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Alice Cooper

Ol’ Black Eyes is back! Despite juggling the demands of a successful restaurant chain, his own celebrity golf classic and building a youth center in his hometown, veteran madhouse-rocker Alice Cooper still finds time to pump out a new album just about every year. And—bonus!—the man still guillotines himself in 200 cities around the globe to boot. This Sunday, America’s own Billion Dollar Baby takes Proctors hostage in support of his latest CD, the electrifying Along Came a Spider (pun clearly intended). Taken from a series of Alice’s short stories, the album documents the depravity and eventual implosion of a lovesick serial killer.

“When I first started writing it I needed a device to deliver the story,” he explains. “I have a great character. He thinks he’s a spider. He wraps his victims in silk. Nice touch. He takes one leg from each victim. That’s nice too . . . except that he has flaws that a true serial killer would never have. He falls in love with one of his victims. He has a religious epiphany. In the middle of his plan he wakes up one day and goes, ‘What if I’m wrong?’ Now you know Hannibal Lecter never did that. . . . I love the fact that the fallibility of the guy makes him human and more introspective.”

As the album progresses, it is this introspection that establishes the psychological backdrop for both the development of his killer’s murderous, sociopathic existentialism and the unexpected twist in the story’s final minutes—a tip of the hat to 1975’s Welcome to My Nightmare.

“There’s this O. Henry type of ending where Spider says, ‘Wait a minute, I couldn’t have done any of this . . . I’ve been in this asylum all these years,’” Alice says. “He’s completely locked away. So what you do then is you leave your audience with the question of whether all of these murders happened in his head—and there are no victims—or there’s another killer. And art should do that. Art should make an audience use their imagination.”

Bob Dylan once said that Alice Cooper was a “very underrated songwriter,” and the singer has always given credit where due when working with hit makers like Bob Ezrin or Roy Thomas Baker. But even with young producers Greg Hampton and Danny Saber (who were probably still in Toughskins when Cooper recorded School’s Out), the music here is some of Alice’s most cogent, with songs like “Catch Me if You Can” and “Wake the Dead” giving his killer a flippant, upbeat demeanor in celebration of the megalomaniacal antihero, much like the material that made him a household name in the 70’s.

“I’ve always been a Detroit rocker, that’s what I do,” he says. “The difference is always going to be in the lyrics and in Alice’s delivery. That’s gonna make it an Alice album. Producers have different styles and tastes they bring to it, but the consistency I think is in Alice’s voice. Greg and Danny grew up on Alice, so it was great to work with guys that referenced my own songs. . . . I don’t mind plagiarizing my own riffs, as long as it’s pretty well disguised and offers something new.”

And as the man who brought theater to rock & roll almost 40 years ago, fans can bet the Coop will also bring a fresh array of blood-spattered routines. To get an idea of what’s in store, think Edgar Allan Poe taking Father Knows Best to Broadway. Wife Sheryl and daughters Calico and Sonora—professional ballet and jazz dancers one and all—choreographed much of the show, playing Chinese assassins, murderous ballerinas and other characters in this chop-shop-on-parade. Like all great Alice productions however, there’ll be a little Groucho Marx tossed in to temper the Freddy Krueger.

“I don’t mind a little vaudeville,” says Alice. “I never thought of myself as being a comedy character, but guys like Jack Benny and George Burns . . . they brought it out in me. When they came to see my show . . . they brought up the point that, yeah, it’s scary but it’s funny. I figured if it was funny to them then let’s capitalize even more on that. Let’s make Alice this horrific guy that would slit your throat—but let’s make sure that he slips on a banana peel once in a while.”

But don’t get the wrong impression. “These shows for some reason are getting more and more intense as we go,” he warns. “The only rule I have is that I’ll never water the music down. If it’s gonna be rock theater, it’s not gonna be with strings. It’s not gonna be directed towards a family from Iowa. If you’re in the first 20 rows, don’t wear anything nice!”

Alice Cooper will be at Proctors Theatre (432 State St., Schenectady) on Sunday (Oct. 26) at 7:30 PM. If you are sitting in the first 20 rows, try not to wear anything white. For more info, visit proctors.org or call 346-6204.

—Bill Ketzer

Prokofiev and His World

The final events of the Bard Music Festival’s Sergey Prokofiev celebration are here. It’s not exactly a coda to the festivities last August, because “coda” doesn’t quite fit the notable program on offer this weekend.

Tomorrow (Friday, Oct. 24) at 8 PM, there will be a performance in the Fisher Center’s Sosnoff Theater by the American Symphony Orchestra of Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5, Waltz Suite and the popular sections from The Love for Three Oranges—you’ll know ’em when you hear ’em. Also, violinist Mira Wang will join the ASO for John Alden Carpenter’s Violin Concerto. Tickets are $25-$55,

Saturday (Oct. 25), there will be a panel discussion in Olin Hall from 10 AM to noon on “art and dictatorship,” a topic sadly central to Prokofiev’s career; this is a free event. At 3 PM, there will be a concert in Olin Hall featuring Bard Conservatory faculty and students performing three works by Prokofiev and two by Stravinsky. Tickets are $25.

2008 Bard Music Festival will conclude this weekend (Oct. 24-25) with concerts and lectures at Bard College (Annandale-on-Hudson). For more info, call (845) 758-7900.


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