Alice Cooper “Live At The Apollo Theatre, Glasgow 19.02.82” (2020 Record Store Day drop date LP)

For the Record Store Day Drop Date in October of 2020, Rhino Records released a live double-album by Alice Cooper, recorded in Scotland in 1982 during Cooper’s Special Forces tour. Live At The Apollo Theatre, Glasgow 19.02.82 was limited to 7,000 vinyl copies.

The Special Forces Band which backed Cooper for this show included two musicians from his 1981 Special Forces album: guitarist Mike Pinera and bassist Erik Scott. The other three players were blues-rock guitarist John Nitzinger, keyboardist Wayne Cook (who had previously played with Player and Steppenwolf), and drummer Jan Uvena (who went on to play with Alcatrazz).

This concert was performed during a bad and bizarre time in the shock-rock legend’s long career. This show took place several years after the original Alice Cooper band had broken up, and frontman Vincent Furnier effectively became a solo artist named Alice Cooper. The man called Alice continued to achieve commercial success during the remainder of the '70's, thanks to his new Hollywood image and a sappy hit ballad from each album. But his career took a harsh turn when his 1980 album Flush The Fashion failed to ingratiate him with new wave audiences. His subsequent 1981 album Special Forces was a grimy, lifeless junk-metal album on which the shock-rocker came across like a weird, militaristic cartoon character with no discernable appeal. Increasing drug use and a relapse into alcoholism further derailed his career, and Cooper faded into temporary oblivion. As a result, this concert performed at Glasgow’s Apollo Theatre in February of 1982 was one of the last concerts Cooper performed until late 1986. Live At The Apollo Theatre does not quite rehabilitate Cooper’s image from this time period, but it is actually quite good, and is certainly not the freak show – at least on the audio level – that one might expect to come from that time and place.

Thanks largely to his band, Cooper comes off much better on Live At The Apollo Theatre than he did on the subterranean Special Forces. Wisely, this setlist contained only two songs from that album – or three, if you count “Generation Landslide”, which was originally recorded in 1973 by the original Alice Cooper band. Besides that and the conceptual show-opener “Who Do You Think We Are”, the only other Special Forces selection is “7 And 7 Is”, a remake of the Arthur Lee & Love song from 1967 which is often considered to have been the first heavy metal song. Cooper and his band played up the song’s metal properties and avoided its dated psychedelia, resulting in a decent hard-rock rendition which is easily superior to Cooper’s useless studio version.

That same metal edge works just right for other songs chosen from the early-‘70’s days of the original Alice Cooper band. “I’m Eighteen”, “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, “Billion Dollar Babies”, and “Under My Wheels” are all updated well with ‘80’s metal sensibilities. During the 15-minute show-closing rendition of “School’s Out”, Cooper gives momentary spotlights to his supporting players, allowing guitarist Nitzinger to show off some blues-rock licks.

Five other selections come from Cooper’s first two solo albums from the mid-‘70’s, Welcome To My Nightmare (1975) and Alice Cooper Goes To Hell (1976). The results are mixed for this subset of songs. The backing band gives an extra – and much needed – metal edge to “Go To Hell” and “Guilty”, making them better than their studio versions. Unfortunately, the ballads “Only Women Bleed” and “I Never Cry” sound only slightly less sappy in this setting – and that’s because Alice’s portrayal of himself as a troubled alcoholic rings uncomfortably true here.

And four selections came from Flush The Fashion, Cooper’s Cars-like album from 1980, on which he tried to update his shock-rock for the new wave era. Although that album is not awful, as its reputation suggests, it does come across as a failed and phony attempt to jump on a bandwagon. However, the four songs from that album come across surprisingly well here. “Clones” was that album’s memorable hit single, effectively using a chilly and futuristic keyboard sound that fits its sci-fi horror lyrics, and Cooper and company do well replicating it in this setting. “Model Citizen” has a punk rock attitude reminiscent of Cooper's fellow Motor City madman Iggy Pop. “Grim Facts” benefits from the band’s metal edge, and this version of “Pain” is actually somewhat reminiscent of the early Alice Cooper band’s sound.

Live At The Apollo Theatre is mainly recommended for those Cooper fans who feel that his early-'80’s fadeout period is underappreciated. For the rest of us, it does provide a welcome bright spot from this bleak time in Alice’s history.

Alice Cooper “Live At The Apollo Theatre, Glasgow 19.02.82” (Rhino R1 599976/603497850167) 2020

Track Listing:

1. Who Do You Think We Are
2. Model Citizen
3. Go To Hell
4. Guilty
5. I’m Eighteen
6. Cold Ethyl
7. Only Women Bleed
8. No More Mr. Nice Guy
9. Clones (We’re All)
10. Under My Wheels
11. I Never Cry
12. 7 And 7 Is
13. Grim Facts
14. Pain
15. Billion Dollar Babies
16. Generation Landslide
17. School’s Out