It’s come to feel like tradition that around this hellish time of year Alice Cooper embarks on a Halloween tour of some sort. Cardiff’s granted the opening night of his Halloween Night Of Fear, a whopping 9:20 to 10:55, precisely.
As we walk into Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena, Duff McKagan of Guns N Roses fame is mid set with his band Loaded and the atmosphere is stale, it’s awkward and it’s the worst possible thing a rock ‘n roll gig can be – it’s entirely seated.
Despite there being a few tickets on the door the arena feels bare. We all know sales dwindle all over at poor times like these or perhaps due to the high ticket price many opted out but to resolve this problem by turning the concert into a seated gig is in our books, and the unwritten rules of rock ‘n roll gigs, wrong, very wrong. We hear gossip that it was the promoters idea but even security feel awkward as their job is turned into ushering people to their seats instead of ushering crowd surfers out of the pit. It’s easy to pick on the length of Alice’s career and laugh that maybe the majority of concert goers here tonight are of older age and prefer their seats but the crowd varies from young children, teens, young adults to the elderly. It’s quite frankly turned the whole night upside down.
As Duff ploughs through the rest of his set he looks on, aloof at a crowd that resemble a calm ocean with the odd wave standing up to rock out. It’s distracting when ever someone decides to shuffle out the row, like those awkward moments before a comedy gig when everyone takes their seats except instead of it being before the show and during the half time interval it’s throughout the entire gig and it’s irritating. To be fair to Duff, it’s no wonder he’s playing it casual.
The night starts to shape up as Ugly Kid Joe finally liven things up. Singer Whitfield puts the barrier aside and takes time to intimately interact with anyone who cares to join him along the front row before security can get their hands on them. After a brief barrier stop he runs frantically around the entire arena and constantly works the crowd. We feel Ugly Kid Joe’s way would see chaos erupt as they delightfully play around on stage to their best. The end of set sees Duff and Welsh Motorhead guitarist Phil Campbell join them on stage to play the best card in the deck, the Ace Of Spades. A neat finish.
We’re treated to a best costume competition mid-interval where the participants are voted by loudest crowd cheer. Apparently only a few got the memo and the arena do what’s right in cheering on the three little witches who probably shouldn’t be out on a school night.
Finally, the final act. Alice Cooper strolls on stage and the entire arena raises up. A few songs in and the interaction between band and crowd is lacking. If you aren’t breaking down that barrier and communicating with the entire arena who’s reaction is little and hostile it makes the atmosphere feel drab. However, the front few rows are having a tremendous time.
We know Alice is a man of theatrical performance and throws himself into his performing to his best, which is clearly shown tonight, but as we’re dazzled by the variety of props he pulls out from around the Halloween-esque stage including crutches, swords and one hell of a whip, we’re left thinking ‘Is this a stage show or a music concert?’. During a couple of moments it feels too staged, the three guitarists and bassist line up and in a rehearsed manner jolt their guitars in sync – this isn’t the 80s, it’s old tricks for old folks and not as impressive to how it might have been back then. The drum solo is also surprisingly mediocre and dull for a spritely young lad. These musicians are a generation younger than Alice, they should be playing more creatively than that. It’s only deep into the set you really see the little things start to emerge that make it more joyful to watch. The guitarists become more playful and adventurous with each other, joking about and couldn’t look anymore happier with their job to play along side the legendary Alice Cooper.
Once again Alice runs off stage for another costume change and to grab more props. You can see it takes a lot of effort from this rock star veteran, yet he still doesn’t look one tid bit out of shape and continues to stay strong vocally throughout. He’s probably fitter than my twenty four year old self and for the time he’s spent in the music industry his performance deserves the credit and respect it warrants, but perhaps a smidgen more interaction than throwing out some jewelled necklaces.
As Feed My Frankenstein gets underway Alice is strapped to a panel only to vanish under an explosion of smoke. A giant puppet version of himself appears and everyone’s wooed. Everyone. That is until it suddenly turns into a cover act tributing Jim Morison, John Lenon, Jimi Hendrix and ending with Keith Moon to belt out My Generation – an odd sight to see Alice sing along to.
“Raise your hands if you’re Poison” he belts out in a cheeky devilish manner. As we head into the final two hits Poison and School’s Out people charge towards the front only to be confronted by security whose night has been spent stopping fans from lingering around the isles and marching to the front. It’s felt hostile throughout and ends with spitting and near brawls but the band are oblivious to all this as they end the party with confetti, giant balls full of confetti and bubbles, that’s right, bubbles. Where’s the fake blood Mr Cooper? It’s been an interesting night.
We understand a variety of gigs work great with entirely seated gigs but tonight didn’t. Speaking to a fan who’s been seeing Alice Cooper for 24 years even they had concerns. As regulars we get to know the security and it was sad to see such hostility towards them for a decision they had no control over. Please always respect security – it works both ways. Plus you won’t get your arse kicked out.