WILKES-BARRE — Halloween might be almost two weeks away, but it sure felt like the ghoulish holiday on Friday as “The Godfather of Shock Rock” Alice Cooper came to Wilkes-Barre for a sold-out show at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts.
As the theater’s curtain opened, a thick curtain of smoke descended upon the more than 1,800 fans in attendance, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer first appeared in a red-and-black striped suit and his trademark messed-up mascara.
The opening number “Hello Hooray” – the Judy Collins cover featured on the 1973 album “Billion Dollar Babies” – revealed a hard-charging five-piece band, consisting of three electric guitars, bass guitar and drums, behind the now 65-year-old singer.
Cooper and his cohorts then rattled off songs that spanned the singer’s entire career. 1989’s “House of Fire” (a single written with rocker Joan Jett) and 2011’s “I’ll Bite Your Face Off” meshed well with his early-1970s glories such as “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and “Under My Wheels.”
As expected, props played a major part in Cooper’s show: a huge coffee cup, from which he showered the crowd with confetti, for “Caffeine,” a wad of cash stuck to a sword for “Billion Dollar Babies” (he also grabbed a doll from a fan near the front for that one), along with whips, walking sticks and necklaces for the song “Dirty Diamonds.” Many of these props ended up in the hands of Cooper’s eager fans, who snapped up dollar bills, broken walking sticks, necklaces and other assorted goodies throughout the evening.
Following a five-minute bass and drum solo and some wicked playing from Orianthi, the female guitarist from Australia who opened the show for Adam Lambert at the Kirby Center back in 2010, the theatrics really kicked in as the theater was enveloped with thunder and lightning and Cooper re-emerged to sing “Welcome To My Nightmare.”
Soon Cooper, adorned in a blood-smeared lab coat, was strapped to an upright table, forced into a straitjacket, prodded by a sadistic nurse and finally beheaded by a giant guillotine as the band played on. The highlight of this section was probably “Feed My Frankenstein,” the 1992 single featured in “Wayne’s World,” as a gigantic Frankenstein monster took over the stage and sang the final verse.
Then it was time to “Raise The Dead” (the name of the tour) as a resurrected Cooper appeared in a graveyard, the final resting place of the “Hollywood Vampires,” a collection of Cooper’s drinking buddies from the late ’60s and early ’70s.
In front of tombstones for Jim Morrison, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix and Keith Moon, Cooper and his band then charged through classics such as The Doors’ “Break On Through (To The Other Side)” and The Beatles’ “Revolution.” Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” was a tour-de-force for guitarist Orianthi and The Who’s “My Generation” was a spotlight for bassist Chuck Garric and drummer Glen Sobel. All four made for a quite tasty sampling of Cooper’s upcoming covers album.
Cooper then returned to his own hits, ending his set with two of his most popular, 1970’s “I’m Eighteen” and his 1989 comeback “Poison.”
After a very brief exit, the band returned for an encore of “School’s Out,” which segued nicely into a bit of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2.”
During the finale, Cooper spoke to the audience for the only time all evening as he introduced his band and said, “And playing the part of Alice Cooper tonight – me!” to the delight of the huge crowd.
About the only negative about Friday’s concert was its length – even with the encore, Cooper and his band were on stage for only one hour and 35 minutes (and there was no opening act). When something this good comes to town, you want it to last just a little bit longer.