(photo credit: PR)
The image the mind conjures up is a little jarring – a boawrapped, masacara-wearing, ghoulish-looking Alice Cooper traipsing across the solemn sites of the Holy Land.
But the legendary shock rocker will be making his pilgrimage to Jerusalem as Vincent Furnier, a Phoenix, Arizona, golf-playing practicing Christian instead of his subversive onstage alter ego.
“I’m coming to Israel early because I want to see the Holy Land,” the 68-year-old Cooper enthusiastically told The Jerusalem Post in a recent phone interview. “Being Christian, I want to see where all of this history actually happened. My wife’s father is a Baptist pastor and he organized Holy Land tours, so my wife has been to Israel three times. She told me, ‘You’re going to love it there.’” The same could be said of fans planning to attend Cooper’s debut performance in Israel on June 16 at the Ra’anana Amphitheater. The career overview called Raise the Dead combines the classic 1970s hard rock hits of Cooper’s legendary 1960/70s self-named band such as “School’s Out” “18” and the timely “Elected” with a stage production worthy of Broadway.
“Oh yeah, the audience is going to love the show. We designed it so that even if you hate Alice Cooper, you’re still going to love the show,” Cooper said with a good-natured cackle.
Years before Kiss, The Tubes and other visually minded acts jolted rock out of the navel-gazing era by its spandex, Cooper was creating vehicles to make his evocative, funny and sinister lyrics come to life onstage, with lavish props, choreography and routines that brought showbiz values to contemporary music. It would have been an empty vehicle, however, if the pummeling Detroit street rock made by guitarists Glen Buxton and Michael Bruce, bassist Denny Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith hadn’t matched the humor and fury of the show.
“I guess you could say we were somewhat notorious. And that’s why it took a long time for people to accept that we were a band first and then a great theatrical experience – you know, ‘Here’s this band that does all these outrageous things’ and this and that. But [1970’s] Love It to Death and [1971’s] Killer were considered by critics to be two of the best ever rock albums,” said Cooper.
“Look at it this way – you have to have the cake before you put the icing on it. The cake was the songs. We would spend 90 percent of the time working on music and 10% of the time on theatrics. My theory was if you’re going to say ‘Welcome to my nightmare’ [the title of his debut solo album from 1975], then give them the nightmare,” said Cooper. “What made us unique was that we did not mind spending the money, time and effort to theatrically produce a show rather than just get up on stage and do the songs.”
The first half of the 1970s belonged to the band, but by mid-decade, with fame, drugs and constant touring taking their toll, Alice Cooper split up and Cooper went on to solo fame with hits like “Only Women Bleed” and a new career as a quotable celebrity – representing the presentable golf-loving face of rock stardom to Hollywood and middle America.
However, a drinking problem and a series of pedestrian albums in the 1980s led to a long period out of the spotlight for Cooper. Returning sober and healthy, Cooper scored another massive hit with “Poison” and was later immortalized in the 1992 film Wayne’s World.
Since then, he’s enjoyed his status as an elder rock statesman for a new generation of head bangers and stays in the limelight via his busman’s holiday gig in the celebrity cover band the Hollywood Vampires, with buds Johnny Depp and Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry.
But when Vincent turns into Alice and the lights come up onstage, the years disappear as hits like “Be My Lover” and “Under My Wheels” careen under the onslaught of Cooper’s touring band, featuring the three-guitar attack of Ryan Roxie, Nita Strauss and Tommy Henriksen, the rhythm section of drummer Glen Sobel and longtime bassist Chuck Garric.
According to Cooper, it’s the most powerful lineup he’s ever gone out with.
“The band I have now is so tight and so rock that we could do the entire show without the theatrics and the audience would love it,” he said.
“Once you’ve got that, now put the icing on the cake and add all the theatrics in. The show now is just as theatrical as ever – maybe more so – but the band is better.”Alice Cooper will perform on June 16 at the Ra’anana Amphitheater.