Review & Photos by Fred Kuhlman
Promoter: Live Nation
Venue: AK-Chin Pavilion
Date: Tuesday August 15, 2017
Two Classic Rock Icons, Alice Cooper and Deep Purple descended on the Valley of the Sun for an outstanding night of rock music at the AK-Chin Pavilion. These 2 groups both flourished in the early 70s, but their styles could not be more different. Alice Cooper is known for their outlandish stage show, while Deep Purple is known for their hard driving sound and as one of the founding influences of heavy metal.
Being a child of the 60s, I was first introduced to Alice Cooper when they performed on Don Kirchner’s In Concert in late 1972. I had seen a number of rock concerts and shows by then, but I was not prepared for the visual onslaught that Alice Cooper brought to the stage. I was mesmerized and hooked. In 1973 I moved to Phoenix to attend college. and finally, in 1979 I saw Alice Cooper in Tucson where he performed the “Madhouse Rock” tour. Who couldn’t love that show with the dancing booze bottles and the spiders dancing around on the stage.
It has been 38 years since I saw that show and Alice did not have as elaborate a stage show, but it is still fantastic. The show starts with Alice coming out in his head to toe silver cape as the band plays “Brutal Planet”. Alice removes the cape and starts singing as a curtain of pyrotechnic sparks fall behind him. They then move on to “No More Mr. Nice Guy”. Alice is constantly moving around the stage singing and pointing at the audience with his cane. To end the starting salvo of songs, they go into “Under My Wheels”. At the end of the song, Alice turns around to display the back of the leather vest he has been wearing and it has a skull in the middle with “Alice Cooper” across the top and “No More Mr. Nice Guy” across the bottom. Alice changes costumes multiple times, sporting a bloody lab coat, leather vest and top hat, and his personalize Diamondbacks jersey with his and honorary number, 18.
The real theatrics started when they played “Feed My Frankenstein”. Alice comes out in a white lab coat covered in blood. As he was singing, two costumed stage hands brought out a giant electrode table. Alice was put into the device and they “turned on the power”. Spark flew and smoke billowed out around the device. Finally, Frankenstein’s monster entered the stage through the smoke. He moved around the stage as the band continued to play and left the stage as the song completed. Next Alice came back on stage and this time he pulled a female dummy out of a box on the stage. The band started to play “Cold Ethyl” as Alice danced around on stage with the dummy and sang. Later Alice pulled a knife and stabbed the dummy in the heart, which caused the band to move into the song “Killer”. At this time 2 stage people dressed as executioners come out and grabbed Alice and put him into the guillotine that they had brought on stage. When the song ends, they dropped the blade and cut off Alice’s head. One of the stage people grabbed the head and shows it to the crowd as the band played “I Love The Dead”. To end the main set, Alice came back on stage and they played “I’m Eighteen”. For an encore, they came out and played probably everyone favorite song, “School’s Out”. I remember hearing this in the fall of 1972 and it became my high school’s unofficial graduation song.
I am really sorry that I missed so many great Alice Cooper tours over the years. They truly are a sight to see and hear. They rival shows I have seen in Las Vegas and few bands even come close to the stage production. Alice is still in fantastic form and the band that he has pulled together for this tour is top notch. He now has 3 guitarists, a bass player and drummer performing with him. About the only thing different from older shows is that he only had 1 dancer this time. Of the 3 guitarists, Nita Strauss stole the spotlight. She is not only an extremely talented guitarist, but adds a level of showmanship whenever she did a solo. This is not to diminish the performances by both Ryan Roxie and Tommy Henriksen as they laid down blazing riffs and smooth rhythms. All 3 guitarists traded off solos and backed each other up beautifully. They were a well-oiled machine. The body and soul for the music was provided by bassist Chuck Garric and drummer Glen Sobel. Chuck danced around on the stage and interacted with the audience. Glen was constantly throwing his drum sticks into the air and catching them and did not seem to miss a beat. Together, the band provides the power and punch for each of the songs as Alice struts around the stage.
Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2017
Growing up in the 60s, we had AM radio and the rock stations usually only played the “Top 40” songs of the day. In reality, it was more like the top 10 to 15 songs with 1 other song thrown in every once in a while. After a while you got tired of hearing the same Beatles or Rolling Stones song over and over. In the late 60’s I discovered FM radio. These were initially low budget and power operations so their transmission distance was very limited. The one real advantage FM had was they could transmit in stereo while AM radio as only mono. Also if you could pick up the FM station, it was usually clearer then AM stations. Since they didn’t seem beholden to advertisers or the record industry the way AM radio was, they played longer tracks and sometimes even entire albums. It was the only way that you could hear lesser known artists and longer songs. In the early 60s, the mainstay of the record industry was “45 singles” with the main hit on the “A Side” and some other song from the band on the “B Side”. About the mid to late 60s it became more fashionable for young people to buy albums. It was through the FM stations out of Detroit, Michigan that I first heard Deep Purple. First with their release of Fireball in 1971 and followed up by their mega hit Machine Head in 1972. The problem was most of their songs were too long for AM radio (over 4 minutes) so they were stuck for the most part on FM stations. By the early 70s automobiles were finally getting AM/FM radios as a standard feature. This allowed more non-top 40s music to be heard. Deep Purple became a real power house in 1972/1973 with their release of the live double album, Made In Japan. I played this album so much that I wore it out and had to buy it again. With Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple laid down the groundworks for the heavy metal revolution. The other strange thing about Deep Purple is the numerous lineup changes they have had over their 50-year history. I believe that it is the only band known by “Mark X” indicating the band lineup. To date they are on Mark 10 for this tour.
I first saw Deep Purple back in 1974 at Big Surf in Tempe Arizona. I remember that I was amazed at the keyboard work of Jon Lord, Ritchie Blackmore was outstanding on guitar and David Coverdale voice was electrifying. The other thing I remember from that show was the massive dust kicked up by everyone leaving the parking area and me getting sick with valley fever (a local desert mold). Fast forward to 2017 and I finally got the chance to see them again. Of the 1973 band (Mark 3), only the drummer, Ian Paice was remaining. The other members of the current band, Mark 10 lineup consists of Roger Glover on bass, Ian Gillan on lead vocals, both from Mark 2 (1969-1973) and guitarist Steve Morse from the Mark 9 band (1994). With the passing of the great keyboardist Jon Lord, the band has added a new keyboardist, Don Airey. Some people might complain that this isn’t the real Deep Purple, but 3 of the members have been with the band from almost the very start, Ian Paice (founding member) and Ian Gillan and Roger Glover 1 year later.
Unlike Alice Cooper, Deep Purple does not use stage theatric to mesmerize their audience. They just play heart pounding music. From the very start of the set, they came out blazing with “Highway Star”. Moving on to “Fireball” and then “Strange Kind of Woman”. It is true that Ian Gillan cannot hit the extreme high notes that he was famous for in his younger days, but his voice was still as powerful as ever. Unlike a lot of bands from the 60s and 70s, Deep Purple is still creating new music. For tonight’s show that played 2 songs, “The Surprising” and “Time for Bedlam” from their latest album InFinite. But the crowd was there to hear the classic rock songs that put Deep Purple in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame (finally, it only took 30 years!). The band did not disappoint. They started their set with “Highway Star” and ended with “Space Truckin’” and “Smoke on the Water”. The opening riff of “Smoke On The Water” is one of the most iconic riffs of rock music. Almost anyone that picks up a guitar and wants to play rock music has at some time learned it. They ended the show with a 2 song encore. The last song of the night was their first hit, “Hush”.
If you are looking to see a concert where the band plays short 3 to 4 minute songs, then Deep Purple is not your band. But if you truly want to hear some great music, outstanding riffs played by amazing musicians, then you cannot go wrong checking them out. For true metalheads, this is a must-see band.
Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2017
Alice Cooper’s Setlist: (Album)
Brutal Planet (Brutal Planet)
No More Mr. Nice Guy (Billion Dollar Babies)
Under My Wheels (Killer)
Billion Dollar Babies (Billion Dollar Babies)
Paranoiac Personality (Paranormal)
Woman of Mass Distraction (Dirty Diamonds)
Halo of Flies (Killer)
Feed My Frankenstein (Hey Stoopid)
Cold Ethyl (Welcome to My Nightmare)
Only Women Bleed (Welcome to My Nightmare)
I Love the Dead (Billion Dollar Babies)
I’m Eighteen (Love It to Death)
School’s Out (School’s Out)
Deep Purple’s Setlist: (Album)
Highway Star (Machine Head)
Strange Kind of Woman (Non-Album, Single)
Uncommon Man (Now What?!)
Lazy (Machine Head)
The Surprising (InFinite)
Perfect Strangers (Perfect Strangers)
Space Truckin’ (Machine Head)
Smoke on the Water (Machine Head)
Time for Bedlam (InFinite)
Hush (Shades of Deep Purple)