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Alice Cooper - First Arena, Elmira, NY - September 26, 2016

Review by John Jeffrey, photos by Thomas S. Orwat Jr.

Elmira, NY - Aside from a period during the 80's (up through the mid 90's), you can always pretty much guarantee that an Alice Cooper show is nothing short of spectacular.  From the over the top theatrics, to the sheer dedication of the multiple incarnations and lineups of the Cooper solo band - replicating all of classic material the way the fans expect it to sound - Alice Cooper is perhaps the most consistent live act in the history of rock and roll.
While the standard 'rule of thumb' saying is that "a band is only as good as it's drummer," with Alice Cooper (like in many other instances), he is an exception to that rule.  While there never seems to have been a shortage of great drummers in the Cooper camp (with mentionables such as Neil Smith, Ken Mary, Eric Singer, Brent Fitz and the current skinsman, Glen Sobel), the strength, or weakness if you, seems to lie within the guitar team Alice has manning the frontline.  While Alice certainly has had the 'best of the best' at certain times in his career, with guys like: Michael Bruce, Steve Hunter, Eric Dover & Keri Kelli, he has also had the misfortune of having people in his band who didn't get what it takes to be a guitarist in the ACB.  People like: Kane Roberts, Vinnie Moore, Stef Burns, Pete Freisen and Orianthi Panagaris.  While the ones who didn't 'get it,' are all top notch musicians in their own right, some of them appeared to have wanted to use "being in Alice Cooper" as a platform to show-off and further their own individual careers, and others were just not delivering the material with the required authenticity within their execution.
Having seen the current lineup of the ACB (featuring Ryan Roxie, Tommy Henriksen & Nita Strauss on guitars, Chuck Garric on bass and the aforementioned Glen Sobel on the drums) a handful of times now, seeing them at the First Arena in Elmira, New York last Monday night, reaffirmed my opinion that this current lineup, may be one of the best lineups Alice has ever had.
Ryan Roxie, while taking a few breaks here and there, has been a mainstay of the band (dating back to 1996) and is perhaps the best guitarist, and without a doubt, has played the songs with the most authenticity out of anyone, since original ALICE COOPER GROUP axemen, Michael Bruce.  The duo of Roxie and Henriksen ranks right up there with the best guitar tandems the band's ever had.  Bassist Chuck Garric has been manning the four string for da Coop since 2003 and has proven to be the quintessential ACB bass player.  And while drummer Glen Sobel comes in as a strong 2nd place to THE BEST drummer Alice Cooper has ever had, Eric Singer, the only member of this lineup that I'm not completely sold on, is the gimmicky, third, 'female' guitarist, Nita Strauss.  While I understand that there's a portion of the crowd that appreciates her ass(ets), it seems her one-trick pony shredding style only works in the handful of 80's era songs the band performs.  Strauss' superfluous dive-bombs and harmonic swells just don't mesh well with the tasteful leads provided by Roxy and Henriksen.
The modest Monday night turnout was clearly comprised of the rampant Coop diehard following.  With the show being billed as, "Spend The Night With Alice Cooper," there was no opening act and had an early start time of 7:45 pm.  Playing for just under 2 hours, the crowd couldn't have been happier with the song list selection, as it was the perfect mix of all the hits and enough deep cuts to satisfy the "Sick Things" in attendance.  Lesser played songs like "Under the Bed," "Woman of Mass Distraction," and "Public Animal #9" were great to hear, but by far, the biggest surprise was to see the band dust off and perform "The World Needs Guts."  Coming from the 'Constrictor' album, the song hasn't been played live in almost 30 years, as the last time it was played was in 1987.  Alice also pulled out a trio of Hollywood Vampire songs, playing "Pinball Wizard" (The Who), "Suffragette City" (David Bowie), and "Ace of Spades" (Motorhead) with Chuck Garric handling most of the vocals on the latter.
While the backing band does make a big difference in the presentation, the main focus Monday night was, and always will be, Alice Cooper, himself.  At 68, the man looks and sounds, timeless.  Even if he sings a bit sharp at times, his gnarly growl doesn't sound like it's aged a bit.  The running joke in the show for some time, comes at the end, when he says, "And playing the part of Alice Cooper.......ME!!"  Well, Vincent Furnier was born to play this part, and even if there ever comes a time when someone would attempt to take on the daunting task of playing this 'character,' no one else could ever do it better than him.  There is only one Alice Cooper!!  That's a fact....
The Black Widow
No More Mr. Nice Guy
Under My Wheels
Public Animal #9
Billion Dollar Babies
Long Way to Go
Is It My Body
The World Needs Guts
Woman of Mass Distraction
Halo of Flies
Feed My Frankenstein
Cold Ethyl
Only Women Bleed
Ballad of Dwight Fry
I Love the Dead
Under the Bed
Pinball Wizard (The Who)
Suffragette City (David Bowie)
Ace of Spades (Motörhead)
I'm Eighteen
School's Out