Monday, July 14, 2014

Alice Cooper - Summerfest July 4th, 2014

As I mature gracefully into my little part of the mid-forties I am reminded constantly of bucket lists or at least a perceived need for one.  It is with fascination that I look at the bucket lists of others, or is it with fear that I look at them?  Think about the consequences of 5000 85 year old women skydiving at the same time, I shudder to think of the broken hips alone.  Sure I could buy a '58 Corvette, or hike across Europe but that's too easy.  My foray into that bucket list can only go through the world of music but I refuse to write anything that can be used against me.  Wait what?

Yes I write things down when it comes to music but I suppose I should address my list mentally (it can't be used against me this way).  In some way I think that I've been in the midst of my bucket list for some time now and I really never thought of it this way before.  Since I have started writing about the concerts / shows I attend, I tell people that I have been "atoning" for the bands I was unable to see in my distant past as well as those new bands that pop up every now and then.

Its been a fun ride reliving my musical past while at the same time it can be a little melancholy as some of those bands / performers begin to erode into that great unknown through life ending / altering events.  Obviously the life ending portion is something that happens regardless of how much one desires for it to not happen but it does happen, daily.

When I was young my Mom bought me KISS Alive II for Christmas of 1977 and that one record began to shape my musical tastes but there was another album that continued to refine those earliest days: The Alice Cooper Show.  Oddly enough I received this album that very Christmas and while the album covers for both bands were uhm interesting, that Alice Cooper cover intrigued me.  Why wouldn't?  There was a cyclops, a guillotine, Thompson sub-machine guns and this weird looking guy all over the front cover.

I look back at those two albums today and I can see the direct correlation between my musical tastes now and that cold Christmas of 1977.  While KISS had that edge of rock with some grit, Cooper had that extra little shock value associated with him.  Its easy to see that today but as a nine year old kid its not as simple to see.  I wore out that first Cooper album I really did as I have a replacement vinyl album that I got sometime in the early '80's and I still loved his music as I got older but for whatever reason I never saw him live.

When it was announced that Motley Crue would be making their final tour (read about it HERE) and Cooper would be opening for Motley I was like a kid in a candy store.  For me seeing Crue / Cooper on July 4th, 2014 at Summerfest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin was a little on the ironic side.  Both of these acts were the bane of groups like the PMRC, religious groups, protests and pointed hatred because of their music.  I find the irony in the simple fact that these two were exercising their rights granted to them by the Bill of Rights firmly entrenched in the Constitution and the fact that those two documents came to be following the Declaration of Independence signed July 4th, 1776.

I must admit I did get some butterflies in my stomach on July 4th when I anxiously waited for Cooper to take the stage.  Much like the sugar plum fairies dancing in my head on that Christmas in 1977, I was nervous but I knew the payoff would be extraordinary.  When Cooper came out with the Judy Collins song "Hello Hooray" I was a bit taken aback but it was just the first step in what became one of the greatest shows I have ever seen.

Cooper was masterful.  He definitely has the most complex show I have ever seen but its not a jumbled mess, it was interesting and entertaining.  Having seen some of the greatest bands from the era of hair, I've seen stage shows that were full of a whole bunch of a mess with lasers, smoke, mirrors, animated creatures but what those lacked was Alice Cooper.  Its obvious that Cooper is a showman but he is more than just a showman.  Talent wise he is heads above all of his contemporaries and wannabe's but choosing his band may be his greatest asset for his performances.  This would be the ideal time to compare his band to a "motley crew" but under the circumstances, and the tour he is on, that would be weird.  What I can say is that this group is incredible.  They're eclectic and they have experiences with other bands and performers that leave you scratching your head harder than you do as you try to figure out how Cooper survives that damned guillotine.

Within the realm of their thirteen song set list were stacked some of Cooper's greatest work and some of that material is the best music of the genre.  The first five songs (following "Hello Hooray") have achieved the pinnacle of the genre and of those four of these can be considered influential for the artists that have followed.  Of the thirteen song set each and every one of these songs are known not only by Cooper's fans rather by anyone that knows metal (and any of its sub-genres) either through experience or by those that have heard those very songs through other bands.

Sure I wasn't expecting Judy Collins songs on the set list but as an opening song, and his take on it, the song fit like a glove.  Much like the other attendees of that July 4th show I was captivated by the performance while each song resonated with a sense that Cooper wanted to give each and every one of us a time to remember and he succeeded.  As the adage goes "all good things must come to an end" it was quite true when I heard the beginning of "School's Out," I knew he was at his crescendo  But ever the showman, Cooper delivered something else in the middle of "School's Out" that being the introduction of the chorus of the Pink Floyd epic "Another Brick in the Wall Pt. II" intermingled with his own.

Nearly thirty-seven years ago I was introduced to a body of work by Alice Cooper and through that introduction I was lead to a love of music that probably wouldn't have occurred otherwise.  The sugar plum fairies and the snow helped fuel this appreciation of Alice Cooper and a love of his music.  Certainly we can all point to our own musical roots with some event or date but it would be unfair if I were to think that my appreciation would be the same as that of another person.  If it becomes possible to look at your musical appreciation, your roots if you will, and at the same time it becomes apparent that you can go back there through your bucket list, do so.

Much like the decapitation of Cooper in the middle of his show so too is the bucket in which my list lives.  That list is an illusion, it carries water like a bottomless bucket but is there really a bucket there in the first place?  Does it really matter?  Alice Cooper was and IS one of the most important acts that has ever kicked its boots into the petrified tree of rock.  Take my advice, throw away the stupid bucket and become a small piece of history that you too can reflect upon as something really cool and exciting.  Alice Cooper is worth the price of admission, every single time you will ever be able to see him live.  WOW!

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