"Well you know, we've always been just this side of Broadway," Alice Cooper says, explaining the seemingly odd choice to play at the posh Segerstrom Hall on Tuesday. The Costa Mesa opera house is a place where you're more likely to see Wicked and Les Mis than a rock and roll giant and shock rock pioneer like Cooper. But to hear Cooper rationalize the choice, it makes sense. "For some people, this is as close to a Broadway show as they ever get."
And theatrical, an Alice Cooper show is: the elaborate stage setup fills with a pyrotechnic rain, Cooper still dons his signature heavy black eye makeup, and acts out the lyrics with the hubris of a carnival barker, and amidst costume changes, leads his band of misfits with a cane, riding crop, and fencing sword--all before getting his head guillotined, of course.
But this "Raise the Dead Tour" offers fans a new act, something never seen before at an Alice Cooper show (which after 50 years of playing is really saying something): cover songs.
"I've never really played covers on stage, but on this tour, there's a part where Alice wakes up and he's back with the Hollywood Vampires," Cooper says, referring to the legendary drinking club comprised of Harry Nilsson, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Micky Dolenz, Keith Moon, and Jim Morrison, among other rock legends.
"I like to call them my 'dead drunk friends,'" he says, explaining how the show continues and the band plays covers of the Beatles, the Doors and the Who in tribute to the drinking club of the damned. This all comes in anticipation of the release of Alice Cooper's first ever covers album, expecting to be released in 2014. This isn't some cheesy attempt at capitalizing on fallen rock gods. "What makes this authentic is that I really did drink with these guys," Cooper said. "I saw my friends go away at 27 years old."
When asked what it's like to be here, playing their songs 40 years after many of his friends have passed, Cooper cited his separation between Alice Cooper, the character, and Vincent Furnier, the man. "I don't live Alice Cooper, I play Alice Cooper," he said. "Jim [Morrison] and Janis [Joplin] tried to be [their stage persona] and it killed them. They tried to be this larger-than-life character offstage and it cut their life in about half. I learned how to live a regular life in addition to playing a part on stage."
It's this work/life balance Cooper's established that has allowed him to play his ghoulish brand of rock and roll for half a century, and with 50 years of success, comes cultural acceptance. When seeing Alice Cooper in big movies like Wayne's World and Dark Shadows and highlighted in just about every pro golf media outlet around, it's difficult to remember a time when parents up-roared feverishly against their children listening to his music. Now, you'll likely see plenty of parents at Segerstrom Hall stoked for a night with the mascara-wearing singer come Tuesday.
"It took people a while to understand that rock, horror and comedy all in bed together," he says. "It was the same way when the Stones came out, 'You can't go see the Stones--they're this and they're that.' And the same with the Beatles. [Now] we've become woven into tapestry of Americana."
Despite whatever negative reputation Alice Cooper's shows may bring (dead chicken-related or not), Cooper assures his concerts are family friendly. Bring Grandma.
"There's no nudity in the show, I make sure there's no bad language, no satanic things," he says. "[Parents are] shocked they actually liked the show!"
Alice Cooper has made his way through Orange County for several landmark shows over the years, playing every type of venue we offer, from Cal State Fullerton (with Frank Zappa) and UC Irvine, to the OC Fairgrounds in 1968 (with Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Sonny and Cher and many more) to the ill-remembered "Alice Cooper and Friends" TV special at Angel Stadium in 1977.
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Cooper pointed out that when you've toured as long and as frequently as he has, you can't recall specific shows (especially in the '60s), but he did remember that show at Angel Stadium, which he has said in previous interviews that he wasn't too fond of. "I was trying to curb my drinking [then]," Cooper said. "It was an irritating time. I was working with a therapist, trying to control my drinking by other means. It wasn't the show, it was me personally [at that time]."
And he eventually did control his drinking, doing away with it forever, with the help of golf. "I only golf in days that end in 'y'," Cooper laughed. He makes it a habit to golf six days a week, so he was sure he would hit the green in Orange County when he came to town. When he lived in Los Angeles, Cooper said he would make it down to Pelican Hill in Newport often.
"Pelican Hill is as great as any [great golf course]," he said. Well hell, we don't know how they take to ruffians like us at the Weekly there, but if Alice Cooper recommends it, we'll give it a shot.