Between the brisk air, costumed fans and groovy ghoulies on stage, Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper's "Halloween Hootenanny" Monday night lived up to the hype.
Even though the costumed masses were evenly split between various Cooper incarnations and characters in Zombie's horror flicks, Zombie was the night's headliner, and he delivered all the whiz-bang stage pyrotechnics and riff-heavy pop-metal his fans could hope for, despite fighting voice issues just a couple days before the Utah gig at West Valley City's Usana Amphitheater.
Zombie's band was led by former Marilyn Manson guitarist John 5, an extraterrestrial freak who combined a theatrical flair with serious chops (including playing the "Star-Spangled Banner" with his teeth at one point). When my eyes weren't focused on the manic Zombie prowling the stage in a one-man mosh-pit spiral, I was looking at John 5. Of course, when Zombie's two-story robot friends joined the band on stage, it was a little hard not to watch them dance to Zombie's remarkably groove-filled brand of metal.
Zombie launched his set with "Jesus Frankenstein" from his Hellbilly Deluxe 2 album released earlier this year, and from that point forward the show was a winning mix of old favorites (the monster riffs of "Living Dead Girl" and "More Human Than Human") and lesser-known new treats like "Mars Needs Women" and "Sick Bubblegum."
When Zombie got to "Thunder Kiss '65," the breakthrough tune for his former band White Zombie, he teased the folks in the mosh pit, accusing them of being "either too young or too old" to appreciate the tune and rage properly during its performance. Naturally, that only amped the audience up to bounce along with the insistent guitar lick introducing the tune.
Among the surprises in Zombie's set were a take on "Pussy Liquor" from his House of 1,000 Corpses movie soundtrack, and a cover of Cooper's "School's Out," which Zombie introduced by saying, "Here's a little something you might have already heard tonight."
That moment was a nice homage to Zombie's theatrical godfather, Cooper. I'll admit to not really being a Cooper fan going into the show. It's not that I dislike his music; most of his signature tunes were simply before my time. I remember watching Cooper on The Muppet Show as a child. Other than that, my only memories of the man recently nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was his '80s hair-metal era and tunes like "Poison." I'd hazard a guess that Cooper die-hards wouldn't consider that his finest moment.
That said, I found myself sucked into Cooper's set Monday, not so much for the expected theatricality (I believe Cooper was "killed" on stage about five different ways during his show), but for the music. Cooper's voice was surprisingly strong and agile through tunes that veered from metal into campy jazz on occasion. Songs like "Billion Dollar Babies," "Feed My Frankenstein" and "Under My Wheels" all hit their mark, and the glittery encore of "I'm Eighteen" was a blast to hear.