By MIKE CHAIKEN
If you were a fan of rock music, not just “rock ‘n’ roll,” country rock, alternative rock, goth rock, or (insert genre here) rock, Alice Cooper and opening act Edgar Winter at the Mohegan Sun on March 8 was the place to be.
Rock, plain and simple, you see, was that zeitgeist moment when old time rock ‘n’ roll transformed into a creative art form for musical exploration that still maintained its dimensions of youthful rebellion. And the artists still managed to sell oodles of records while pushing boundaries. The moment eventually died down when major corporations took over and turned rock into just another product.
Both Winter and Cooper were part of this movement when rock musicians decided to do it their own way.
Cooper turned rock into a spectacle with a theatrical approach that few artists before him had attempted. He also cranked up the guitar amps to ear shattering levels that annoyed respectable folks and thrilled the kids. All the while, he (as a member of the original Alice Cooper group and as a solo artist) dreamt up some of the catchiest hit singles of that era.
Winter took the roots of rock and roll—the blues and jazz motifs that were simplified by the original architects—and grafted them back on to the music. He showed that rockers could jam just like the blues guys and the jazz-boes. He also explored the new technology of the day, such as synthesizers, and showed that they too had soul.
Rock as it once is no longer in ascendance. But, Cooper and Winter demonstrated that they still are on top of the rock game.
Cooper easily could have whipped out the hits— and the hits alone— for his 90-plus minute set. And he did bring the gold— “I’m Eighteen,” “Billion Dollar Babies,” “Only Women Bleed,” “Under My Wheels,” “School’s Out,” “Poison,” and so on.
But he also had enough confidence in the deep tracks that he brought out more obscure but still hard-hitting numbers like “Brutal Planet,” “Lost in America” “Woman of Mass Distraction,” “Jar of Flies,” “Cold Ethyl,” and “Serious.” All the tracks demonstrated his rocker credentials and fit snugly in there amongst the hits.
Vocally, Cooper was in top form. And his band is so incredibly tight. I wouldn’t say they were polished. That would undermine their rock sleaze credibility. But it was clear they were all serious musicians with serious chops. They know how to rock. They were also great show masters who helped Cooper put on a fantastic show.
Alice Cooper and “showmanship” go hand-in-hand. Cooper has been long known for his theatrical approach to a rock concert. And the show at the Mohegan Sun did not disappoint. He brought out all his well-known props such as the guillotine and strait jacket… and he didn’t forget to feed his Frankenstein
It was all part of the Alice Cooper ritual. And the fans ate it up.
Winter took another approach in his 45 minute or so set. Rather than go deep, he went long. His set only featured five tracks. But he spun them out with expertly spun jams. Most notably, his version of “Tobacco Road,” took the basic blues track he recorded with his brother, the late guitarist Johnny Winter, and jammed with his band to give it instrumental fire power. One of the highlights of his set came during “Tobacco Road” when Winter challenged the musical skills of his band by expertly scatting out a melody and then pulled back as he watched them try to keep up. The other four tracks in his set were also like a slice in time of the best in classic rock radio— “Free Ride,” “Frankenstein,” “Jumping’ Jack Flash, “and “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo.” They all demonstrated Winter deserves his slots in the annals of rock history.
In these days of autotuned vocals and instrument tracks tweaked to death on Pro Tools, Alice Cooper and Edgar Winter still wave the rock flag high and with pride.
I give Alice Cooper and Edgar Winter at the Mohegan Sun four out of four stars.