‘Paranormal’ is only life for Alice Cooper


Photo by Rob Fenn

Alice Cooper.

Alice Cooper will perform Oct. 20 at KSHE 95’s “Paranormal Evening with Alice Cooper” at the Stifel Theatre (formerly Peabody Opera House), 1400 Market St. Tickets start at $29.75. Photo by Rob Fenn. 

By Dave Gil de Rubio
For the Call

Alice Cooper is 70 years old. And while there are those who may cling to the idea that it’s better to burn out than to fade away, the man born Vincent Damon Furnier has no intention of doing just that.

He’s just released a live album, “A Paranormal Evening at the Olympia Paris,” and is out on the road regaling his fan base with a combination of theatricality and hard rocking music that set the tone for everyone from David Bowie to Guns N’ Roses. The double-CD set features plenty of classics including “Under My Wheels,” “Billion Dollar Babies,” “I’m Eighteen,” “Only Women Bleed” and “School’s Out” all delivered by Cooper’s current band that includes guitarist Nita Strauss and drummer Glen Sobel. It’s quite a different experience from when Cooper released his first live album in the late 1970s.

“I’m very critical about how we sound on stage,” Cooper said. “I’ve had so many different bands and everybody is sort of hand-picked. I’m always really nervous about live albums. This one kills me, it’s so good. I listened to the whole thing with my mouth open going, ‘Wow.’ … And the energy on it is like the show….

“I hate our first live album, the one from Vegas (1977’s ‘The Alice Cooper Show’). It was a very bad time,” he said. “It was the end of that tour and I was really ready to go into the hospital with alcoholism. It was a really dark place for me. That band on that first album was amazing because I had Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner. It was just the time period and I don’t think my performance in it was any good. I was tired after two years of touring.”

Clean and sober for roughly four decades, Cooper has shown no signs of slowing down, most recently playing the part of King Herod in NBC’s live performance of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” that aired on Easter Sunday.

It was a part he was delighted to play and customize, particularly after chatting about it with longtime friend and the musical’s lyricist Tim Rice.

“I’ve known Tim Rice for a long time and he said that he wanted to redo the original cast album and redo the Herod song especially. He said that he needed me to give it more venom. He thought it needed the Herod character to be more dangerous. Because in the Bible he was one of the worst guys ever,” Cooper explained. “But they always played him as sort of a roly-poly idiot. I said that we should play him like Alan Rickman and make him really stink of arrogance, be condescending and so self-absorbed that he’ll think this whole musical is about him. Right before the show during rehearsal, (Tim) said as close as it is to a rock concert, the better it’s going to be. To me, I was the only one up there that this felt very natural to. I had the song, the lyrics and the stage and I do this every night. It was just a different song with a different prop, that’s all.”

As someone whose earliest musical memory can be traced to an uncle who owned an illegal pool hall in Detroit and turned a six-year-old Furnier onto rock and roll by way of a Chuck Berry 45 of “School Days,” hearing the Beatles proved to be the tipping point for Cooper becoming an entertainer.

“I was basically painting a house in the summer of 1963 or 1964. The radio was always on Top 40… The Beach Boys and the Four Seasons,” he recalled. “All of a sudden I heard ‘She Loves You’ by the Beatles and I stopped in my tracks and said, ‘What was that?’ I’d never heard of the Beatles. I had no idea that they had long hair or they were from England. All I knew was that this song was really exciting. And then about an hour later, I heard ‘Please, Please Me’… I couldn’t understand what the hell was going on, and I wanted to know who these guys were.

“Then I saw a picture of them and saw the reaction to them and I immediately knew I had to do this,” Cooper said. “I found guys at Cortez High School — my best friends in fact — all on the track and cross country team. That summer, one learned to play bass, one learned to play drums and I started to be the singer. By the next year, we were doing parties… never expecting to get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”