Few people can flip through their rock 'n roll rolodex and put together a show quite as well as Valley legend Alice Cooper. After all, Cooper is the king of shock rock, and he paved the way for a legion of acts trying to get a rise out of mothers around the world.
This year Alice recruited Vince Neil of Motley Crue, Stephen Pearcy of Ratt, Joan Jett, a make-up-less Kiss and more for the 13th annual Christmas Pudding at Comerica Theatre, benefiting his Solid Rock Foundation. Coop knows that when school's out the kids need something to do to keep them out of trouble, and this year he may have served his tastiest pudding to date.
Cooper recruited Minnesota hair-metal cover band Hairball to back himself and most of the other performers for a night of '70s and '80s classics. Hairball started the night out with a fun mini-set of '80s hair metal covers that featured David Lee Roth, Dee Snider, and Brian Johnson look-alikes that set the tone for a great night of fun.
Female rock icon Joan Jett may have been the odd lady out in a aquanet-infused line-up, but as always she showed the boys how it's done with a much-too-short three-song set that included "I Hate Myself for Loving You" and the only new song showcased throughout the evening's second helping, "Any Weather," before closing with "Crimson and Clover." Her set should have been longer, and she should have gone on later in the show.
Kip Winger was surprisingly well-receieved with his track "Madalaine" before being joined by Metalhead and Warrant singer Robert Mason for the most inappropriate song of the night, "Seventeen"--it seems that everyone has forgotten about Metallica and Beavis and Butthead making fun of him.
Stephen Pearcy did his best to "Lay It Down" before closing with "Round and Round." One of the unexpected highlights of the night was the three-song set by Cinderella frontman Tom Keifer, featuring great renditions of "Somebody Save Me," "Gypsy Road," and "Shake Me." Vince Neil followed with some of the Crue's biggest hits, starting with "Kickstart My Heart," the grimy "Wild Side," and "Girls, Girls, Girls," with Pearcy, Mason, and Winger joining him.
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Not to be outdone by the cast of former spandex-wearing lead singers, Alice Cooper got down to business himself with "No More Mr. Nice Guy." The recent Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame inductee blasted through "I'm Eighteen," and while Hairball served as a great backing band it still made no sense that Cooper didn't include his fantastic touring band. "Pretty soon it's gonna be 'I'm 80,'" Cooper joked after the song.
There's no doubt that this is a family show, but it also restricts all of the theatrics that fans get to see at non-Pudding stops. "Break on Through (To the Other Side)" served as a great tribute to his "dead drunk friend" Jim Morrison of The Doors.
Cooper's set ended with a rocking version of "School's Out" that also featured a mash-up of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2."
Fellow theatrical legends Kiss capped off the night without any make-up or theatrics with opening number "Shout It Out Loud." Paul Stanley worked the crowd as if he were in full spaceman garb. Gene Simmons just looks plain scary with or without make-up, and he stomped around the stage putting his finger in his nose and making faces at fans trying to take photos.
They dove back into their first record with "Deuce" but also visited their '80s catalog with "Lick it Up." They called the good doctor with the Simmon's staple "Dr. Love." The night came to an end with a finale of "Rock and Roll All Nite" with all of the evenings vocalist joining the band except for Joan Jett.
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Critics Notebook: What: Alice Cooper's Christmas Pudding at Comerica Theatre. Personal Bias: I've been watching Alice shows since I was 9 years old, I like him more the older I get. Overheard: While Hairball played Van Halen's "Panama" a lady asked the guy she was with "Is this Kiss?" The crowd: 40-plus types and some kids.