Alice Cooper/The Cult | Manchester AO Arena | Friday 27th May 2022
He’s back (again!) -The man behind the mask. Every couple of years the rock legend hits Manchester as part of his UK Tour. Following his last show back in 2019 I found myself again entering Castle Cooper with many other ghouls and monsters on an unusually sunny Manchester evening. One thing about the last few Alice UK tours is that he usually rolls into town with a quite diverse supporting cast. Following The Mission and The Tubes in 2017, he followed up with the legendary Mc5 and The Stranglers two years later 2019. Accompanying him on this set of dates were Creeper a UK-formed band that were totally new to me-together with UK goth/rock legends the Cult. Unfortunately, due to a pretty intensive and overly prolonged entrance with box office/security, we arrived just too late to catch any of Creepers’ supporting set. With many of my fellow fans in the same position, we were unable to gauge just how they were received by the legions of adoring Cooper fans.
One issue quickly became another when after taking my seat I was contacted by my show photographer to inform me that the original pre-received instructions regarding one of the two main bands had been changed. He along with several other photographers were no longer granted permission to enter the concert venue and shoot the Cult from the back of the hall. Thus with my review, I would just be able to include images from one of the three-band bill.
Not having seen the Cult live for quite some time I was confident that they would still deliver a quality set probably focussing on both their early era goth rock anthems and also their more electric rock era tunes. So, it was with the band being blessed with a great sound even in the cavernous venue that doesn’t usually allow the supporting bill to have that luxury. Together with an incendiary light show the band deliver hit after hit to a now almost full arena, albeit resigned to a seating plan which is definitely atypical to the smaller venues that the band usually plays. A hometown show for guitarist Billy Duffy who is undoubtedly the star of the show even with Ian Asbury’s best efforts to engage with as many audience members as he possibly can during the Cults set. The early “Love” era album is ably represented by standards Revolution and Rain before their best-known song of the era She Sells Sanctuary is delivered to an almost ecstatic audience. Even if to my ears it seemed that the band had mixed it up and changed it around. Heavier album Electric was also heavily featured as Billy Duffy whipped out solo after riff for songs like “Wild Flower” and “Love Removal Machine.”
Having witnessed Alice Cooper many times over the years dating back to his commercially successful Trash album -his shows deliver no surprises but a clever combination of theatrics and anthemic songs of everyone’s youth. Alice dispenses with the later songs and there’s no paying homage to his most recent “Detroit Stories” releases. Instead, he delivers I guess exactly what the populace desire. Touching on his commercial anthems of later years with only a slight nod to the past. Good, however, to hear “Bed Of Nails” included again in the set though. Despite the show promising much in terms of shock value-all the props guillotine sword etc have been viewed often.-and as such I feel probably lost much of their original shock value.
With a tight band delivering a setlist of sing-along anthems however that definitely qualifies as entertainment-it was very clear from the smiling thousands of faces that surrounded me as the final notes of “Schools Out” rang out into the Manchester night sky that the elder statesman of shock may have slightly lost the element of spontaneity and impulse-but certainly all the best theatre involves a degree of rehearsal and choreography.