Saturday, July 01, 2006

Alice Cooper Tastes The Twin Cities

Taste of Minnesota, the festival that rebukes hip-hop acts for not being family-friendly, kicked off Friday night in St. Paul with a gory, gimmicky set by heavy metal's original shocker, Alice Cooper.So much for the Tastefulness. Among the cutout-bin lineup of classic-rockers that take over Harriet Island every year, though, Cooper, 58, actually offered decent marquee value. It had been several years since he performed in the Twin Cities. And though he has been turned down by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the showman's influence is still being felt today in made-up metal acts such as Marilyn Manson, Slipknot and Rob Zombie.
Of course, Cooper's Vincent Price-worthy stage show -- with the guillotine, giant snake, fake blood, etc. -- is pretty tame by today's standards. Corny might be a better word. But that didn't stop the crowd from eating up the routine, which started with "Welcome to My Nightmare" and ended with a Paris Hilton spoof featuring Alice's daughter.Cooper wound up tossing the faux Ms. Hilton's pet Chihuahua through the air with a hard thud. At least he didn't bite its head off. Musically, though, Cooper's hits stood up very well. With a young, capable band that edged on thrash-metal at times, his 90-minute show was laced with '70s radio staples that sounded less dated than a lot of the '80s tunes played on classic rock radio: "No More Mr. Nice Guy" and "Billion Dollar Babies" at the start, "School's Out" and "Only Women Bleed" toward the end and -- best of all -- "Under My Wheels" as the finale.The crowd of 10,000 or so clearly was an Alice audience. That was obvious when fans with smeared black mascara started camping out near the stage hours before his 7 p.m. start time.Thanks to a booking that seemed as nonsensical as the math for getting a beer (eight tickets for $5, seven tickets per beer ... !!), these fans had to sit through the 5 p.m. set by Gary Wright of "Dream Weaver" fame.You know, the hippie-dippy song mocked in "Wayne's World" that still gives synthesizers a bad name. He played it and others like it. Suffice to say, you haven't really experienced Taste until you've seen a bunch of peeved Alice Cooper fans sitting through "Dream Weaver."