Cardiff's CIA, 16th November 2007
Reviewed by Nadine Ballantyne
Cardiff's CIA has experienced a rather busy week, playing host to the Foo Fighters, Heaven and Hell, and Enrique Iglesias. Now, none other than Alice Cooper, the Grand Guignol of Shock Rock, graces the CIA. In theory at least, tonight should be a sell out perfomance. Surprisingly, yet again the CIA seems as though it has marginally failed to attain maximum attendance figures. Fans sporting various ages are dotted in numerous places throughout the arena; fathers view the spectacle with sons, families spend time together and friends sketch ghoulish images on their friend's faces in the true Alice Cooper tradition. A warm and friendly atmosphere overwhelms the whole arena, and this is likely a beneficial situation for opening support act Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
Joan Jett elects to introduce the set with a reinterpretation of “Blitzkrieg Bop”, a track originally composed by New York Punk innovators the Ramones. Despite easing the audience into the night, it may prove to be a rather poor choice of set material. It fails to remotely bother the Alice Cooper fans, and the catchy Pop Punk number's presence is vindicated. Attendees convene in several pockets around the stage, sipping their drinks whilst viewing seventies Pop Rock 'N' Roller Joan Jett. Musically speaking, Jett distinctly contrasts in comparison to the other artists. Singing from a different hymn sheet so to speak, Jett's style is infinitely more Pop oriented. Yet again though, this specific crowd doesn't have a care in the world. From the very first note, they sing along to the words. Jett still sustains a neat voice, and one that's very striking when her image is taken into account. Her chosen counterparts look remarkably younger, and seem well financed to assume their respective roles. Those hired hands aid her in retaining that Pop Punk image, and boast the essential attire of spikes, bops and Rock grimaces. Jett stays faithful to the more conventional Rock chick behaviour, relying upon the occasional “fuck” here and there. She draws the attraction of the whole audience, and entices each individual into the group's performance. She responds with various facial expressions, and multiple adventurous poses. Solely by the smile she radiates with following such endeavours, you can really see that she still finds delight in the rigmarole of touring.
Jett additionally finds pleasure in the fact that her career hasn't faded altogether following the dizzying heights the early eighties brought. Despite this, more common nowadays are references to the fact her trademark cut underwent treatment from none other than Pop sensation Britney Spears. She plunges knees deep into that definitive refrain, namely the anthemic singalong tune “I Love Rock 'N' Roll”. The audience wholly embrace the number with open arms, and any vague memories of Britney Spears' lifeless revamp rapidly dissipate. The lyrics immediately find themselves on the lips of others, and echos vibrate throughout the whole arena. The composition strides victoriously, especially when a mammoth crowd can lend their company. All in all, it suits the venue like hand in glove. Quickly succumbing to expectations, the crowd satisfies its hunger by clipping at Jett's very fingertips. Such an ovation possesses the lungs of a capacity filled venue, despite the fact that audience figures aren't at maximum levels. The cheer from the crowd makes it seem like the place is full, even though it's not. Does her material still hold any unique qualities though? In all honesty, it's hard to draw conclusions. Jett departs with the message “Goodbye, and have a good night”, although one can forgive the frontwoman for leaving the stage with such a terse, ill-thought statement. Judging by her tone, tonight's performance marks a rapturous success on her scorecards.
Wherever your eyes flicker, men proudly sport Motörhead t-shirts. Taking such a fact into account, it doesn't take a mathematician to surmise the likelihood of a thunderous reception for the main support. In true Motörhead fashion, the trio grace the stage and promptly charge into their opening tracks for the evening. “Let's be happy” isn't an optimistic phrase one would associate with the group's cynical ethos, the rallying “let's get straight to it, and tear this place up” a more appropriate statement on the topic. Communication isn't required. Following the conclusion of the initial tracks, bruised torsos begin to slide over the metal barrier. A difficult task, it lends the security personnel reasons to warrant a paid wage. Uttering modest chants, the crowd's lamentable response unfortunately fails to inspire Motörhead to adopt a “fuck yeah” type gusto. A mighty resonance thunders still, and Lemmy Kilmister's voice retains the coarse tones evident in Motörhead's early material. Having said that, their general enthusiasm falls below potential. It's Motörhead though, so complete potential need not be fulfilled. The prime attractions are the following; the live sonics, middle aged gentlemen wildly swinging their respective shirts. Meanwhile, other middle aged gentlemen quietly sip their pints. Each song's specific tunes easily earn the crowd's acknowledgement, loud tunes which deafen in Motörhead's established tradition. Speaking on behalf of all photographers alike, earplugs would find an obligatory home within this setting. Stage equipment reliably portrays the vivid perception that an immense quantity of amps comprise Motörhead's live noise, though it wouldn't be surprising if this impression simply cannot withstand the cold light of day. Lemmy informs the crowd of his quest to discover the most cacophonous audience to grace the tour, a quest which proves fruitful. Without hesitation, yells erupt. Displaying a rudimentary grasp of the Welsh language, Lemmy extends a warm “Diolch Yn Fawr” (“many thanks”) towards tonight's bystanders.
The chosen set material comprises a hybrid of sounds, ranging from the thumping “Overkill” to the acoustic laden “Whorehouse Blues”. An interpretation of Thin Lizzy's “Rosalie” even makes an appearance, a fitting tribute which Lemmy dedicates to late friend Phil Lynott. Several gears dictate differing paces throughout, and modern adaptations of old favourites remain dominant. An inflated beach ball spontaneously emerges, seemingly from mere thin air. Meeting an untimely demise, security personnel take a dim view of the merry entertainment. Guitarist Phil Campbell remains heartily active, treading across various areas of the stage in a jubilant demeanour. Mikkey Dee's opportunity arrives to showcase his drumming abilities, and bask in glory. Two days previous, yours truly delivered a critically scathing verdict of a frankly poor drum solo from the hands of Heaven and Hell's Vinny Appice. Avid ears await, fervent to hear what actual skills Dee can exhibit. Superior than expectations theorise, the pace maintains a breakneck speed. Showing the correct temperament, Dee's facial posture suggests a man in splendid delight. The crowd's eyes remain firmly peeled, watching the spectacle with equal affection. The drum instrumental marginally outstays its initial welcome however, in spite of its passionate delivery. Dee's longtime comrades return, aiding the sticksman during the track's closing moments. Following that hefty exchange, the erstwhile King Diamond member guzzles down a plentiful supply of water. Dee playfully teases the enamoured audience, and takes delight in a merry chuckle. Motörhead demonstrate immense knowledge, have mastered the inner workings of what forms a compelling setlist, and how to spiritually gel as a live entity.
A somewhat hypnotic guitar solo underpins the next track, a pleasurable listen indeed. Granted a creditable setlist length, a supporting outfit which produces an encore medley must render a distinguished performance. Dark horse favourite “Whorehouse Blues” subtly tailors the atmosphere to suit its own needs, whereas habitual mainstay “Ace of Spades” tenaciously outlines a great definition to clarify what encompasses Rock 'N Roll. Wild hysteria ensues, gripping the watchful observers. This frenzied emotion even extends towards the audience's youthful contingent, whose sweltering torsos huddle against the metal barrier. Those situated beside the outskirts briskly race towards livelier spots, eager to participate in the ensuing chaos. In short, signature tune “Ace of Spades” is a genuine classic for admirers both tender and aged to hear in the very flesh. Really, it's logical to merely wonder if they ever grow weary of performing the 1980 composition. When the crowd's fiery reaction is rightly taken into account though, is there actually a convincing argument to suggest they should? “Overkill” completes the selected setlist, yielding dividends courtesy of a great, atmospheric rendition. That critical opinion especially applies to tonight's audience, not to mention the individual whom nearly climbed onto the stage - security personnel simply didn't notice his secret agenda. “Overkill”'s finale marks the last in a clutch of encore tracks, and so Kilmister, Campbell and Dee indulge in a celebratory hug. In the vibrant spirit of true performers, the trio pay thanks with a collective bow.
Crew technicians correctly tune musical equipment whilst Alice Cooper compositions, a somewhat clichéd scenario. A gargantuan curtain veils the mysterious stage, a murky shadow supplying the only clues as to actual developments. The tangible clues show the vaudevillian ringmaster pummelling a human being to the ground, and then the curtain falls. The gradual chain of events hint towards tonight's forthcoming theatrics, albeit subtly. Aptly christened the Psycho-Drama Tour, the package sports an accurate title. The moniker recalls a sketch, more specifically the aspect where Cooper toys with a deceased male - very much the showman. Numerous props illustrate various tracks, and each potential souvenir eventually finds its merry way into the clasping palms of an audience member. Draped in lurid attire, Cooper's chosen supporting musicians elicit an appropriate impression. Their roles seemingly destined, each members' casual demeanour befits the character profile of a natural Rock star. A mammoth stage supplies precious space, although the troupe stay relatively faithful to a section situated to the front of the monitors. A warm gesture beneficial to the audience, facial expressions suggest impromptu dives into the ecstatic crowd isn't pressingly far from their spontaneous thoughts. Cooper wields an artificial sword over the bobbing skulls within the front row, a sword which boasts fictitiously printed notes attached to its point. Cooper's vocal chords remain staunch, dispelling any notions of retirement.
The limelight deservedly shines towards Cooper's men even, a notable example being the occasion where Cooper jovially thrusts the proficient axeman with a crutch during the man's guitar solo. Cooper basks in the moment, striving forth with the ever growingly overt theatrical performance. Samples form the cohesive thread between many scenes, moulding the atmosphere. Cooper confidently flaunts explicit horror too. A dead bridesmaid strolls a pram, and Cooper viciously slashes her throat. Continuing the pram's leisurely jaunt, the baby's cries cause Cooper to pause in his tracks. Pierced with a spike, the wounded baby is distinctly shown for all to witness. Staples of the act, such melodramatic affairs meet long standing expectations. Could you ever imagine Shock Rock's celebrated poster boy, namely Alice Cooper, traipsing the live circuit sans makeup, and devoid of savage theatrics? Ticket buyers would demand a timely refund. Veteran Kiss drummer and erstwhile Black Sabbath alumni Eric Singer's time to radiantly gleam arrives, albeit in a dissimilar manner to that of Motörhead's Mikkey Dee. Stationed behind his fellow associates, two members aid Singer in creating a funky trio beat. Stressing a team ethic, it clearly demonstrates the distinguishing features the show possesses. Finally left to drum in a solitary manner, Singer's drumming knowledge bears no lapses. A constant double bass beat pulses throughout the whole part, complimented by dynamic beats. Gathering pace towards it conclusion, the group then returns to the stage.
Using abundant variation, the instrumental builds into an engrossing display. Furthermore, its welcome isn't exploited. The beat vivaciously pounds, its waves loudly drone. Several slower numbers quietly calm the mood, a task Cooper's voice is fully capable of handling. Meek flames emerge from lighters during one specific track, a track that, in reality, should take its overall toll a la the average ten minute affair. Truthfully speaking though, the ongoing theatrics still hold the ability to captivate. In spite of confined limbs, Cooper ushers the lyrics restrained via a straitjacket. An exhaustively organised spectacle, it wouldn't hurt the mainman to contribute a polite “hello” in the very least. An affectionate audience, a small fleet of Doppelgängers occupy spaces along the barrier. Interchangeable, the tracks seemingly merge to devise a lone, colossal musical show. Scenarios grow ever more engaging; for example, Cooper's neck finds the hangman's noose. Tonight, financial considerations aren't a concern. A much anticipated anthem, “School's Out” endures a phenomenal response. Whether it be infants or pensioners, each noisily chant the famous lyrics. It may trigger blurred memories in the minds of elder attendees, or lend adolescents a valid reason to hoarsely shout words. “It's party time” Cooper happily sniggers, scattering an array of gargantuan balloons into the crowd's vicinity. “Poison” figures amongst the encore setlist, and the audience interaction visibly improves. All in all, the fact tonight's performance is dwindling to its inevitable conclusion is a definite shame. “Raise your hand if you're poison” Cooper implores, and countless do so. A genial vibe lingers amongst the CIA tonight, and nobody bears malice towards another. On the contrary, the pursuit of an evening's joy is sought. Towards its conclusion, multifold sequences unfold. Caricature figures of erstwhile presidents brawl centre stage, and then subsequently execute a dancing routine - all of which inspire some giggles. Signs waver, one making a rallying plea for Cooper as President of the United States. Really, it wouldn't be overly surprising if made such calls in the not too distant future. A pleasurable night in all, even less committed fanatics noted a positive experience. Individuals discuss tonight's comical antics during the bus trip home even, paying homage to the amusing theatrics.