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This past Saturday marked a strange, rare occasion in which fans of shlock-gore-obsessed hard rock were faced with a difficult choice. At Revolution was GWAR, but in Pompano Beach was the grand originator of it all: Alice Cooper. The latter, while stain-free, was still an entertaining, good-time bang for the buck. At an Alice Cooper show, it's not just about the fake blood. Cooper plays music that, while still hard, is instantly recognized and liked by almost any average rock fan.
That was evident in the age spread of the crowd. Although most there were probably teenaged Cooper fans when he first appeared, there were plenty of under-21s as well. There was Cooper-style face paint on audience members of both age groups, male and female. The general feel of the show was thus egalitarian and good-natured (if, occasionally, very beer-drunk and weirdly loud in the bathrooms).
The party-time vibe was set from the get-go, as Cooper opened with, arguably, his biggest hit: "School's Out." The song is such a slice of classic-rock awesomeness that fans in the front rows rushed the barriers at the front and stayed put for the rest of the set. It was fun to see that reaction from a crowd at Pompano Beach Amphitheatre, which can sometimes seem a little staid.
How to follow that? By rip-roaring through a long set of mostly classic-era, crowd-pleasing songs, complete with an array of ghoulish costumes that entertain more than scare. So many new acts confuse "keeping it real" or whatever with being boring, so some full-blown showmanship from a master of it seems refreshing rather than dated.
Luckily, also, over the years Cooper has shed much of the creepy borderline misogyny of his early years. Women aren't getting faux-tortured on racks anymore; instead, in his current incarnation, a fiendish nurse and other assorted characters spend a lot of time torturing Alice instead. Don't worry, though; Cooper hasn't gotten boring. There were chain saws shooting sparks, guillotines, Cooper in a noose, Cooper in a giant spider costume, Cooper in a torture chamber. All of that while the man ably chanted untouchable fist-pumpers like "Eighteen," "Be My Lover," "Vengeance Is Mine," "Welcome to My Nightmare," and, of course, "No More Mr. Nice Guy." That last song remains one of the most fun to sing along to live, ever — and if that weren't enough, Cooper returned for an encore of "School's Out." Yes, again. Above all, he's an unabashed fan pleaser, and bless him for that.