For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Man Raze they're a powerhouse trio formed by the dynamic duo of Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen (also handling the Man Raze vocals) and Sex Pistols skin pounder Paul Cook. Their hard rocking line up completed by Phil's ex-Girl colleague Simon Laffy filling in the bass slot of their manly threesome.
Album opener 'This Is' is first out of the bag, a flat out rocker which gets them a warm welcome from the already packed arena. Unfortunately though the sound Gods are not on their side and, with a mix muddier than a Bangladeshi landslide, it leaves follow up numbers 'Halo' and 'Spinning Me Out' sounding like little more than some lo-fi Leppard demos unfit for the Sparkle Lounge. Upbeat reggae rocker 'Connected To You' breathes some life into the set before (predictably enough) Phil frees himself from the restraints of his shirt. He's soon strutting his topless torso stage left, right and centre, causing the more mature ladies already drooling over the barrier to shift into hot flush meltdown mode. A toast to Jimi's ghost and a dedication of thanks to Alice for the tour slot comes in the form of a cover of the Hendrix classic 'Fire'. 'Skin Crawl' and 'It's Entertainment' bring up the tail end of the set before a farewell crank up of every rockers favourite three words 'TURN IT UP'
The nightmare that is Alice Cooper has returned! Finally! His last performance this far down in the Westcountry was just over eighteen years ago at the old Cornwall Coliseum on the 'Hey Stoopid' Tour in October '91. It's been a long, long wait for another local show but now the wait is over and as the lights go out the anticipation from the sold out crowd is already at fever pitch. Spotlights fall upon a huge stage wide curtain adorned with a skeletal picture of Alice complete with trade mark top hat surrounded by spiders, needles and saw blades. In the blink of an eye the curtain has dropped to reveal the band already rocketing into 'Schools Out'. Five massive glittery blood red letters hang from the lights spelling out ALICE as the King of Shock stalks his way back and forth across the stage in front of them before hurling his cane into the unworthy crowd.
'Department Of Youth' quickly follows with the bloke behind nearly deafening me with his bellowing of 'Donny Osmond' at the song's end. Limping back onto the stage with the support of a crutch made of bones, 'I'm Eighteen' sees thespian Alice playing out the first of many of his lyrics, then it's on with the military cap as the goose step heavy metal beat of 'Wicked Young Man' starts to bring out the darker side of our anti-hero. Grabbing a young stagehand who's got in the way one too many times Heir Cooper rams his mic stand straight through the body of his first victim of the night, leaving him impaled, convulsing and dying a rather public death. Of course such wicked behaviour cannot be tolerated and the straight jacket is soon out to restrain our murderous host in time for 'Ballad Of Dwight Fry'. Still, a simple straight jacket is no suitable sentence for a cold blooded murderer and the infamous guillotine is wheeled out behind an unsuspecting Alice.
The pulsing bass line of 'Go To Hell' heralds our arrival in the underworld as Mr C picks his now detached head from the blood stained wicker basket. The crowd are loving it, every second, every moment, every scream and the Theatre Of Death is soon awash with waist high dry ice as several lost souls stagger around throughout 'Welcome To My Nightmare' before one in particular, a female, is chased from the stage only to be dragged back lifeless and cold. Poor Ethyl.
Without doubt it's Eighties anthem 'Poison' that receives the loudest sing-a-long of the evening so far. The Phil Collen fan club soon back in action swinging their hips like a troupe of OAP lap dancers. The much loved/hated 'Poison' though is one of only four songs from the last thirty one years of material to make it into tonight's show which leaves the rest of the set to be a veritable feast of the be(a)st of Alice Cooper. And now, confined to a wheelchair and sporting a fetching white pyjama suit stamped with Renfield Nelson Asylum on the front (a tribute to his personal assistant Brian "Renfield" Nelson who sadly passed away in June this year) we get a slice of the classic 1978 album 'From The Inside' with the title track and 'Nurse Rosetta'. Rosetta being played by Cooper's own temptuous dirty dancing daughter Calico, who gets the sparks flying (literally) with an angle grinder routine to make even the most hardened metalheads watch through squinted eyes in case she slips. Daughter or not, it's not long before she too feels the wrath of Alice, being nearly strangled to death with her own stocking during a silhouetted strip routine behind an illuminated white screen. Her unconscious body laid out across the lap of a seated Alice during 'Only Women Bleed' before he rips off her wig and jacket to make good his disguised escape from the asylum. The gallows beckon though and still in disguise he stands atop a "thrash" can with his neck in the noose looking out forlornly during the tear jerking 'I Never Cry'. Wiping away the tears from her mascara streaked face and screaming like a banshee the now conscious Calico kicks away his support leaving him dangling dead as he's wheeled off leaving the band to break into an instrumental 'Black Widow' awaiting his impending return.
With the arena bathed in red lights, and a blood thirsty audience chanting for 'Vengeance', Alice reappears at the top of a towering black pulpit. 'Vengeance Is Mine' is the only new song aired from last year's 'Along Came A Spider' before he sends the recession hit crowd diving in all directions by throwing out pearl necklaces during 'Dirty Diamonds' and scattering the front rows with dollar bills during 'Billion Dollar Babies'. The climax of 'Killer' has poor ol' Alice meeting another untimely end, this time being forced into an Iron Maiden - Excellent!
The end of the show fast approaching, it's time for some big hits and classic Alice Cooper party time. 'No More Mr Nice Guy' and 'Under My Wheels' put a little bounce back into the exhausted floor in time for the last costume change, and with the school bells ringing for the end of tonight's class the man in the mirrored top hat and tails and his band of mad axemen (plus drummer Jimmy DeGrasso) blast their way back though 'Schools Out' again. Alice grinning and bursting huge confetti filled balloons over the sweat covered crowd with his razor tipped sword.
Lining up and taking a quick bow to a standing ovation of thunderous applause they're gone as quickly as they came leaving 4000 happy punters to file out into the cold December night and homeward bound. Without a doubt this has got to be one of the best shows Alice has put together in many years and if he's coming to a town near you I seriously recommend getting some tickets soon. Only one tiny tiny gripe from me though, they didn't play 'Elected'. I know you can't please everyone but I would've thought that that song would have been down for a surefire inclusion and I can't have been the only one missing it, 'Schools Out' twice and no 'Elected'??? Anyway, even if it is another eighteen years until he heads this way again I'll be there, right back down the front to raise my fist and yell !!!