memory is far more significant. Amidst the happy, smiley satin and tat, the glitter and the glam of the early 70′s show, a stick thin figure appeared, clad head to toe in skinny black leather, lank black hair curling around a gaunt, hook nosed face with those dead horror-eyes sneering malevolently at the camera whilst brandishing a rapier like some drugged-out pirate. Coupled with the fact he was singing, crow-like, about getting rid of teachers and books and schools…….and, and…..he was called Alice but was a bloke!! Well I was instantly hooked. To many, it’s the Bowie / Ronson TOTP rendition of Starman that is singled out as a defining moment of the seventies. For me personally, just as surely as I know that hearing The Clash’s White Riot for the first time on the Radio Luxemburg chart rundown was the instant I became a punk, I know that seeing Alice Cooper on TV that night was the moment I fell in love with rock n roll forever and, in the process, subconsciously made a life-choice of music over football. A big deal when you’re barely ten years old.
Why then has it taken nigh on forty years for me to actually witness the man himself doing his thing? I can’t really answer that other than to say that once that TOTP appearance opened the door, the music flooded in like a burst dam for remainder of the seventies. By the time I was old enough (and flush enough) to go to concerts myself, Alice had drifted from the headlines and must have got passed over in favour of the latest, by this time, teen-obsession. Like I say, I don’t really know.
And why now? I mean, Coop has toured pretty much consistently since his 70′s heyday so countless opportunities to spend an evening with the man have come and gone over the years and yet somehow I just never got around to it. Once again, I can’t really say why I made the effort this time out. Maybe it’s got something to do with a sense of time running out. As I zoom towards my own half-century at a frightening pace, I wonder just how many more opportunities I’ll have to see these people I have so much love and respect for – the Iggys, the Lemmys, the Jet Blacks, the Charlie Harpers. They can’t go on forever after all. Maybe it’s got something to do with the fact that, over the last couple of years, I’ve seen sets by the likes of Roxy Music, Steve Harley, Magazine, Motorhead, Gang Of Four, The Stooges that have been both valid and exhilarating. Maybe it’s simply just down to the fact that the New York Dolls – another unbelievably good gig in recent years – being announced as the support act made this one seem like an unmissable line-up. Like I say, I don’t really know.
Whatever the reasoning, I’m really glad that I finally made the effort. This gig was quite simply outstanding on every level. From the fact that we were dressed – like a huge proportion of the crowd – for Halloween. Great fun.
From the fact we were perfectly positioned, bang on centre-stage, four rows from the front. Almost within touching distance of the man himself. From the wonderful sound in the Armadillo that highlighted every perfect note played by Alice’s talented (and rocking) young band. From the amazing setlist that seemed, to me anyway, to find the perfect balance between hits and surprises. From the cheesy schlock-horror stage set, extras and costume changes that you know so well from Alice’s live DVDs that somehow all seem a million times better when seen in the, ahem, flesh. Right down to the non-stop brilliant showmanship of the man himself, the consummate entertainer. This gig is straight up there into my top five shows of all time without the shadow of a doubt. Like I say, simply outstanding.
I think it’s rather pointless my poring over the minutiae of what he played and when. Rather I’ll direct you to the diverse and entertaining “It’s A **** Thing” blogsite (bookmark it!) of my good friend El Diablo – the man who also provided the excellent gig shots you see here - where he has described the detail of the gig far more eloquently than I ever could. It’s reassuring that, as a veteran attendee of several AC shows, he rates the show as highly as I do.
There’s a school of thought that considers rock ‘n’ roll should belong only to the young. That it can only be relevant if it’s played by and for teens or twenty somethings. Bollocks to that I say. Amongst the many, many faceless young bands I’ve seen in the last few years, there are precious few rock ‘n’ rollers. There are no Iggys coming through. There are no Lemmys or even Charlies. And there sure as hell aren’t any Alices. Take the advice of this old man and go see him while you still can. I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
New York Johnny
Official Alice Cooper website
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