Live review: Alice Cooper – Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, February 14, 2020

Words: Jose Zamora | Photos: Anne-Laure Marie

The perfect Valentine’s Day date for hard rock lovers was at Rod Laver Arena with master of shock rock Alice Cooper.  This Ol’ Black Eyes Is Back Tour is the 13th time he’s been Down Under and attendants were not left wanting; witnessing a stunning, theatrical show full of classic hits. 

MC5 founder Wayne Kramer, who’s been celebrating the 50th anniversary of the ‘Kick Out The Jams’ album since 2018 as MC50, was in charge of opening the night along with Kim Thayil (Soundgarden), Brendan Canty (Fugazi), Billy Gould (Faith No More) and Marcus Durant (Zen Guerrilla). Their nine songs in a half-hour set included Rambling Rose, Kick Out The Jams, Come Together, Motorcity Is Burning and Borderline from Kick Out The Jams album.  There was also I Can Only Give You Everything, Sister Anne from ‘High Time’, Call Me Animal, and closing the set, Looking at You from ‘Back In The USA’. Kramer moved on stage like an 18-year-old, dancing and jumping passionately. A delightful and outstanding band to see live.

It is a damn shame that for this current tour, Airbourne is playing in arenas with numbered seats on the ground floor area; fans seemed to be tamed because of that. Nonetheless, the band delivered a powerful and straight up rock and roll show fuelled by tremendous songs from three of their five albums.

When the lights went off, the arena was already packed and the main title from Terminator II was played as intro for the band.  Four taps on the hi-hat from drummer Ryan O’Keefe cued the band to unleash the riffs of Ready to Rock, the first song from third record ‘Black Dog Barking’.  It’s undoubtedly the perfect opener song that tells the story of making a deal with the devil, swapping your soul for a guitar, becoming a rock and roll rebel and burning the heaven above with the six strings supplied, accompanied by that chorus: Are you ready? / You better get ready / once we start never stop /  get ready to rock!

Boneshaker and Burnout the Nitro, two songs from their latest album ‘Boneshaker’ were next.  The turn to Back In The Game came, followed by Girls In Black where Joel mentioned that when they moved from Warrnambool to Melbourne in 2005, they played the song in a great bar on AC/DC lane called Cherry Bar. Ryan’s pounding on the drums sounded huge, especially in this song, and Joel came off the stage to play a solo among the crowd while the rest of the band kept the song going on. That was a splendid moment.

The sound of airplanes passing by were played by the local audio while a siren was placed on stage and Ryan made it scream by spinning it by the handle.  This incited the crowd and was followed by the starting riff of Live It Up supplied by guitarist Matt “Harry” Harrison. A mighty gigantic rock and roll song that gives goosebumps when it’s played either live or on record.

To finish the show, the colossal Running Wild stepped in, which in its video featured the legendary Lemmy Kilmister speeding on a truck trailer with Airbourne playing the song live inside the trailer and police pursuing them. As the band always does, a snippet of Let There Be Rock was played in the song. Once again the band proved that they are the current kings of Australian hard rock, despite their songs not making some “rock and roll” radio stations in Australia. As long as they keep touring and releasing albums, Aussies can have peace of mind because Airbourne represents them around the world.

9:15pm – the lights went off and the stage was lit by sombre purple lights.  Two red pupils surrounded by Alice’s makeup were portrayed on the frontdrop of the stage, while the gloomy Years Ago was being played as intro.  The purple lights vanished and a monstrous voice welcomed the audience to Cooper’s nightmare castle. Then it began – Feed My Frankenstein and No More Mr Nice Guy – two big classics.

Bed Of Nails from the album ‘Trash’ appeared and Raped And Freezin’ came to tell the story of a guy who was looking for fun and got kidnapped by a woman who took him from the USA to Mexico leaving him stranded in Chihuahua.  At the end of the song, Cooper grabbed a red cloth and simulated a bull fighter for Fallen In Love; a cool rock and roll song that features legendary Billy Gibbons from ZZ TOP in his original studio version from 2017’s album ‘Paranormal’.  Under Wy Wheels then hit the attendants, who at this point were totally worshiping the band.

Cooper is in pretty good shape and sounds amazing.  The current band’s lineup is brilliant, featuring Chuck Garric on bass, Neal Smith on the drums, and three guitarists Ryan Roxie, Nita Strauss and Tommy Henriksen. 

In Muscle Of Love, Cooper accompanied the band using maracas and Strauss’s solos were on point. For He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask) from 1986’s album, ‘Constrictor’, Cooper included a performance that simulated the killing of one girl by the man impersonating the main character of the song who roamed on the stage while the track was being played.

The classics from 1971, I’m Eighteen and Billion Dollar Babies, were sung with passion by the crowd. Then it was time to play Poison from the 1989 album ‘Trash’, which gave Cooper his first number one hit in the charts since 1977. Roses On White Lace and My Stars then developed into Devil’s Food, where Cooper held a fake toddler as he started to sing the song.  Two men dressed as asylum workers with toddler masks put Cooper in a straight jacket.  He set himself free, held the fake toddler again and tried to chop the head off it. The black widow walked on stage as the band played the song named after her.  She chased Cooper during the song, and once she caught him, chopped his head using a guillotine. Then creepy schizophrenic Steven was played. Memorable tunes Escape and Teenage Frankestein came before a very short encore. As the band was walking back on stage, a snippet from Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap was played preceding the glorious Department Of Youth.  To close down the show, one of his most iconic songs, School’s Out, was supported by big red balloons thrown into the crowd and “Come on, it’s party time!”  Joel from Airbourne joined the band to play along with them and as the band always does, a snippet of Another Brick In The Wall was played, followed by Cooper introducing the band to the audience. To finalise a night of hard rock awesomeness, Cooper thanked everybody for coming to the show: “May your nightmares be vicious and horrid.”

Alice Cooper is touring Australia February 8 – 22.

To view the photos in their high res glory, click ‘view full size’ when browsing the gallery.



Alice Cooper

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