For almost 50 years Alice Cooper has perfected his craft not only as a singer, but as a showman and storyteller. His unique brand of implementing over the top theatrics on stage while giving his fans a visual representation to his iconic music has been what sets him apart from the others for decades.
This fall Alice Cooper hit the road with longtime friend and legendary guitarist Ace Frehley on the Detroit Stories Tour making this one of the anticipated tours of the year. Alice & Co. pull into Mid-Florida Credit Union Amphitheater in Tampa for their last of three Florida dates and to give the fans here a show they won’t soon forget.
By 8:40 fans could be seen dashing to their seats in anticipation of the rapidly approaching start time. And as they enter the lower bowl area they are greeted by the sight of Alice’s trademark painted eye logo against the wall of a castle while it hangs high above the stage. Those eager concert goers would not have to wait long before the haunting sound of our show announcer welcoming us all to Alice Cooper’s Nightmare Castle.
Following a very familiar intro, the curtain drops at the first note of Alice’s famous Feed My Frankenstein. The stunning visual of a decrepit castle wall had everyone’s attention, but it quickly changed focus as the doors open to reveal Alice Cooper emerging from the smoke filled doorway.
Alice makes his way out to embrace the thousands of fans roars of excitement, standing center stage decked out with his traditional top hat and cane underneath the medieval chandeliers. It’s almost impossible to hear this song and not think of him breaking out of that giant skeleton in Wayne’s World or his memorable history lesson backstage. But unlike the movie, you can really feel the energy from the stage and the power of that opening riff.
The guitar maiden Nita Strauss’s harmonic dive bombs would usher in Ryan Roxie guitar solo as the 12 foot Frankenstein monster wrecked havoc behind them. Roxie and Strauss would trade guitar licks back and forth as Alice watched from high above in approval as the chaos ensued below. As the song winds down Nita, Ryan, guitarist Tommy Henriksen and bassist Chuck Garric come together to strum out the last few notes and shower the fans close to the stage with guitar pics under a thunderous applause.
Without skipping a beat Alice Cooper would hit the fans with a chain of classics including No More Mr. Nice Guy, Bed of Nails and cover of The Velvet Underground’s Rock & Roll. Alice would christen two songs to his extensive setlist on this tour. One would be the punk rock riff machine of Go Man Go hailing from Alice’s 2019 release Breadcrumbs and the other being Social Debris off Cooper’s latest 2021 record Detroit Stories. Both songs fit right in with some Alice Cooper staples and were both very well received by the fans.
As smoke floats across the stage, the band breaks into a staple for an Alice Cooper show with I’m Eighteen. When Alice emerges from the fog he has traded his signature cane for a crutch which he twirls with almost as much ease. This would certainly be the loudest the crowd had been up to this point. With their vocal addition to the song’s chorus, paired with the voices of Strauss, Roxie, Garric and Henriksen it became a thunderous ovation. For all of the old school fans that have been there since the beginning, this song surely takes them right back to their teenage years.
Billion Dollar Babies would put the spotlight on drummer Glen Sobel but even with all the focus on him, you couldn’t help but to look slightly to the left at the sight of enormous Billion Dollar Baby itself trapped inside the castle turret. When Alice walks to the end of the stage the echoing cries of the baby crash our ears as he breaks free. As if the sight of a catapult wouldn’t be enticing enough for any adult, it’s no surprise it would grab the attention of a giant baby covered in tattoos. When he finally waddles across the stage he pulls the lever sending confetti and Alice Cooper currency shooting through the air sending fans within reach into a frenzy.
In a darkness filled amphitheater, a single spotlight locks in on the upper left side of the castle to reveal a cloaked Nita Strauss descending on a furious picking assault. The spotlight illuminates her way down the stairs as she uses the tremolo bar on her guitar to create its own unique voice until she perches herself on the center stage riser. After a couple of quick licks and some Zakk Wylde’ish pinch harmonics, Nita sheds her headdress and puts on a six string clinic. The virtuoso swept and tapped her way through a solo that Eddie Van Halen himself would be proud to watch. Upon our lesson in Shredding 101, Nita Strauss performs one last dive bomb before the troops gather behind her as she shakes every last note, literally out of her guitar as the band lead the way into Roses on White Lace.
The Black Widow Jam would put another of Alice Cooper’s world class musicians on full display. This time drummer Glen Sobel would give us mere mortals what it looks like to transcend to another level as a drummer. His double bass gallops sounded like small detonated explosions as his sticks moved across the entire kit in a matter of seconds. Glen did not shy away from a little flash as he would twirl his sticks after every snare hit as if they were batons while standing up or sitting down. As the applause poured in from Glen’s last cymbal strike, bassist Chuck Garric would join him on stage to jam along. But it would not remain a duo for long as the other three 6 string shooters would rejoin them to close out the instrumental showpiece.
Alice Cooper would soon be escorted back to the stage in a straight jacket by two man sized babies to deliver the tale of walking in a living nightmare with Steven. As he tells about his torment The Dead Bride herself shows up with a baby and carriage, shifting the song to one of the most controversial yet misunderstood songs in the Alice Cooper catalog Dead Babies. In the midst of Alice grabbing a meat cleaver with the intention of doing god knows what to baby Bettie, he is immediately detained and walked over to the infamous guillotine.
When he is lined up and in place, Glen gives an execution style snare roll as the executioner readies the blade up and down. The Death Bride soon grabs the rope from him and gives a demonic “DIE, DIE, DIE” then releases the blade. While the fans display their approval, she reaches into the basket and parades his decapitated head around the stage as the images of demented looking babies are projected against the walls.
Wrapping up the set this evening will be the stand out track from 1986’s Constrictor Teenage Frankenstein. Wearing his top hat and now donning a red circus ringleader coat complete with a shrunken head on the shoulder. When it came time for the guitarist to once again show off their talents, Cooper or, the Teenage Frankenstein, would pace back and forth across the stage riser chasing them back. When the coast is clear of guitar players, the larger Frankenstein returns to the stage to help the band close out their set in dramatic fashion. The band salutes the crowd with their instruments in the air and retreat off stage. But as the lights go out the torches around the castle and the chandeliers high above stay lit.
The fans’ cheers did not stop for a single second and only intensified as the silhouettes of the band can be seen returning to the stage. Just as Alice Cooper’s white ensemble starts to cut through the darkness, he is met with a blaring spotlight as school bells ring throughout the venue and the crowd erupts with excitement. When the main guitar riff kicks in, not only do awakening lights reveal the wave of bubbles taking over the stage but the fact that Ace Frehley himself was the maestro. The fans sang every word as if they were on stage themselves.
Just as Alice gives Ace his blessings to rip the song’s iconic solo, large bouncy balls start to flood from backstage. When Alice returns it is clear that he needed a little something more poignant by his side. And what better than a sharp and shiny katana sword. Alice’s weapon of choice was ideal to cut those colorful bouncing balls to reveal their confetti filled interiors. The band managed to incorporate a couple of verses and the iconic chorus from Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall which really got all the fans going.
As the energy grows to a climactic peak, Alice Cooper runs through and introduces his incredibly talented lineup. He rounds off the list with one last name as he informs the fans “And playing the part of Alice Cooper…”. He gives a pause to soak in the applause as it grows louder and louder from both the seats and the stage. Alice gives one more look around the venue and concludes the evening with just a one word answer, “Me”. And just like that, Alice Cooper’s amazing 23 song set came to an official end to a sea of clapping hands and screaming fans.
This, I embarrassingly have to admit was my first ever Alice Cooper show, though I have actually been a fan since I was a kid. To sit back and think that Alice has been touring the U.S. and the world for almost 60 years and can still put on such an amazing performance like what I saw tonight, is really unbelievable. From the very first note Alice Cooper belted out every vocal with as much clarity and range as at any point in his career while giving fans a larger than life stage show. Nita Strauss, Ryan Roxie, Chuck Garric, Tommy Henriksen, Glen Sobel and of course Sheryl Cooper really bring the show together with their incredible talents, energy and charisma.
Needless to say, Alice Cooper and this current lineup have certainly turned this into one of the best tours of the year! With only 4 dates remaining on the Detroit Stories Tour you don’t want to miss your opportunity to catch this amazing show, so get tickets while they last. If you haven’t already, head over to Alice Cooper’s website and download and stream his newest record Detroit Stories. And for all the Nita Strauss fans out there. Her metal majesty will be hitting the road in November on the Winter Wasteland Tour so check out Nitastrauss.com for all tour info, music and merch.