Gig review: Alice Cooper at First Direct Arena, Leeds

Alice Cooper at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Danny Gartside
Alice Cooper at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Danny Gartside
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“School’s out, Leeds!” bellows Alice Cooper, atop a riser perched precariously upon the lip of his stage at the close of his show at the First Direct Arena.

An hour-and-a-half’s worth of significant guitar shredding has just about crested to a naturally expected crescendo, as the king of shock rock boogies his way from left to right. Under bright lights, with confetti canons already unfurled, it has been an evening of hard rock pantomime, played with a tongue-in-cheek sensibility.

Alice Cooper's band at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Danny Gartside

Alice Cooper's band at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Danny Gartside

After all, if you’re going to spend 50 years in this business, it’s best not to take yourself too seriously.

This of course is Cooper the man rather than Cooper the band - though last time he came to Leeds two years ago, both were in tow.

Real name Vincent Furnier, the 71-year-old rebranded himself with the name of his former group following their mid-Seventies dissolution, effectively transmuting their commercial legacy into his own.

Across the night, it’s an effective 50-50 split down the middle between group and solo cuts, delivered with all the panache come to be expected.

Alice Cooper at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Danny Gartside

Alice Cooper at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Danny Gartside

For a septuagenarian, Cooper is still sprightly, even if his trademark raspy voice takes a few songs to warm up; the 10ft lumbering monster on Feed My Frankenstein that chases him around the stage hides the early strain as he goes through the gears.

By Bed of Nails’ turbocharged stadium riffage though, he proves his vocals are in remarkable shape.

Few songs necessarily transcend their stage elements alongside them – I’m Eighteen remains a searing adolescent anthem and Poison proves as devilishly brilliant as it did three decades ago – but that doesn’t necessarily matter in what is an enormously entertaining endeavour.

Raped and Freezin’ sees him dance with a matador cape, while Billion Dollar Babies allows him to flick a rapier around with casual cod-menace and glee. Muscle of Love sees him unfurl maracas and shadow-box with them. It’s all deliriously dotty fun.

Even if it can’t escape the typical rock show indulgences of lengthy solos, it naturally builds to a camp-crazed quasi-finale where Cooper escapes a straitjacket during Steven, tries to murder a prop infant and duly gets guillotined in comedic fashion, after which another giant baby runs across the stage.

By the time – yes – School’s Out closes out proceedings, it feels like the maddest am-dram musical in the world, staged with excellent professionalism and a circus ringmaster who won’t be going quietly into that long night.