Ruth Eckerd Hall’s beautiful new Grand Lobby was open for business for the Alice Cooper tour coming to town on Thursday night!
The $34 million expansion includes new lanes for entrance and exit from the venue. Walking into the glittering lit lobby, music filled the room with Sarasota’s Trey Wanvig Band on the new Holt Music Stage. Tables and seats were scattered around the lobby with the crowd eating and drinking pre-show.
The outdoor Eastside Café had a large crowd rockin’ with guitar genius Gary Schutt entertaining with a mix of originals & covers of Rush and Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein”. There was the usual cast of characters for an Alice show, top-hat wearers, various Alice T-shirt designs and the Halloween leftovers of people in full makeup and spooky regalia. A perfect way to kick things off for the evening’s festivities!
Alice Cooper came to my attention as an 11-year-old listening to a transistor radio that picked up a Top 40 radio station! It was 1970 and “I’m Eighteen” screamed over the airwaves. I had no idea who Alice was or what he looked like, or about being 18, but I liked the hook. “School’s Out” in 1972 became the anthem for all kids waiting for summer to bring freedom. Alice Cooper became the King of Shock Rock, the Master of the Minions, the Ringmaster of Rock Horror. Long before Ozzy bit the bat, Alice was playing with snakes and guillotines. If you didn’t know, Alice was discovered by Frank Zappa in 1969!
Alice opened the show in top hat & tails, cane in hand to “Feed My Frankenstein” complete with a giant inflatable Frankenstein! The stage set of the nightmare castle is stellar with kick-ass lighting. This is theatre with a rock show! Alice has been doing this gig for a long time and is still at the top of his game! “No More Mr. Nice Guy” took us back to 1973 and that famous green album cover of “Billion Dollar Babies”! The band does a great job on these Cooper classics including guitarist Nita Strauss, who is fascinating to watch as she makes her way around the stage playing riff after riff. Her album released in 2018, titled “Controlled Chaos”, debuted at Billboard’s #1 Top New Artist.
Alice takes a turn on the harmonica for the bluesy rocker “Fallen in Love” from his 2017 “Paranormal” album. ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons plays on the album track. “Poison” leads into to the guitar solos portion of the show! Ryan Roxie, Tommy Hendriksen, Nita and Chuck Barric on bass are a force! This is a guitar driven show and they are the cream of the crop! Glen Sobel on “Black Widow Jam” with his drum solo, was complete with war paint and pounding the skins like a mad man! An amazing collection of musicians, Alice knows how to choose his team! Alice’s character ‘Steven’ from 1975’s “Welcome to my Nightmare” makes an appearance with the tune “Steven” in a straight-jacket for some added drama leading to the guillotine being brought on to the stage for the beheading of Alice!
“I Love the Dead” and “Escape” were on the setlist which brought it to a huge finish with “Teenage Frankenstein”. Coming back for the encore, Alice and company played his two biggest hits, “Under My Wheels” and “School’s Out” which had the sold-out audience stomping their feet, hands in the air calling for recess!
For over 50 years, Alice Cooper has been entertaining with his brand of rock & horror and he isn’t slowing down anytime soon! Cooper is as busy as ever! He recently sat down for “The Big Interview” with Dan Rather on AXS-TV. He has a syndicated radio show, “Nights with Alice Cooper”, and, of course, there is his other band, “The Hollywood Vampires” with Aerosmith’s Joe Perry and actor Johnny Depp. The King of Shock Rock – Long may he reign!
Photos from Vicky Sullivan / The Sarasota Post