This post is a bit of a long one for me. I guess I have a lot to share! If you prefer to skip my ramblings you can head straight to the review right here.
I know, this website is called “Canadian Grooves”, but hey… borders become meaningless whenever an American brings this much rock to The Great White North. Plus, Vincent is from Detroit. I seriously believe the only things that separate border cities like Buffalo and Detroit from the Southern Ontario towns of Oshawa and Hamilton are population size and government-funded health care. Climate and a dislike of Toronto unite them all, lol
Alice has been on my bucket for a long time, so I jumped on a chance for Sarah and me to see him with our pal Bill of STCPod fame. I want to say it was a Tuesday or a Wednesday when Bill snagged us the tickets back in December. By the following Friday, a new variant of Covid-19 was discovered in South Africa and it already was in Canada. Omicron. Plans to visit family and friends over the Christmas break were quickly canceled.
It felt as if we were back to square one with Covid. Logically, we were not with vaccines and a better understanding of what Covid is, but it still felt like it. Sarah and I have been fairly careful over the past two years. We had not been to a concert since we saw Jann Arden9 in October of 2019 and the only ‘event’ we attended was my cousin’s wedding last summer. So, the odds of us going to this show didn’t look to be very good.
When the countdown to March 26th finally ended, our collective poop was telling scientists that there was an uptick in Covid cases. But, with three shots of the vaccine and masks, we should be OK. Plus, without getting too much into the weeds of our family obligations, 2022 will be busy for us once the snow and ice thaw fully from the trail to our hometown of Sudbury. We might only have a small window to see any concerts, so we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best.
We decided to make a day of it… well, at least we tried to. Bill was seriously late. He just had to check every pawn shop from Barrie to our agreed meet-up spot in Aurora for VHS tapes, his latest collecting endeavor. I struggle not to judge. When Bill did finally show up, he declared that he would be wearing his mask for the show, and Sarah and I confirmed that we are doing the same.
We planned on hitting a few record shops in Toronto, but Bill’s lateness forced us to cram the remaining time into a short visit to Kops Records on Queen Street. Kops has a basement loaded with 99.9% absolute crap records priced at 4 for $1. Or course, Sarah and I had to search that basement for the 0.1%. For 25¢ each, I think we made out like bandits!
The three records in the top row are Sarah’s picks, so I can’t speak for them, but I love the stuff I got! I could do an entire post on Billy Preston’s chest hair alone. And I’m serious when I say you haven’t lived until you have heard Mel Torme’s cover of The Beatles She’s Leaving Home. Harry Anderson was onto something.
I did spend some major bucks on the main floor too:
I found the soundtrack for Charade in the basement, but it was misfiled and ended up costing me $4. (I had to scramble and find another 25¢ record, which ended up being the soundtrack for Oliver!) If you’ve never seen Charade and are a fan of Hitchcock’s spy thrillers, you’re missing out. Not that Hitchcock had anything to do with the film, but it is as good as one. Plus, it has Walter Matthau in it. Mancini never scored an actual Hitchcock film, so this is as close as we will ever get.
Bill being the 2nd biggest Dylan fan I know named Bill, is always forcing Bob’s wares onto me. In fairness, Street Legal is a real good one and was a no-brainer for $9.99. Plus, his Alice-like appearance on the back of the sleeve fit the theme of the day.
Worth the wait, worth risking covid for.
After the show, not only did I wish for tickets and time to see his next appearance set for the following night in Peterborough, I had an epiphany. Seeing Alice live is way more important than owning any of his albums. Although he has had many phenomenal ones throughout every stage of his career, none are as great as his live act.
I have been a first-hand witness to the on-stage spectacles from the likes of White Zombie and Iron Maiden. I have heard the loud rumble from Motorhead, The Who, and AC/DC in person. None prepared me for a show quite like Alice’s. From the moment he entered the stage, his presence commanded the audience’s attention. He has honed his act over the years to the point where not a moment is wasted. There is no build-up. There is no “How you all doin’ tonight!?!” Just as his appearance in Wayne’s World, the curtain falls and we are blasted into Feed My Frankensti-i-ien.
The show was held at Meridian Hall for a packed house of almost 3,200 people. Taking a look around just before it started, only about 10% of the crowd were wearing masks, a complete change from Kops where nearly everyone was. My back and knees were thankful that Bill got us seats in the balcony where we could sit with an unobstructed view. Sitting close to the front row always sounds like a great idea, but the suckers on the lower level all had to stand for the entire event. We stood only at the end to give the performance a proper ovation.
Anyone who has watched the documentary Hired Gun knows that Alice cultivates a band of elite musicians to support him. In fact, since the threshold to get in is high, many side musicians view becoming a member of his band as the pinnacle achievement for the profession. Alice has three guitarists Roxie, Tommy Henriksen, and Nita Strauss. Three might seem excessive but it makes sense when you have 50 years of hard music with different flavours to cover.
Bassist Chuck Garric and drummer Glen Sobel round out the band which excelled at all eras of Alice Cooper from I’m Eighteen to Go Man Go. But, I got the sense that they truly relished in playing the challenging tunes from Alice’s ’80s glam era (Constrictor to Hey Stoopid). It is the likely reason why songs such as Roses on White Lace and Bed of Nails recently returned to the setlist. Rumor has it that Alice’s next album will be recorded with this band, a prospect that I’m stoked to hear. While it has been fun hearing Alice record with his original bandmates on his previous two albums, these guys deserve one of their own.
Visuals also play an important part in Alice’s show. I have seen Giant Eddie walk onto Iron Maiden’s stage, but frankly, he is now outshone in my mind by Franken-Alice and the Billion Dollar Baby. Alice also had a cameo from Jason Voorhees for The Man Behind The Mask, and he donned his signature straight jacket before being taken to the guillotine for The Ballad of Dwight Fry. My lord, it was glorious. I can’t say it was the best show I’ve been to since sitting two feet away from Jeff Healey and James Cotten in a small Toronto club is impossible to beat. But, I will say as far as big-name acts go, this one took the cake.
Alice has survived going solo, years of alcohol abuse, fickle music listeners, a fickle music business, pirate bay, disco, grunge… he could have allowed any to take him down. But he has never been about setting trends, topping the charts, or leading the world in album sales. He has survived 50 plus years in the cutthroat music biz with this spectacular show as the centerpiece of his career. I will not hesitate to see again.