Halloween arrived early at UCF on Friday, thanks to the utterly old-school shock tactics of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Alice Cooper.
Cooper, a guy who looks like he would celebrate All Hallow’s Eve year-round, was the featured attraction at Orlando rock station WJRR’s Halloweenie Roast, a marathon show that also included sets by Papa Roach, Bullet For My Valentine, Pop Evil and Heaven’s Basement.
All of those bands built careers in the 21st Century, of course, a fact that accounted for a disheartening sameness watching them perform back-to-back: Molar-rattling bass and drums, vocals that mixed together rapping and larynx-shredding howls, embellished by a seizure-inducing level of strobe lights. Amid the formula, however, there also were flashes of inspiration:
Bullet For My Valentine impressed with a frenetic combination of drums and guitars in a 45-minute set that included “Breaking Point” and “Tears Don’t Fall,” two powerful songs that don’t need special effects to work. Likewise, Papa Roach proved that their material is built to last, especially raucous versions of “Give Me Back My Life,” “Still Swingin’” and “Last Resort.”
By comparison, Cooper’s approach looked almost quaint, with a dungeon-like set that looked like it could have been constructed by the high-school drama department.
His shtick hasn’t changed much since his 2011 stop at Orlando’s Hard Rock Live – or since the Carter administration, come to think of it.
At the same time, Cooper’s entrance was more no-frills than in 2011, when he appeared in a spider costume shooting sparklers from the palms of his hands. On Friday, he emerged to deliver “Hello Hooray” amid a shower of fireworks in a garish tuxedo with long tails, accented by a walking cane.
For “Billion Dollar Babies,” Cooper picked up a sword and shook wads of bills into the audience, as the members of his fiery band pounded out the rhythm. Throughout the 60-minute set, there were fewer conspicuous theatrical gestures, but the band’s energy was enough to carry songs such as “I’ll Bite Your Face Off,” “Under My Wheels,” Hey Stoopid” and “I’m Eighteen.” In the latter, Cooper used a crutch to conduct the band.
Eventually, he brought out the snake and the straitjacket, so that’s cool.
Yet even without as many visual gimmicks, Cooper is a treat – and not just at Halloween.
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