On July 25, the godfather of macabre rock himself, Alice Cooper made his return engagement to the St. Louis area, bringing a brand new tour to the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre. Along with his own superstar-packed band, “Ol' Black Eyes” brought along some other friends to help create a night of dark, heavy rock in the Gateway City.
Getting things going for the evening, Pennsylvania's Motionless In White were anything but motionless, with frontman Chris Cerulli using every inch of real estate available on stage to get the crowd into the spirit of the moment. Opening with “Rats,” the band sounded tight and together, a sharp unit that was hell-bent on delivering a great performance. Ryan Sitkowski's lead guitar was supplemented by the six-string work of Ricky “Horror” Olson and all held down by the rhythm section of the ghoulishly-attired Justin Morrow on bass and Vinny Mauro behind the drums to form an amazing sonic assault. Before moving on to “Unstoppable,” Cerulli chatted with the crowd still working their way into the Amphitheatre, suggesting they may want to go make a stop at the concession stand, informing everyone that the more adult beverages consumed, the “better we sound!” It didn't appear many wanted to take him up on the suggestion, though, as the crowd just kept building through the set. By the time the closing numbers of “Untouchable” and “Voices” echoed out over the lawn, the crowd was screaming for more, and it was the talent drawing them in, not the alcohol content.
A band that could easily have packed the place themselves hit the stage next. Halestorm continues to tour in support of last year's “Vicious” album, and they just keep getting better and better. Siblings Lzzy and Arejay Hale started playing music together as kids, and even now they form the backbone – Lzzy on devastating vocals and guitar, Arejay thundering away behind the kit – of one of the sharpest, hottest, smartest rock bands out there on the scene. Add in the screaming guitar of Joe Hottinger and the roaring bass of Josh Smith, and it all adds up to a true force to be reckoned with. Starting off with “Black Vultures” and jumping into “Uncomfortable,” Halestorm showed from the start they weren't pulling any punches, and they didn't let off the gas for a moment. Even when things slowed down a touch with “Familiar Taste of Poison / Amen,” the palpable edge was there that would cut you if you let up your guard for a moment.
All of the songs you'd expect filled out the set, from “I Get Off” –the band's first real heavy-hitting single – to “Do Not Disturb” from the latest album, every note was delivered with the pure intent to blast the audience members completely out of their seats. After the hard-rocker “Love Bites (So Do I),” Lzzy Hale took a moment to toast her tour-mates, her bandmates, the road crew, and the audience for keeping rock alive, first with an actual toast, then with “Here's To Us,” the anthemic track dedicated to all those who are out there living the rock life to the utmost. Closing out the set with “I Miss the Misery,” Halestorm proved yet again that they know exactly what they're doing on that stage, and anyone that gets in their way will just get steamrolled. On a quick personal note, I did miss “I Like It Heavy” in the set list. I think this song really does have the chops to be a rock party anthem given half a chance. Take a listen on the band's “Into The Wild Life” album and see if you agree. Maybe on the next go-'round.
With a whole new stage set-up, a brand new set list, and the same over-the-top theatrics, Alice Cooper's new “Ol' Black Eyes Is Back” tour has everything you could want in a rock show: Screaming guitars courtesy of the triple-threat attack of Ryan Roxie, Tommy Henricksen, and “Hurricane” Nita Strauss, the beastly bass of Chuck Garric, the marvelous cacophony of sounds from Glen Sobel and his drum kit, and a stage full of performers led by Sheryl Cooper's demented nurse and featuring a giant FrankenAlice in chains, a swarm of helmeted knights populating the “Nightmare Castle,” and truly the creepiest baby you may ever see. And this entire three-ring circus is orchestrated by the madman himself, Alice Cooper, standing in the center of the maelstrom like a rock in the ocean, unmoved and in control at the same time.
Right out of the gate, this tour kicks off with “Feed My Frankenstein,” with a brief appearance of the aforementioned FrankenAlice before launching right into the classic hit “No More Mr. Nice Guy.” Celebrating thirty years of the release of one of Alice Cooper's most successful albums, “Trash,” the band kicked into “Bed of Nails” next. Throughout the night, a blend of classic tracks and newer numbers brought something for everyone. From “Billion Dollar Babies” and “I'm Eighteen” to “Poison” and “Fallen In Love”, every era of Alice Cooper was represented. Following “Dead Babies,” a staple of Cooper's stage shows – the guillotine taking off the head of the frontman – led into “I Love the Dead.” “Teenage Frankenstein” closed out the main set, with a return of the massive monster, joining the band at the front of the stage this time and taking his own moment to shine with the rest of the rockers.
The encore launched with the fast, brief rocker “Under My Wheels” before the band – already overflowing with talent – was joined by Lzzy Hale for the big closing number of the night, “School's Out” with a taste of “Another Brick in the Wall” for good measure.
Alice Cooper rarely rests, it seems. Between his own band, and his Hollywood Vampires project, he always has an iron or two in the fire. If you haven't seen him live in concert, then you need to do yourself a favor and make that happen. I can honestly say that any time they're in the neighborhood, as long as they let me in the door, the role of photographer/reviewer for any show I can get to will be played by….Me!