Words By: Gerrod Harris
While promoting the release of their most recent album, Infinite, progressive rock pioneers Deep Purple have embarked on their Long Goodbye Tour. In what is likely the strangest lineup of the summer they have enlisted blues rockers the Edgar Winter’s Band and none other than shock rock icon, Super Duper Alice Cooper. The co-headlining tour hit up Toronto’s Budweiser Stage on September 2nd for a night of thrills and classic rock nostalgia.
Taking the stage early was the Edgar’s Winter’s Band. Surprisingly, considering how early into the night it was, the venue was already packed as Winter’s lead his groove heavy band of musicians through a string of hits. While Winter’s has been playing these songs all his life, the band and him truly made each song their own experience by performing with a strong sense of improvisation. To close their set, the band jammed on Rick Derringer’s “Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo” before launching into Winter’s 1973 hit, “Frankenstein”, which incorporated an even bigger jam where Winter strutted around stage with a keyboard hanging from his neck, took an incredible sax solo, and jumped on a set of toms and traded solos with the drummer. Winter put on an excellent opening set that left the venue eager for what was to come.
Emerging from a falling curtain with an illustration of his eyes, Alice Cooper and his all-star band delivered a show that will not soon be forgotten. Opening with “Brutal Planet”, Cooper’s set was a nonstop furry of sound that sounded and felt incredibly driven, as if he was intentionally trying to upstage Deep Purple. Intentional or not, it worked. The band is currently promoting their recent release Paranormal, but only performed “Paranoiac Personality” from the record. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen Cooper, being at one of his shows is like being a kid at your first ever magic show; to see him disappear and reappear as a fifteen foot tall Frankenstein at the end of “Feed My Frankenstein” and his decapitation via gulitien towards the end of the set is not only a live highlight, but a reminder that no one else puts on a concert like Alice Cooper. Cooper proves, even at the age of sixty-nine, to be one of rock’s most charismatic frontmen as he struts across the stage, twirling a cane and swinging a sword while leading his band through the twists and turns of stage show thriller. Spectacles aside, Cooper’s band truly is one of the best as it features a collective of some of rock’s strongest up-and-coming legends. Hurricane Nita Strauss truly lives up to her title as she is was simply an incredibly clean and precise flurry of shredding solos. Similarly, drummer Glen Sobel took one of the best drum solos I’ve seen at a rock show with enough stick twirling and tossing to make even Tommy Lee jealous. The band plowed through a string of hits including “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, “Under My Wheels”, and “Billion Dollar Babies”. To conclude their set, the band when into an explosive performance of “I’m Eighteen” followed by an extended version of “School’s Out” that featured a number of killer solos and a segment from Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall”. Alice Cooper puts on a show of legendary proportions and is certainly a tough act for anyone to follow. His stage show is like none other and the musician ship from him and his band is simply incredible, making an Alice Cooper concert one that will top anyone’s best concert list.
Unfortunately, it was clear as they dove into their opening song, “Highway Star” that Deep Purple would not capture a sense of energy that Cooper left the stage with. Their show definitely felt like more of a farewell tour than one that promotes their recent release as their set consisted only of their hits with the exception of “Time For Bedlam”, the lead single off of Infinite. While each member of Deep Purple are excellent musicians who have engaged in an incredibly influential career as pioneers to both hard rock and progressive rock, their set felt devoid of energy as if they were simply going through the motions. Keyboardist Don Airey shined the brightest as every few songs seemed to kick off with an organ or synth intro and he was also the only member of the band to take an extended solo where he combined jazz noodling with classical melodies and the Canadian National anthem. What largely contributed to the lack of excitement was the fact that vocalist Ian Gillan’s mic seemed muffled, giving the impression that he was much farther from the mic than he actually was. Their set picked up towards the end with their performance of some of their biggest hits, “Space Truckin’”, “Hush”, and the quintessential show closer “Smoke On The Water”. I saw Deep Purple last summer, and I am willing to write this show off as an off night from the band as their concerts tend to exemplify just as to why the band have enjoyed such an outstanding career.
All in all, while Deep Purple failed to capture a sense of excitement, an Alice Cooper concert is always more than worth catching! If you have yet to see him perform, then you should absolutely make a point to do so as his concerts are bucket list worthy. Perhaps Deep Purple would have fared better if they opened for Cooper, allowing for the show to gradually build up in excitement rather than spike in the second act. Regardless, Alice Cooper and co put on a show that will certainly never be forgotten and is reminder as to his legendary status while still pushing the boundaries of performance.