In October, 2007, I witnessed the sensory overloading spectacle that was Rob Zombie (January 12, 1965) open for the Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne. Ozzy seemed to be a mere shell of his former self, almost a parody of one of the most significant front men in metal, while Rob Zombie raised the ante and was the new Prince. I wondered how Zombie would fare against the legendary Alice Cooper, the master of macabre, on this the opening night of the Gruesome Twosome Tour.
We sat on the right side, in section 117, in seats 1 and 2, which were directly in line with the front of the stage. Unfortunately, our view of the stage was blocked by speakers stacked on the side. As more and more people sat down near us, I could hear them complain that they thought they had great seats, but in fact, had obstructed views. I left for the Guest Services booth and sure enough, they exchanged our tickets for the other side of section 117, a much better view. Or it would have been a much better view, were it not for the idiots in front of us, obscuring a good bit of our view. I was reluctant to stand up since the people behind me were sitting down, but towards the end of the show,everyone stood.
I was quite surprised to see Alice Cooper as the opening act. I just expected him to be the headliner, but apparently this, the Gruesome Twosome Tour, has each act headlining on alternative nights. Like the last time I saw him, in May of 2006, Cooper began the show two classics, "School's Out" from 1972 and "Department of Youth" from 1975's Welcome To My Nightmare.
The audience were fully engaged in the next song, 1971's "I'm Eighteen," from Love It To Death. Although it was quite apparent that the audience this time around was quite a bit younger than the last time Cooper played here, his best known material was heartily accompanied by the vocal of the 5500 fans.
Despite playing for only 75 minutes, Cooper ran through 21 songs, which included four scenes in which he was killed by guillotine, hanging, skewered with metal spikes, and injected with a massive prop syringe. Cooper (February 4, 1948), did look older but it played well with his creepy stage persona as the original madman of rock 'n' roll.
If you've seen him before, you've seen him do it all, but in this age of faster, heavier, and louder hard rock and metal music, the appeal of an originator who has a catalog of distinctive and instantly recognizable songs is everlasting for longtime rocker like myself. That and the fact that Cooper actually sings his way through a show, makes him stand out and remain quite refreshing to me.
If there's any shock rocker made for today's attention span deficit generation who want it all and want it right now, it's the bludgeoning, relentless Rob Zombie. There is little subtlety in Zombie's music and that was perfectly fine with the screaming hordes of fans who convulsed on the arena floor as one unit, stopping only to hoist the occasional crowd surfer into the air and to the front of the stage. Zombie had noticeably better sound than Cooper and while I was disappointed to not see two big screens high above the stage, Zombie overwhelmed the senses both sonically and visually with gasoline flash bombs and non-stop videos featuring mash ups of black and white footage from cheesy 1950 and 1960 horror films along with original adult animation and Japanese porn anime. Witches, motorcycles and sexy but wicked and scantily dressed buxom women ruled and combated werewolves, vampires and the like. Visually, it was the same smorgasbord of numbing and usually funny, imagery that I saw when he opened for Ozzy, mated to similar sounding riff-heavy industrial metal music.
Twice, Zombie ended up walking right beside, as he made his way both down and later up, an aisle in section 117. He looked every bit like a post-apocalyptic biker: dusty and dirty, as if he were just rescued from a collapsed building. With the beard, he also approximates the Russian mystic, Rasputin.
Zombie's highlights for me included songs like "American Witch," "More Human Than Human," "Superbeast," "Scum Of The Earth" and the popular show closer, "Dragula." I wasn't too keen on "Mars Needs Women."
Zombie made a point of mentioning that they almost didn't make it to Winnipeg as their drummer simply quit on them. Fortunately, Slipknot's Joey Jordison flew in to take over and the crowd ended up singing happy birthday to him. Guitarist John 5, formerly from Marilyn Manson's band, let his fingers fly to display his prowess but his flashy soloing just seemed like a lesser imitation of what Eddie Van Halen pioneered over thirty years ago.
Will Rob Zombie will have career anything approaching the 40-year career that like Alice Cooper has had? While possibly not to far from retirement, Cooper sings and has variety in his music while much of what Zombie played seemed to sound too much alike. A few fans agreed with me that, while Rob Zombie puts on a visceral show, full of non-stop "shock and awe," he seems to be like a one-trick pony with few options to grow, musically. We could be wrong. Rest assured, however, the majority of the fans who showed up were there clearly for Zombie and I would recommend the spectacle for anyone who is even remotely thinking of seeing him. While I might hesitate to see Zombie headline a second time, I would not hesitate to for even a second to snap up tickets to see Alice Cooper headline or open, again.
My rating for this show is 3.5/5
Alice Cooper Set List:
Department of Youth
Wicked Young Man
Ballad of Dwight Fry
Go to Hell
From the Inside
Be My Lover
Only Women Bleed
I Never Cry
Vengeance is Mine
Billion Dollars Babies
I Love the Dead
No More Mr. Nice Guy
Under My Wheels
Rob Zombie Set List:
Call of the Zombie
What Lurks on Channel X?
Living Dead Girl
Let it all Bleed Out
Mars Needs Women
More Human Than Human
House of 1,000 Corpses
Never Gonna Stop (The Red, Red Kroovy)
Werewolf Women of the SS
Scum of the Earth
Thunder Kiss '65
The Lords of Salem