School’s out, but Alice Cooper still up for masterclass in putting on a show

Motley Crue and, far right, Alice Cooper at a press conference ahead of the tour that brought them to Newcastle this week.
Motley Crue and, far right, Alice Cooper at a press conference ahead of the tour that brought them to Newcastle this week.

Live review: Alice Cooper and Motley Crue at the Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle

School might have been out for Alice Cooper since 1972, but the 67-year-old proved he can still teach rock’s younger whippersnappers a thing or two during his support slot for Motley Crue at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena on Monday.

The US rock veteran only had just over three-quarters of an hours to give an overview of a 26-album back catalogue stretching right back to the late 1960s, but he seized the opportunity to deliver a masterclass in putting on a show.

Squeezing a drum solo into that limited time slot did seem a bit of a luxury, however.

That aside, his special guest turn was all killer and no filler, though the dozen tracks he played, plus odd snatches of other tunes, only included a brace from his 1971 album Killer, namely Under My Wheels and its title track.

It all started off in no-frills fashion, with Cooper, alias Vincent Furnier, delivering his first few tunes without the aid of any props, but the likes of No More Mr Nice Guy and Poison are more than good enough to stand up to a bit of back-to-basics delivery from a limited stage space.

The usual thrills and spills were to follow on later, however, in the form of a large snake, roadies dressed up as various horror film-style characters, a giant Frankenstein’s monster and the apparent beheading of the main man by a guillotine.

The highlights of Cooper’s set included Ballad of Dwight Fry, a theatrical number lifted from his 1971 album Love it to Death, and the medley of School’s Out, his only UK chart-topper, and Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2) that rounded off a slick and triumphant set.

A hard act to follow he might have been, but Motley Crue, being long-term fans of his, will have been fully aware of that, and such is the mutual appreciation society formed by the two acts that it’s unlikely that they would begrudge one of their heroes the enthusiastic reception he received.

This being the US hard rock act’s farewell tour, large posters adorned the arena declaring ‘all bad things must come to an end’, but that proved to be false modesty as they were quite good in parts.

Despite not being a patch on their warm-up act, the band, formed in California in 1981, put on a decent-enough show too, deploying fireworks, flame-throwers and a rollercoaster drum kit spanning a sizeable portion of the venue for Tommy Lee.

Slick and triumphant they weren’t, but fans of theirs wouldn’t have expected that, this being a band that built their reputation on being cheesy, sleazy and, in the case of Vince Neil’s vocals, often wheezy.

The more ramshackle and corny they are, though, the more their fans love them, and that proved as true as ever on Monday night.

All their hits – such as they are, the band never having made the top 20 singles chart this side of the Atlantic – were present and correct, kicking off with Girls, Girls, Girls and Wild Side and adding the likes of Dr Feelgood along the way.

Their inclusion of a snatch of the 1972 Gary Glitter hit Rock and Roll (Part 2) during their cover of the Brownsville Station song Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room did appear to leave large swathes of their crowd nonplussed, however, but the tune remains popular at sporting events on the other side of the Atlantic and the disgraced glam rock star, currently remanded in custody awaiting sentencing for child sex offences, isn’t the pariah over there that he is here, so the band might well be oblivious to the potential for offence posed by their tribute to the 71-year-old.