At this point, everyone knows what to expect from an Alice Cooper concert — namely, loud guitars, crazy set designs, plenty of fake violence and one of rock’s most outrageous frontmen in full flight.
The horror show rocker and his five-piece backing band hit all these checkpoints Friday night at the Palace Theatre, rocking out a decent-sized — but not full — crowd for nearly two hours with all the usual hits. At this point, Cooper’s brand of shock rock isn’t so shocking, but it sure is fun. And just to keep things interesting, Cooper managed to throw in a few surprises that, while not game-changing, helped to make the show another memorable experience.
The first and most readily apparent of these surprises was the band itself, in particular new lead guitarist Orianthi, who brought an interesting and entirely welcome feminine dynamic to Cooper’s already-stuffed stage show. Her playing was the best of the band’s three guitarists, and Cooper must know this — she was given the solo spotlight more than the other two players onstage.
Kicking things off around 8:15 with “Hello Hooray,” Cooper immediately and easily settled into his villainous rock star persona. There was no stage banter until the very end of the night, as Cooper snarled his way through song after song, swinging around various props ranging from a sword covered in fake money on “Billion Dollar Babies,” to a crutch on “I’m Eighteen” late in the set.
For the first half of the set, though, Cooper seemed to be holding back on the theatrics — relatively speaking, of course. Besides a few props, and some back and forth between himself and Orianthi during “I’ll Bite Your Face Off,” the stage and show were kept simple, with the focus on the band’s steely playing. Classics such as “Under My Wheels” and “Billion Dollar Babies” got the modern treatment, with this band providing plenty of muscle and just enough groove to keep things moving. Although a little more of the original Alice Cooper band’s ‘70s sleaze would have been welcomed on these cuts, this lineup definitely held its own.
Mid-set jam “Dirty Diamonds,” which featured particularly brutal soloing from bassist Chuck Garric and drummer — and Albany native — Glen Sobel, was a turning point in the set. From there, the energy climbed on each successive song, from the perfectly eerie “Welcome to My Nightmare” to the sinister “Go to Hell” and “Devil’s Food.” “Feed My Frankenstein” featured a comically large Frankenstein’s monster puppet roaming the stage and mouthing the lyrics (its jaw fell out early on, but the bit was still pretty cool).
The best was yet to come. Following Cooper’s traditional “death” during “Ballad of Dwight Fry,” the singer came back to “Raise the Dead” — also the name of this tour — with a handful of classic rock covers including The Doors (”Break on Through (To the Other Side)”), The Beatles (”Revolution,” with Cooper giving an uncanny John Lennon impression), Jimi Hendrix (”Foxy Lady,” another showcase for Orianthi) and The Who (”My Generation”).
The band then roared back into its own material with “I’m Eighteen” and “Poison” to close the main set on a high note.