Alice Cooper, Rob Halford, The Tubes, Brian "Head" Welch, and more Comerica Theatre Saturday, December 17
They don't call it a variety show for nothing. Most of the crowd for last night's Welcome 2 My Pudding, the 11th installment of local restauranteur, golfer, and shock rocker Alice Cooper's long running Christmas Pudding event, was more interested in seeing guys like Kip Winger than Brian "Head" Welch.
But the diverse -- let's call it scattered, even -- lineup, which featured John Corabi (Motely Crue), Bruce Kulick (KISS), Gary Mule Deer, Runaway Phoenix with guitarist Orianthi (who also plays in Alice's band), Kip Winger, and headliners Brian "Head" Welch, The Tubes, Rob Halford, and Alice himself, was united for a cause, Alice Cooper's Solid Rock Foundation.
The charity "ministers" to children through music, dance, art, sports, recreation, and if the word minster doesn't give it away, most of last night's performances has a Christian tinge -- no hallelujahs, but some heavy nods to Jesus and the Big Guy upstairs.
"We have good hearts, even though we're freaking y'all out," said Brian "Head" Welch during his band's set, which was the heaviest of the night. I watched as some of the crowd (which tended toward the gray years) mimicked the jerky, nu-metal headbanging of Welch and friends, and though they were met with nice rounds of applause at the conclusion of each song, the looks on people's faces indicated they liked their metal of a more classic vintage.
Welch did a little preaching, but mostly focused on the rock -- he even performed Korn's "Blind," replicating some of Jonathan Davis' trademark growl, but falling a little shy. He followed it with a line from "Amazing Grace:" "I once was blind, but now I see."
An intermission followed Head's set of "peaceful, pleasant Christmas music," as he joked, and before long Valley favorites The Tubes were on stage. The band plowed through a truncated set, plagued by mixing issues during "She's a Beauty," but finding their footing with "White Punks on Dope" and the band's proggy, new wave-ish "Talk to Ya Later."
The band made the puzzling choice to close on an extended space jam; it would have been better to go out on "Talk to Ya Later," which actually had folks dancing in the aisles (okay, they were just dancers from Solid Rock, but still).
Backed by young bucks from Cooper's band, Rob Halford's short set wasn't lacking for intensity. I saw Judas Priest for the first time earlier this year and was impressed by the strength of Halford's voice even in echoing, murky-sounding Veteran's Memorial Coliseum. In Comerica, it was even more apparent how well his voice has held up.
Thankfully skipping tunes from his Christmas album, Winter Songs, Halford rammed through Priest classics like "Breaking the Law" and "You've Got Another Thing Coming." He joked about being almost neighbors with Cooper in Paradise Valley, and that he was glad to be home while his Priest bandmates "froze back in London."
Finally the time had come for the pudding-guy himself, Alice Cooper. Backed by an excellent band that includes longtime associate Steve Hunter and Orianthi, the Australian guitarist who was slated to be Michael Jackson's guitarist before his untimely death. The band tore through Cooper classics like "No More Mr. Nice Guy," "Under My Wheels," "I'm 18," and "Billion Dollar Babies." Cooper's voice was in good form, and the band was energetic.
He didn't get preachy, save for the kind of tone-deaf message of "Hey Stoopid" ("If you know someone who wants to commit suicide...call 'em stupid, with two Os, and tell 'em Alice sent you."), instead sticking to the rock. The band dug deep for 1971's "Halo of Flies," which was stellar, but bogged down by the long bass/drum solo section. The rest of the band returned for "I'll Bit Your Face Off," from Cooper's latest, Welcome 2 My Nightmare. Cooper was clearly having fun with the new song, which is one of the better offerings found on the disc.
Just after midnight, the band ripped into "School's Out," Cooper signature jam. The audience cheered and danced, and then shuffled for the door. A five hour Christmas variety show, with comedians, jugglers, magicians, and a smorgasbord of heavy acts is a massive undertaking, and though everyone was thoroughly rocked, it was pretty late night if you intended to make it to church in the morning.
Last Night: Alice Cooper's Welcome 2 My Pudding
The Crowd: Mostly 40s and 50s, but plenty of people brought kids, too. It's a strange world when shock rock is family safe.
Random Notebook Dump: "Ha -- "I'm 80." Cooper joked that he would have to change the lyrics to "I'm 18" to reflect his current state soon.
Overheard: "Is that Alice Cooper's son or Jack Black's?" overheard during Runaway Phoenix's set, which featured Dash Cooper on vocals.