Uncertain why Judge Dennis Prince incessantly intoned, "Is it my body?" we decided it best to fit him with a straight-white robe.
While some would like to dismiss the long-standing king of shock-rock as little more than a nostalgic nuisance, the fact is that Alice Cooper has been doing his "sick things," in one fashion or another, for nearly four decades. Beginning with 1969's Pretties for You, Alice Cooper (the band) began delivering the sort of garish delights that thrilled teens while petrifying their parents. "Which one's 'Alice?' I don't see any girls up there," anxious adults would ask. With all the long hair and glam-rock style, those outside the circle nervously wonder whether this band was dangerous, devilish, or just gay. While the socially upright (uptight?) only hoped this mascara-marred nightmare would quickly disappear, legitimate hits such as "I'm Eighteen," "School's Out," and "Elected" solidified Alice Cooper as an entertaining force that would not soon wither away. Over time, skittish adults learned the whole thing was a gag—a put on that involved straight-ahead rock music, deliciously clever lyrics, and a stage "persona" that even the band's front man—that's Alice—would continually refer to in the third person.
"I always treated Alice as a dignified criminal, like Hannibal Lecter," says Cooper. "Lecter would never lower himself to use bad language. Alice was always too much of an elegant gentleman; He wouldn't swear…but he'd slit your throat." (from the press release for Dirty Diamonds)
But fear not, people, because Alice Cooper (the character/man, no longer a band name as of 1975) is here to entertain you, and his stage shows have been touted as still among the best you'll see. Like a roller coaster drop or a spooky excursion on a carnival dark ride, here's your opportunity to enjoy a good old-fashioned thrill, a scare, and a solid performance by a man committed to give you your greasy dollar's worth every time.
Don't be afraid…
If you believe Alice Cooper to washed up and merely trying to wring a bit more money out of a tired act, you'd be sorely mistaken. Cooper has been delivering his unique brand of driving rock and dark theatrics since the beginning and his energy has never wavered. In fact, he's previously been quoted as saying he has more energy now than back when he was constantly swilling Michelobs and ultimately checked himself into a rehab clinic (see From the Inside for a musical dissertation of his experience). Indeed, in this new DVD, Alice Cooper Live at Montreux 2005, the Coop' on stage seems to be energy defined. From start to finish, he belts out song after song in his inimitable style while remaining perpetually active, manipulating all manner of props and predicaments including waving a billion-dollar-bill-laden saber over the audience, hobbling over a well-used aluminum crutch, assembling a creature from stray body parts, and enduring his own fate under the blade of a bloody guillotine. For 93 solid minutes, Alice delivers as he always has, never ever leaving you lamenting to the tune of, "I liked it when he used to do this or that, back in the day," For Alice, today is just like all his yesterdays when it comes to his stage show, and while the act may alter slightly depending upon the latest release being promoted (here, it's the Dirty Diamonds album), the theatrics are always on display. In this case, there's plenty of fetid flotsam strewn about including trash cans, body parts, a coffin, and Cold Ethyl (the inflatable date). The stage set isn't as dark as some (certainly not nearly as foreboding as the superlative Brutal Planet environment) yet it's nonetheless suitable with the extra-high drum riser, the always active lighting rig, the "eyes" scrim, and the animated backlights.
Somehow, Alice and his band gained stage time at the Montreux Jazz Festival (!) and proceeded to entertain the largely enthusiastic international crowd (they who scream, "Ahhl-eeece!" as they beg for more). Garbed in black leather, slicing a black cane through the air, and literally chewing up and spitting out strands of dirty diamonds, Alice performs a full 27 numbers from his catalog of new and well-known hits. Here's what you can expect to hear when you give this wickedly fun disc a spin:
• Department of Youth
As the credits state, this concert was shot in high-definition and what we get here, although it's not HD, is excellent all the same. Anamorphically enhanced for 16x9 displays, the image is sharp and rich with color. Normally problematic for DVD transfers and eventual playback, the frequently vibrant lighting doesn't exhibit the typical sort of macroblocking that often afflicts concert footage. Instead, the light and color variations are rendered smooth and true. The detail level is excellent as well, giving you opportunity to study the lines formed on Alice's face and his hands. Black levels seem just a tad undersaturated but never in a terribly distracting way that would render the image flat. Quite the contrary, the transfer boasts a compelling dimensionality that will surely look stellar when/if this HD-filmed event is transferred to HD media.
There are several audio options to choose from, but it's recommended you go with the default DTS Surround track since it's the beefiest of all. The songtrack absolutely roars here with the center providing Alice's vocals, the front left and right channels providing the screaming guitars and high-end drums, the sub-woofer pounding out the bass guitar and dual-bass drums, and the rear channels providing ambient reverb and crowd noise. It's one of the better-mixed concert tracks to come around and truly offers an in-crowd feeling. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track seems oddly tame as does the PCM alternative. There are no extras, per se, on the DVD but included in the keep case is a concert CD that delivers 19 of the 27 tracks that you can take with you on the road.
All told, Alice Cooper Live at Montreux 2005 is an excellent new release from rock's Prince of Darkness and is practically the next best thing to being at a show. Look to the official Alice web site, though, as the 2006 Dirty Diamonds tour is underway. Most likely, Alice will be invading a venue near you—don't miss it!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
• Concert CD with 19 Tracks
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