One DVD I recently did purchase on impulse is Alice Cooper's Theatre of Death — Live At The Hammersmith 2009 (A). At first glance the package appeared to be an incredible bargain: for less than $20 I got the concert on DVD and CD, with a setlist of 26 songs that pretty much covers his most hummable “classicks.” I didn't take the second glance until I opened the package at home and realized that, in order to run through so many crowd-pleasers in a mere 96 minutes, the act of truncation wouldn't be restricted to the stage guillotine.
While the song-snippet approach reduces the likelihood of me playing the CD a second time, it's certainly an effective tack for Cooper's stage show. The old man and his crew of youngsters don't just canter through his musical ouevre, they sprint through his collected hodgepodge of macabre stage stunts, too. Here, too, the audience pretty much gets the sum total of Coop's legendary antics. I watched it with the kids. I can't remember which one said, “That would be cool to see in person,” but that rather neatly summed up my own thoughts as well.
As I watched the show I took note of a handful of songs I couldn't quite place. The ever-helpful internet informed me they were all from Goes To Hell (1975, A), an album I had yet to listen to. I corrected that oversight, et voila — I discovered toast! Goes To Hell is one very hammy, self-indulgent, entertaining album. And funny, too: the first time the 13-year-old heard Cooper croon, “I'm Always Chasing Rainbows” she burst into giggles.
Thirty-five years later, Cooper's voice has nowhere near the same expressive range, and the Hammersmith show, so tightly focused on delivering spectacle, leaves no room for Coop's former broad smirk. Back in the day he clearly reveled in the absurdity of it all — the growing feedback loop of fame, controversy, infamy — and took deliberate aim at the jocular vein. The clown has been discarded with the infamy, I think. But it's still gratifying to see Alice Cooper working hard to make sure the audience gets its money's worth. It all remains delightfully energetic nonsense.
WP Flashback: 2007 was the year Cooper got my number.