All of us are somewhat strange. It’s this strangeness that separates us from the monotone sounds of the masses. But, we are afraid to show these oddball eccentricities to the inquiring light of others. We wish not to be labeled a freak, weirdo, or creep. A pariah among the people whom we hold so dear. Alice Cooper believes you shouldn’t hide this strangeness. Cooper has been encouraging people to embrace their individuality for over 40 years. On a Tuesday in Orlando, an insane amount of people embraced their “inner freak” at Hard Rock Live and I was lucky enough to witness the entire event. My eyes endured a piece of history.
Any productive activities required of me that Tuesday were put on a mental back burner. I was entirely too distracted with the prospect of seeing the godfather of shock rock to focus on anything else. 7:30 was the required time to meet at Mitch’s house to carpool off to the show. That time flashed in large red digital numbers across my consciousness throughout the entirety of my day. All I could think of was this show. Mitch, Dainon, and I kept our scheduled time and slammed a few beers before heading off.
The downpour of rain and continual cry of wind caused complications on our journey. The road was covered with a glossy black sheen. As we headed down the hellish highway toward Hard Rock Live we were getting into our element. The three of us talked about music we had recently discovered, nightly relationships we had previously pursued, and our future expectations of Alice Cooper live.
Our arrival into Hard Rock Live was announced with a resounding blast of pyrotechnics. I felt like a fucking rock star! “House of Fire” was ferociously exploding through the speakers and Alice Cooper took the stage with a show swagger I have never seen before. With the charisma of a circus leader, he began waving a baton around and pointing it at the audience.
The eyes that decorated the stage backdrop and drum kit were peering into the audience. Every person in that room was staring back; this was a spectacle that required all attention. Hard Rock Live was heavily littered with humans. “Billion Dollar Babies” is when things started getting super strange. Alice Cooper began fencing on stage with an epee and dueling the dead baby dolls, bones, and other props. He then proceeded to throw Mardi Gras beads out into the crowd (titties may have been shown in the making of this piece) while the people screamed the lyrics to the song.
Alice Cooper’s band mates are no amateurs in this odd arena. Nita Strauss, who was ranked #1 on Guitar World’s list of “10 Female Guitar Players You Should Know”, was playing with raw energy and pure passion. Her ruby red guitar was rocking back and forth as her blonde locks flew into the air.
The drummer, Glen Sobel had an emerald green drum kit that made deaf defying sounds as he hit with show stopping skill. The stage was thundering sound and flashing lightening; it mirrored the night of nature that was happening outside the doors.
During “Welcome to My Nightmare” Alice Cooper wrapped a giant snake around his neck, this coupled with the top hat that he was wearing transported me into his truly strange world. When the song began to take off the snake was swapped for a whip and Cooper began “whipping” his band mates as they slashed away on their instruments.
“Feed My Frankenstein” felt electrifying through the many musical parts of nuts and bolts that bring the Hard Rock to life. Just then, in my rock music induced nirvana, a giant figure entered the stage. Cooper, dressed in a blood soaked lab coat accosted the figure; it was a seven (fuck that, eight feet tall) Frankenstein. It roamed the stage searching for corpses to make its meal. I screamed at the top of my lungs as it scanned the audience for its next victim.
Strewn in a straight jacket, our hero was taken away by a maniacal dame dressed in a naughty nurses’ outfit. What was to become of our eye-lined rock god? Pure rebellion. Cooper approached the attractive essence and strangled her with the elongated sleeves of his suit. Just then, in retribution for his crimes, on stage ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE. A guillotine (I’m sure it was twelve feet tall) welcomed its new home, center stage. Alice Cooper was placed in position for decapitation as the resounding cry of the crowd yelled out: CUT HIS FUCKING HEAD OFF! The blade dropped, a head produced, and a blackout occurred.
I was awakened by the ever personal psalm of John Densmore’s drum intro into “Break on Through” by The Doors. In those two minutes and 25 seconds, I completely lost myself. All the adversity I have faced in my life, all the anguish, and the animosity seemed to dissipate into an ethereal realm that was unattainable in any other state of mind. This sense of pure Shangri-La was followed by songs created from the cadavers that were once our Christs. “Revolution” written by John Lennon, “Foxy Lady” by Jimi Hendrix, and “My Generation” by The Who welcomed an audience of undying gratitude. Most of us have never seen these songs performed live and Alice Cooper with his band did them an unbelievable justice. A troglodyte-esque creature brought out a tombstone for each long gone artist.
This precession of pious poets was ended by Alice Cooper’s most “generationally” notable song: “School’s Out.” During this memorable moment, the ceiling of Hard Rock Live began raining confetti and balloons. All the “freaks” lost what remained of their socially acceptable selves. The screams of satisfaction still echo in my mind as I write this post.
Outside, the SIGT team spoke to our lovely photographer for the evening, Lindsay Tompkins, and her mother Julie. Some time ago when she was 17, a time before most of us could go to concerts, Julie saw Alice Cooper live. I just had to ask her a few questions:
Me: “What do you recall from the first time you saw Alice Cooper?
Julie: “It was at Madison Square Garden in 1973. I can’t put it into words.”
Me: “Was it really that intense?”
Julie: “From what I can remember! I was a little hazy if you known what I mean. 😉 ” (This was followed by an astonishingly joyful laugh and a hard glare toward Lindsay that read: “don’t get any ideas.”)
Me: “Did you notice any differences?”
Julie: “School’s been out forever, but he’s definitely picked up some things along the way.”
Outside I heard many conversations that certified my belief. People come to Alice Cooper to celebrate their strangeness; things they keep locked deep inside. It’s also a rite of passage, a show stub that certifies each concert goers acceptance into this weird world where everyone is welcome.
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