From my music journalism archive. This review (with photo gallery) is featured on VintageRock.com.
While wildfires were scorching vast swaths through residential neighborhoods and the countryside in record Southern California temperatures, Pechanga Theater in Temecula was heating up with one of rock’s fiercest acts. Alice Cooper performed a “Paranormal Evening” of classics to the packed venue.
Opening the show with the tachycardic “Brutal Planet,” Alice and his band wowed the audience straight away. A string of radio hits followed, with “No More Mr. Nice Guy, “Under My Wheels,” “Billion Dollar Babies,” and “Be My Lover.”
The current lineup, which has remained constant for the last four years, is the strongest Alice Cooper band ever. Ryan Roxie, Tommy Henriksen, and Nita Strauss are three proficient guitarists and strong singers, intermittently switching lead parts and the spotlight. Strauss, the newest member who joined the group in 2014, is one of the most physical players in the business. She ran and jumped across the stage tirelessly, contorting her body while making her guitar growl. Strauss’ virtuosity became the focus during “Woman of Mass Destruction,” before she sealed the deal with a jaw-dropping solo that segued into “Poison.”
Drummer Glen Sobel performed a solo that clocked in under five minutes, which was enough time to flaunt his dexterity with the drumsticks and show the crowd how hard he can hit ‘em while keeping impeccable time.
A high point of the evening was when the band pulled out all the stops for “Cold Ethyl” from the 1975 album Welcome To My Nightmare. The tongue-in-cheek, guitar-heavy track adrenalized the room as necrophile Alice danced about with his rag doll (to be seen, not written about). Throughout the show, and numerous costume changes, Alice never let up singing, dancing, prancing, pushing, and playing to his adoring audience.
Ryan Roxie, strapping a Gibson SG double neck, played the haunting intro to “Only Women Bleed” as the crowd roared with excitement. Bassist Chuck Garric joined in, providing accompaniment to Roxie and singing background vocals.
The setlist, packed with songs spanning Alice’s 50-year career, was judiciously laid out to satisfy the fans. Predictably, the “Ballad of Dwight Fry” was included, a song that epitomizes Alice Cooper’s straightjacket majesty. The lights, smoke, fireworks, and gore on the Pechanga stage won’t soon be forgotten, as the necessary backdrop of an Alice Cooper concert. Add top notch musicianship and tireless performers — including Sheryl Cooper and Calico Cooper, Alice’s wife and daughter, respectively — and you have the one of the greatest rock shows on Earth.