Alice Cooper brings his "Theatre of Death" to DVD
Theatre of Death: Live at Hammersmith 2009 (DVD with bonus CD)
Bigger Picture/Alive Enterprises
by Thom Copher
Alice Cooper, the undisputed master of theatrical rock, has taken his
own genius to a new pinnacle with his latest live show, aptly titled
"Theatre of Death." He has, admittedly, stirred things up to heighten
the unpredictability of his character: "(The show) is in four acts... why
kill Alice once when you can kill him four times?" he recently said in an
interview with The Stage (www.thestage.co.uk). Brilliantly directed for
the stage by Robert Jess Roth, whose credits include a Broadway version
of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," the show (captured here from a
December 6, 2009 performance at London's famed Hammersmith Apollo),
develops - and "serves justice" upon - different incarnations of The
Coop's creation, "rock's concentrated villain," as we've come to know him
over the years. Strap in, because Live at Hammersmith 2009 is unlike
any live spectacle that's ever been depicted.
The first three songs set the tone for Act One with Alice, the punk: A
short version of "School's Out" kicks things off with Alice baiting the
crowd to celebrate its middle-finger-to-authority lyric. "Department of Youth" and "I'm Eighteen" follow like strategically inserted
oxymora; it's not a case of a 62-year-old rock star simply revisiting old times... nay, I tell you. We, the audience, ARE all eighteen,
school IS out and we are being led by The Master across the wild landscapes of our decadent imaginations.
"Wicked Young Man" finds Alice spewing his angst as he impales a masked dancer (recalling his character from John Carpenter's 1987
flick, "Prince of Darkness") before being fitted in a straight-jacket for "The Ballad of Dwight Fry" which concludes Act One with the
legendary guillotine beheading.
In the blink of an eye, Alice reappears for Act Two to the strains of "Go to Hell."
From there, he reckons with his "past life" on "Guilty," "Welcome to My Nightmare,"
- highlighted by a hoard of torturous zombies - and "Cold Ethyl." Act Two closes with
Alice being killed off once again, fittingly by lethal injection with a huge syringe during
Now back from his journey through hell, Alice regains consciousness in a mental
hospital on "The Awakening." He then reflects on his plight with "From the Inside,"
the title song from his 1978 concept album which documented his actual treatment for
alcoholism. I must say here, realizing Alice's 27 (and counting) years of sobriety, his
tongue-in-cheek waving of a Jack Daniel's bottle is one of the concert's most shocking
moments! Coop's sanity is next tested, in song and character, by "Nurse Rosetta" -
viciously played by Tiffany Lowe. Rosetta carries out her flirtations during a couple
of Killer-era classics, "Is It My Body?" and "Be My Lover," after which Alice
serenades the seductress with "Only Women Bleed." Alice then promises "I Never
Cry" from the gallows where he's left, you guessed it, hanging there!
An instrumental snippet of "Black Widow" segues Act Three to Four. Alice resurfaces,
now fully lucid, spewing forth his agitation on "Vengeance is Mine" with his most recent
"creation" from his latest album, Along Came a Spider. The classics keep coming at a
furious pace: "Devil's Food," "Dirty Diamonds," "Billion Dollar Babies" and "Killer/I
Love the Dead" on which Nurse Rosetta does the final honors with an iron-maiden-like
box of swords. Having been killed off four times, Alice makes one more comeback,
proclaiming "No More Mr. Nice Guy." The Detroit-rock-city rouser "Under My Wheels" provides a final charge leading into the
traditional (full version) closer, "School's Out."
The DVD presentation is, in a two-word summary, spectacular and breathtaking. The shoot meticulously captures the nuances of Coop's
special blend of rock and vaudeville, avoiding the breakneck pace which often mires live rock videos. The band - Chuck Garric (bass),
Keri Kelli (guitar), Damon Johnson (guitar) and Jimmy DeGrasso (drums) - brings an up-to-date interpretation to four decades of tunes;
the players are portrayed, in true theatrical fashion, as the excellent musicians that they are as well as Alice's able-bodied henchmen.
The "Theatre of Death" presentation will always hold a special place for me because, amazingly - having followed Alice for 35 years -
it marked the first time I experienced The Master in concert - this past summer in Columbus, to be exact. In a weird sense, Live at
Hammersmith is my personal souvenir. The show is appropriately unique in that it depicts the continuing evolution of Alice, the
character. More importantly, it celebrates the rich history that is Alice, the musician and storyteller. He has dared to lead us on a
myriad of journeys where the dark side and the absurd collide - something which we would never have realized possible without the
proper guidance. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should be so lucky to be blessed, finally, by the presence of Alice Cooper!