Alice Cooper, The Stranglers, MC5 – Manchester Arena
Date: 4th October 2019
Alice is back in Manchester. At The Barrier’s deadly duo of Mike & Dom head, not to the barrier, but to the not-so-cheap seats. A night for those who thought there were no more heroes anymore.
There’s some history as Dom’s a big Alice fan, an aficionado even, and even saw him play at Cropredy a few years back while Mike’s old enough to remember being highly confused by this bloke with a girl’s name back in 1972 when he appeared on Top Of The Pops.
But first – we all know the MC5… Or do we? Celebrating 50 years with the ‘MC50’ tag, there’s only Wayne Kramer still in place from the original line up, which to be fair isn’t bad going. There are some bands who’ve hit the same milestone and now have no original members. A decent half-hour of bonafide classic rock songs from a bonafide classic rock band played with plenty of vim and verve. It would have gone down a storm in one of the local clubs but in a cavernous arena as the early arrivals file in (and out after taking an inquisitive peek), well…
And then The Stranglers – we were there for the hits, although to be fair, being of a certain age when the punk storms were raging, I actually found myself being much more familiar with their songs than of the headliner. From the opening growling bass drive and darkness of Toiler On The Sea, those hits came thick and fast. Get A Grip On Yourself – or the more grammatically challenging version (Get A) Grip (On Yourself) – Hanging Around, that harpsichord sound that drives Golden Brown, Five Minutes, Nice ‘N Sleazy and you start to realise that without being a deep fan, how many songs you know. They persist with Walk On By maybe at the expense of Something Better Change or Go Buddy Go or even Skin Deep (although the OMD/Pet Shop Boy synth poppiness of the latter may have been a step too far and not quite so suitable for the meninblack image). A few bass gods have stepped onto the Manchester boards recently, not least Gene Simmons of Kiss, for sure but Jean-Jacques Burnel can add his filling-loosening, rib-shaking presence to the list.
Musicians in their seventies – discuss. It seems de rigeur these days with seventy being like the new forty. We expect our rock stars to last as they plow on towards their eightieth year. Some pass on like old Ginger Baker and some are showing inevitable signs of wear and tear but Alice seems to be holding up pretty well. He’s still twirling his cane as well as he ever has and his set is still heavy on death, babies and Frankensteins with all the accompanying props, costumes and dry ice.
Several boiler suited, mask wearing stage hands stalked the stage slicing the throat of the occasional maiden and there are strait jackets plus the infamous guillotine where Alice gets his comeuppance for baby crimes and the cannon to shower those close enough and allow them a souvenir Alice Cooper banknote.
There are some good songs too delivered by a genuinely red hot band with three guitarists including Ryan Roxie and the likely man/woman/person of the match if we were being competitive, Nita (no wonder she has the Twitter tag of hurricanenita) Strauss. They all combined on harmonies that wouldn’t have been out of place from the Beach Boys or Journey particularly during some well-Eighties moments, particularly the ‘close-your-eyes-and-it-could-be-Bon-Jovi-ish Bed Of Nails.
And yes, if you were on the lookout for hits, they were there too – Poison and inevitably the finale of School’s Out with the arena full of huge balloons and cries of “hey teacher leave those kids alone!” I’m Eighteen took us right back to 1971 and the Billion Dollar Babies album of the same era was suitably mined to reinforce that despite living in the days of equality and political correctness, we all love it when Alice plays the no more Mr Nice Guy. The only concession to a free flowing show packed with belters was the (rarely seen these days but thankfully short) drum solo. A fright night full of macabre fun.
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