Who needs to go to an Alice Cooper show more: the 34-year-old satisfying his curiosity or the 61-year-old onstage for whom the gate receipts will buy many, many rounds at Pebble Beach? The 44-year-old whose eyes are blacked out like Alice's or the 25-year-old tweeting his ass off?
With a band member underneath each life-size, lowercase letter of his first name - Aftermath's favorite was the drummer comfortably cradled within the "c" - and a Halloween-ready hot nurse (reportedly his daughter, which opens up all sorts of Electra lanes) on hand to assist with the odd beheading, straitjacket-fitting or hanging, Cooper played ringmaster to his own "Theatre of Death."
For a good 90 minutes Sunday night, the man born Vincent Furnier in Detroit Rock City assumed a persona even older than "Alice Cooper": the Dorian Gray of heavy metal, a man whose songs grow younger, more menacing and full of "Poison" the more age lines accumulate on his weatherbeaten face.
At this point, it's a little hard to imagine the uproar Cooper's songs once caused, that Middle America's tribal elders once thought "18" and "School's Out" were musical enablers of some imminent Clockwork Orange
-style youth-gone-wild insurrection, when all they really were - besides diamond-strength hard-rock anthems whose potency endures to this day - were setpieces for Cooper to act out his pre-MTV brand of Grand Guignol fantasy. (He still goose-steps like a champ, in case you were curious, but we miss the boa constrictor.)
Ironically, though, the longer the show lasted Sunday, the less Cooper needed the guillotine, the gallows, even the wheelchair. Starting with about "Vengeance Is Mine," each song peeled off another layer of theatrical artifice to reveal a very twisted, very angry soul. As they revealed a hidden blueprint for everyone from Motley Crue to Queens of the Stone Age, "Dirty Diamonds," "Billion Dollar Babies," "I Love the Dead" and "Under My Wheels" inched closer to the metal machine music of Cooper's Detroit kinsmen the Stooges and MC5.
No need for elaborate shock theater when Cooper and band's sneering riffs and roiling rhythms start to tickle the evil urges that reside in each one of us. No wonder he's never very far from a Bible these days. School's out forever, bitches.