Sunday, August 19, 2018
Music News, Concert Reviews

Alice Cooper talks wimpy rock, celeb friends and ‘Jesus Christ Superstar Live’

Of the many, many wonderful things to love about the American treasure known as Alice Cooper, perhaps the most delightful is this: He is one of the world’s greatest name-droppers.

In a recent phone conversation, the original shock rocker brings up, unprompted, personal connections to the following: Paul McCartney, Groucho Marx, Iggy Pop, Fred Astaire, Jack Benny, George Burns, Andy Warhol, Metallica and the Partridge Family. He’s got stories about them all because he actually hung out with them all because, well, who wouldn’t want to hang out with Alice Cooper?

"Everybody that sees the show has a different version of what they saw in the show, and I ended up meeting everybody from all walks," Cooper said by phone from his Phoenix home. "I was as accepted with the Friar’s Club as I was with the rock and rollers. So it was nothing for Frank Sinatra to go, ‘Hey, Coop, how you doin’?’ I was one of the guys. I was the villain of rock ‘n’ roll."

Offstage, Cooper may be a mensch and raconteur, a golf-addicted granddad whose idea of a fun Valentine’s Day date with his wife of 42 years was a steakhouse dinner, then Stranger Things 2 on the couch.

But on stage, his sinister, snake-charming sneer has lost little of its early-’70s funhouse elan. His concert Friday at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater will be packed with kids at heart (and probably a few actual kids, too). And a week and a day later, he’ll be live on national television, appearing alongside John Legend and Sara Bareilles in NBC’s Easter Sunday telecast of Jesus Christ Superstar.

Cooper will play King Herod, a small but flashy role he took on 20 years ago, covering "the only funny song in the whole show" for a soundtrack album to a London revival. His Herod is "like an Alan Rickman character ... very condescending, arrogant ... a real bad boy." And the way he tells it, Superstar co-creators Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice thought only of him for the role.

"Tim Rice and I are very good friends," he said. "When they asked me to do the part of Herod 20 years ago, he says, ‘I really want you to bring Alice into this. I want you to take the song and make it so you can tell there’s a certain threat in the music, in the voice.’ I think I accomplished that for him. And when this thing came up, I guess him and Andrew both looked at each other and went: ‘Alice Cooper.’"

Superstar debuted in 1970 as a concept album, then a musical the following year. This was around the time Cooper crashed into the public consciousness with the monster pop-metal hits I’m Eighteen and School’s Out. Even at the peak of his powers, though, Cooper and his legendary Hollywood drinking mates — including John Lennon and Keith Moon — had a great deal of respect for the phenomenon that Webber and Rice had pulled off.

"I’ve always respected Broadway, because it’s been a big part of what I do," he said. "West Side Story was a big part of getting the original Alice Cooper Band — let’s bring that kind of thing to rock ‘n’ roll. Or at least borrow from it, and make rock look like that on stage."

The decline of rock showmanship happens to be one of Cooper’s most kvetchable topics. Part of the reason he hasn’t given up his guillotine is that he feels he has to carry the flag for a certain kind of rock ‘n’ roll, because in his eyes, not many other bands seem to want to.

"There’s very few bands that have the outlaw attitude," he said. "Alice Cooper and Aerosmith and Guns N’ Roses, we were outlaws. Now I hear bands and go, ‘Wow, how wimpy.’ It just seems like there’s a lot of wimpy bands calling themselves rock bands."

It might sound like a raging case of back-in-my-day-ism. But think again about all those names Cooper tends to drop. For a while, the character he created was so thrilling and ubiquitous that virtually everyone wanted a piece of him, celebrities included. No one escaped his titillating orbit.

Take, for example, Salvador Dalí. In 1973, the Spanish surrealist was so infatuated with Cooper that he created a holographic bust of his likeness. (It’s now part of the collection at the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg; it’s not on display, but Cooper sometimes checks in on it on tour.)

"He was so bizarre that it was unearthly. It wasn’t even in this world," Cooper said. "I was an art major, so he was my hero even before the Beatles came along. So getting to work with Dalí was like getting to work with the best of the best."

Funny thing about Cooper and Dalí’s collaboration. In a way, it proved decades ahead of its time, as holograms of late icons like Ronnie James Dio and Frank Zappa are now going out on tour.

"It’s very weird," he said. "I get it, and it’s kind of cool. I think it’s great in small doses. I don’t think I could go to a full concert of a hologram event. It would be great for the Hollywood Vampires" — Cooper’s new-ish rock supergroup with Johnny Depp and Joe Perry — "because we honor all of our dead, drunk friends. To have John Lennon show up, or Harry Nilsson or Keith Moon or any of these guys in some sort of ghostly thing that happens behind us, that would be a very cool way to do it."

But you probably won’t see his own hologram on tour anytime soon. Retirement doesn’t interest him. If you want to see Alice Cooper, you can do so in the flesh.

"I said at the very beginning of my career, I will retire when I put up tickets for my show and nobody shows up. Or put out an album and nobody buys it," he said. "But that hasn’t happened yet. So we’re full steam ahead."

Contact Jay Cridlin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

   
Comments
Review: Journey, Def Leppard defy Father Time, thrill 17,500 fans at Amalie Arena in Tampa

Review: Journey, Def Leppard defy Father Time, thrill 17,500 fans at Amalie Arena in Tampa

The inevitable question a double bill like Def Leppard and Journey begs is this: Which of the two classic rock hit machines, both well into their 50s and 60s, still rocks the hardest? Stick around, we'll get there in a minute.First, though, can we ta...
Updated: 8 hours ago
SoundBytes: Tanya Tucker, Joe Diffie, Young Nudy and more

SoundBytes: Tanya Tucker, Joe Diffie, Young Nudy and more

— The always-intriguing concert calendar at Stockyard Live in Holiday has added a couple of more country veterans to the mix: Tanya Tucker on Nov. 9 ($25 and up, click here) and Joe Diffie on Nov. 10 ($18 and up, click here).— Up-and-comi...
Published: 08/17/18
I studied Taylor Swift lyrics for three years. Then she invited me to meet her.

I studied Taylor Swift lyrics for three years. Then she invited me to meet her.

TAMPA — The Florida sun burned through my black pleather top as I hurried around Raymond James Stadium. I tried to grip a set of metal plates used at the Tampa Bay Times printing press, but my hands kept slipping. The sweat had little to do wit...
Published: 08/17/18
Travis Scott coming to Tampa

Travis Scott coming to Tampa

Travis Scott is the man of the moment right now in hip-hop, with his latest album, the hugely anticipated Astroworld, sitting at No. 1 in the nation.Now he's about to take Astroworld on the road. And his tour will include Tampa.Scott announced cities...
Published: 08/16/18
Cridlin: Aretha Franklin, world’s greatest singer, transcended cultural barriers

Cridlin: Aretha Franklin, world’s greatest singer, transcended cultural barriers

Aretha Franklin wore her crowns like no other.At the Grammy Awards in 1972, where she won the fifth of her 18 trophies: A regal scarlet shawl embroidered with gold, swirled around her sturdy Afro. At the first Divas Live concert in 1998: A golden wra...
Published: 08/16/18
Paul McCartney’s ‘raunchy’ new song: ‘Fuh You’

Paul McCartney’s ‘raunchy’ new song: ‘Fuh You’

NEW YORK (AP) — The man who co-wrote I Want to Hold Your Hand more than a half century ago is speaking more directly these days. Sir Paul McCartney released a new single on Wednesday called Fuh You, where the key line — "I want to fuh you" — contains...
Published: 08/16/18
This week’s best concerts: Journey, Def Leppard, Wiz Khalifa, Lindsey Stirling, more

This week’s best concerts: Journey, Def Leppard, Wiz Khalifa, Lindsey Stirling, more

HALLWORTHY? Journey and Def LeppardWith Bon Jovi and Dire Straits off the board, Def Leppard, left, is now the bestselling rock band not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (The not-yet-eligible Coldplay and Linkin Park are bridges we’ll cross down th...
Published: 08/15/18
Review: Taylor Swift lights up Tampa with majestic, open-hearted concert at Raymond James Stadium

Review: Taylor Swift lights up Tampa with majestic, open-hearted concert at Raymond James Stadium

The world's biggest pop star sat alone at a piano in Tampa, looking for the first time in a long time like she wasn't quite sure what to say."This exact day a year ago, I was not playing a sold-out stadium in Tampa," Taylor Swift told the crowd of mo...
Published: 08/15/18
SoundBytes: Hoobastank, PrettyMuch, Kevin Gates, Every Time I Die and more

SoundBytes: Hoobastank, PrettyMuch, Kevin Gates, Every Time I Die and more

— Hoobastank is coming to the Capitol Theatre. The show is scheduled for Nov. 19, with Secondhand Serenade opening. Tickets are $29 and up. Click here.— Boy band PrettyMuch is coming to the Ritz Ybor on Oct. 28. Tickets go on sale this we...
Published: 08/14/18
Highly Suspect postpone concert at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg

Highly Suspect postpone concert at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg

Highly Suspect's upcoming concert at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg was one of our must-see shows of this fall.We'll have to wait a little longer to see it.The Grammy-nominated rockers have postponed their Oct. 29 show in the courtyard, according to t...
Published: 08/14/18