Sunday 28th October was a very special day for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was the day of my 23rd birthday, and the last birthday that I plan to celebrate. (I’ve decided they’re just too stressful so I’m going to quit while I’m ahead and be 23 forever). It was also the day that Alice Cooper brought his Halloween Raise the Dead tour to Wembley arena, and what better way to celebrate my last ever birthday than in the presence of the original Shock Rocker?
I think this is the third year that Alice has brought a Halloween tour to the UK, and as it was Halloween, his favourite festival, he had made it known that he expected everyone to come in fancy dress and would hold competitions for the best costume at each venue. Unfortunately this didn’t really register in my brain until quite last minute and so I had about an hour to knock up a makeshift spider outfit with a couple of pairs of extremely mismatched tights and a few old newspapers. With the addition of some very dodgy make up applied on an extremely wobbly train, I at least had a token effort. I wore it for approximately two minutes in the venue, just long enough to have a few photos taken, and then removed it for practicality reasons, mainly concern over fitting into the rather narrow seats (which were very poorly suited to the middle-aged-spreading generation of the majority of Alice’s fanbase).
On the whole though, both the audience and the venue had gone to town with the Halloween theme. The lobby of the arena was covered in giant spiders and cobwebs, with hordes of entertainers dressed up and zombified and giving out Cooper-esque masks. The make-up and prosthetics were amazing, there were people with half their faces unzipped or their brains hanging out, many of whom appeared to be carrying some kind of organ and liked to get a bit up close and personal with whoever appeared to be jumping at them the most (mainly my mother), with people on stilts with giant pumpkin heads, and more fake blood than you could shake a stick at. All in all, it was a pretty impressive welcome, and great fun to see all the different costumes in the audience. Not everyone had quite grasped the horror aspect in their fancy dress, but whoever came as Where’s Wally and kept moving about in the crowd provided us with great entertainment between sets.
The first support band was Loaded, fronted by the lovely Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses fame. I have a great fondness for Duff, I always thinks he comes across as really genuine and an all round nice chap, but the band itself just didn’t really work for me. It was a bit weird seeing someone who would have been able to sell out the arena in the days of GN’R reduced to filling a support slot, but he seemed pretty happy and grateful to be there nonetheless, although it’s perhaps telling that the song which received the best reaction was his version of Guns N’ Roses’ It’s So Easy.
The second support act was Ugly Kid Joe, who I was amazed to discover have been around for 20 years and subsequently made me feel very old. The drummer was obviously taking things Very Seriously and could be seen by the side of the stage half-naked and doing push ups before they came on, much to my amusement. (I was desperately hoping he wasn’t actually in the band but was just a roadie preparing to tune a guitar or something equally Serious). To be fair, he certainly put a lot of effort into his banging and crashing, and was incredibly sweaty by the end of it all, so he was probably in need of a good warm up. If only they’d put as much effort into their outfits though, with half of the band dressed in baggy shorts and long socks they looked like they’d just escaped from a nearby PE lesson to gatecrash the gig. They did a good job of getting the crowd going though, and were almost-exhaustingly-to-watch energetic (so energetic in fact that the singer accidentally knocked an amp or some other piece of equipment off the stage mid-bounce, narrowly missing a bunch of photographers). I only knew that one song that everyone knows that gets stuck in your head for days afterwards though, but it was still enjoyable.
Anyway, they trundled off stage and there was a best fancy dress competition voted on by the crowd, and then it was Alice time! Very sadly, my camera had some kind of seizure and packed up literally a minute before he came on stage, just as the lights went down, so I don’t have any pictures to whack up here. But all you need to know about Alice Cooper gigs is that they’re more of a theatrical event, and this one had everything – pyrotechnics, strait jackets, live snakes, swordplay, lots of props being flung into the audience, giant balloons filled with glitter that he popped with Errol Flynn’s sword over the front rows, a huge Frankenstein version of Alice that emerged from an electric chair, pretty much anything and everything that you can imagine. As for the setlist, it had all the big classics and singalong favourites, coupled with cover-style tributes to his old friends and contemporaries Jim Morrison, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix and Keith Moon (hence the ‘Raise the Dead’ title of the tour). Speaking to a few people after the gig, reactions to this section were mixed. I don’t know if it was the fact that he was playing covers when they’d come to hear Alice Cooper songs, or maybe they just didn’t agree with the sentiment, but no one could deny that guitarist Orianthi absolutely nailed Foxy Lady. (She was awesome, I totally want to be her. If only I could play guitar!) He wrapped up with some big Cooper anthems, finishing on Poison (which I always get super excited for when I hear the intro, but it’s never quite how I think it’ll be live), and then returning for a pretty spectacular encore of School’s Out mixed with Another Brick in the Wall during which he burst giant balloons with his sword, sending showers of glitter onto the crowd below.
This was my third Alice Cooper gig, but I always think of them as a proper show rather than just a gig. This was exactly what I thought it’d be and more – definitely not a bad way to spend my birthday, and it certainly got me into the Halloween spirit!
Alice’s Setlist (according to Google because I can’t remember exactly and didn’t know them all): Hello Hooray, House of Fire, No More Mr Nice Guy, I’ll Bite Your Face Off, Be My Lover, Caffeine, Billion Dollar Babies, The Congregation, Hey Stoopid, Dirty Diamonds, Welcome to My Nightmare, Ballad of Dwight Fry, Go to Hell, He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask), Devil’s Food, Feed My Frankenstein, Break On Through (To the Other Side), Revolution, Foxy Lady, My Generation, I’m Eighteen, Under My Wheels, Poison. Encore: School’s Out (with Another Brick in the Wall).