Over the years, Alice Cooper has been hung, beheaded, electrocuted ... and he always lived to tell about it. And do it again.
This year, however, Cooper is doing it all at once. His new show, appropriately dubbed “Theatre of Death,” takes the veteran shock rocker’s schtick and turns the formula “totally upside down and backwards,” from starting with his usual closing number, “School’s Out,” to staging multiple deaths over the course of the concert.
“It’s a celebration of all things Alice,” explains Cooper, 61, who was born Vincent Furnier in Detroit and still holds an allegiance to the Motor City — especially its sports teams — even though he now makes his home in suburban Phoenix.
“There’s no moral to it. It really is just sort of a celebration of different phases of Alice.”
The latest Cooper extravaganza was the idea of Robert Jess Roth, who directed the original Broadway stage production of Walt Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” and is a big Cooper fan. “He said, ‘I want your lyrics to tell the story,’ ” recalls Cooper, who composed a new verse for the song “Devil’s Food” to accommodate Roth’s script. “He said, ‘I want to tell four stories — the delinquent Alice, Alice in hell, four different acts. And at the end of each act we kill you; we kill that Alice and introduce the next Alice.’
“He showed me the set list and the ideas and we started talking about what deaths would be good, this and that, and the show just started forming. All of a sudden, we had this elaborate show, new lights and props and costumes and everything, and I really liked it.”
So have Cooper’s fans, who have filled the Internet with chatter about the changes. “People are going, ‘What? You don’t kill Alice in the first five songs! What’s gonna happen?!’ ” he says with a laugh. “To me, it’s really exciting to do a new show that works like this. And it’s more rockin’, this show, than the last show. There’s more hard rock songs in a row.”
Not everyone appreciates the Theatre of Death bloodbath, however. It was banned by a fundamentalist venue in Finland during Cooper’s summer European tour — not the first time Cooper has faced that issue, but now he’s not as prone to fight as he was in the ’70s. “You know what,” he says, “because I’m Christian myself, I just turned the other cheek.
“There is always someone who is going to be a radical or fanatic who has their beliefs, and I respect that. Find another venue; I don’t care. There’s nothing in my show that can be banned, or I would have been banned all over the world.”
Instead of worrying, he’s turning his attention toward future projects. Cooper, who joins his daughter Calico in the upcoming vampire comedy film “Suck,” plans to film and record the tour at some point before it winds down, though he also plans on taking the same show out again in 2010.
He also isn’t ruling out a future show based on his 2008 concept album “Along Came a Spider,” although he’s already started work on his next album, too.
“I’ve got three or four songs written for it,” says Cooper, explaining that it involves “a new character, a new direction and probably a surprising producer on this one.”
“The good thing,” he adds, “is I don’t have to be as competitive as I once was. It used to be every time I put an album out, I had to worry about if it was going to sell more than (David) Bowie or do better than Kiss or if we sold 2 million (copies) last time we have to sell 2 million plus one this time ...
“I don’t have to worry about that anymore. Feeding my family doesn’t depend on my new album. I’m doing it because I want to, and because I can. If somebody new discovers it and likes me, then great, but I don’t lose sleep over it, either.”
Alice Cooper, the Detroit Helldrivers and Salem Witchcraft perform at 7 p.m. Saturday (Sept. 19) at the Freedom Hill Amphitheatre, 14900 Metropolitan Pkwy. at Schoenherr, Sterling Heights. Tickets are $20, $35 and $58 pavilion, $12.47 lawn. Call (586) 268-5100 or visit www.freedomhill.net.
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