Thursday, October 22, 2009

Baby's Brain Old Man's Heart

It was a busy night in San Franfuckingcisco, with Fu Manchu at the Bottom Of The Hill and Weezer (who reside in Umlaut's "I could give 2 shits about" file) playing a secret free show at The Regency. Anyway, the serious Rockers had already stomped over to:

Alice Cooper / Jetboy
The Warfield, San Francisco
October 21, 2009

This was Alice's 1st Bay Area headlining appearance in 7 years; his last time in the area was 2 years ago supporting Heaven And Hell in Concord. Going into the night, I was kind of annoyed and shocked by the number of people whose only reaction was "How old is he??" when I told them I was seeing Alice Cooper. As Timo says, he's ROCK LEGEND Alice Cooper and he should be on everyone's DON'T MISS List. It's not often you can see one of the original Rock Godz, especially one who still has his integrity and talent intact... and you must take advantage of that.

Jetboy were the perfect opener for this show, given their long-running history as a San Francisco band dating back to the 80's. Their solid brand of retro Punk / Glam went over well and, given it was a hometown show, a good percentage of the crowd knew the songs... especially the drunk guy behind us... who shouted slurry approvals at the band before being ejected by security after their set. After the drunk guy was escorted out, a curtain was raised in front of the stage... thus preparing us for the night of Rock Theater (say with an English accent) that was soon to begin:

Nobody knows how to start a show better than Alice Cooper... After the houselights dimmed and the intro tape played, the curtain dropped to reveal Alice and his band on a circus-like stage and they immediately launched into 'School's Out' > 'Department Of Youth' > 'I'm Eighteen'.. WOW. Age doesn't make a difference when it comes to Alice... His shows aren't acts of physical stamina like Iggy Pop, but instead are about theatrical charisma. When you watch Alice you realize what a fucking poser Marilyn Manson and most of the other "shock rockers" are compared to him; he's as much an old school stage actor as he is a Lock 'N Loll front man onstage... and no matter how many times Umlaut sees him it never gets boring... Nobody pulls off this type of Rock showmanship like Alice Cooper and appropriately he's surrounded himself with musicians who complement him perfectly, especially guitarists Damon Johnson and Keri Kelli who both play with that cocky 1970's Arena Rock attitude that's essential to Alice's songs.

This was Rock Theater (say with an English accent) at its best with this show billed and structured as the Theater Of Death. Right off the bat, Alice "murdered" one of his roadies by impaling him on a mic stand, like, 2 or 3 songs into the set! That roadie should call HR and file a complaint... I love how un-PC Alice's performances are.. such as when he sang 'Welcome To My Nightmare' and chased down a zombie bride towards the end of the song... and then sang 'Cold Ethyl' to her corpse. He also "abused" a nurse and then sang 'Only Women Bleed' as she lay at his feet after he had stripped off her uniform and donned her wig and nurse's hat. However, despite the debauchery, there were consequences for Alice, just like in any good morality play. As in proper theater, everything that happened onstage was an act that led into another act and eventually after each "crime" Alice was punished... Punishment was administered by lethal injection:

(Pic by South Bay Bret)

Punishment was administered by guillotine:

(Pic by South Bay Bret)

Punishment also came in the form of being impaled on spikes in a makeshift iron maiden... and punishment was administered by hanging, with the aforementioned abused nurse kicking the bucket out from under Alice's feet:

(Pic by South Bay Bret)

In Alice's world there is darkness and evil, but there's also justice and revenge for his victims. The performance was bookended by the liberating 'School's Out', which both opened the show and also served as the encore. Too high brow? Maybe... Kick ass Lock 'N Loll? COMPLETELY.

The aspect of Alice Cooper that also sets him apart from other "shock rockers" is he has amazing songs! Man, so many great songs... and I dare you to name another Classic Rock song that is as fun to sing along to as 'No More Mr. Nice Guy'.. If I had to choose, 'Ballad Of Dwight Fry' was my favorite of the set (which Alice still sings while bound in a straight jacket), but it's been one of my fave songs since, like, forever so it's kind of a no brainer anyway. Also, what other person Alice's age is singing songs about necrophilia?! I'm just saying...

Flashback: 'Cold Ethyl' educated me about necrophilia when I was around 14-years old.. My best friend at the time (John Lutkenhouse) and I would go into his older brother's room after school (his brother was off serving in the Navy) and we'd listen to his brother's Alice Cooper albums (and also his KISS albums, especially Alive!) over and over. A defining time in Umlaut's worldview... and no one has written a better line than "I've got a baby's brain and a old man's heart"... because I'm perpetually 18... and I like it.

Motörhead shirts = 4 or 5 (including mine). Grown men wearing Alice-style eye makeup: I lost count at 5 or 6. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag. This was easily one of the gigs of the year for me... and after 90 minutes and 27 songs I set the Prius on course for:

Fu Manchu
Bottom Of The Hill, San Francisco
October 21, 2009

Straight from Alice Cooper I jetted across town and walked into the Bottom Of The Hill about 3 or 4 songs into Fu Manchu's set. According to the Umlaut Archives I've seen the band close to 20 times over the past 13 years (!) and whenever I see them it feels like I'm slipping on an old pair of Vans... a comfortable pair of no-nonsense shoes that then to proceed to kick me in the head.. in a good way of course.

After getting a beer I got up to the front and spent the next hour thinking about things as Fu Manchu entertained. It's always interesting pulling a doubleheader gig night, since the vibe of the shows are usually different. While Alice Cooper had the atmosphere of an event, the feeling at the Bottom Of The Hill was one of deja vu for me; been here, done this before... which wasn't a bad thing of course... but at least at The Warfield I didn't have drunk hipster kidz bumping into me and almost spilling my beer.

I was shocked when I remembered that it had been a year and a half since the last time I saw a show at B.O.T.H... which is weird since it used to be THE venue for SO MANY Umlaut shows dating back to 1994. Time flies, man... time flies. Remember when Marilyn Manson played there on his first tour? Or when the Melvins played 2 nights there with Adam of Tool as a guest band member? Me too.

Anyway, I was hearing Fu Manchu's new songs for the first time since their new CD just came out this week... and I have to admit I wasn't really feeling them... but old songs like 'Evil Eye' and 'Mongoose' still remain solid to me... but 'Superbird' was easily my favorite of the set.. "SOLID!" At this point, Fu Manchu are the grizzled veterans who continue to slog it out in the Rock Trenches despite obstacles thrown up in their path, such as a revolving door of record labels and the fickle nature of Music fans... It's cool to see that they're sticking to their guns... and, for the record, I had absolutely no problem with 'Mongoose' being used in a Toyota commercial last year.

Once the set ended I figuratively slipped that old pair of Vans off and I was back here in the 21st Century. Motörhead shirts = 2 (including mine). On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag. Let the record show that this was Umlaut's 4th doubleheader gig night of the year; they're not that hard to pull off if you know what you're doing... and all in all this had been a damn good one.