At 71, Alice Cooper thought maybe he should be slowing down a little.
Instead, he’s in two rock bands (his own plus Hollywood Vampires with Johnny Depp and Aerosmith’s Joe Perry), he made four albums last year and he’s working on two more. Plus there’s the constant touring.
“I’m probably in better shape now than I’ve ever been in my life,” he said. “When we were kids, everyone thought by the time you get to 30 your rock ‘n’ roll career is over. That’s not true anymore. 70 is the new 40.”
Alice Cooper will perform at 8 p.m. Nov. 30 at the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan. Cooper is known for his over-the-top, horror-tinged shows that have included fake blood, snakes, electric chairs and guillotines. He’s kind of a scary guy.
“The idea behind Alice at the very beginning was I thought rock needed a villain. Rock had all heroes and didn’t have any villains. What would Batman be without The Joker?” he said. “So Alice was decidedly, theatrically, going to be rock’s villain. Of course, if you’re going to be a villain, you also have to douse that with a sense of humor and a certain amount of sexuality to it to make it interesting. You can’t just play horror for horror. You always have to play it off of romance or comedy or something like that. The Alice character is a very swashbuckling kind of villain.”
But the Alice Cooper you meet offstage is a regular guy. He’s been married to his wife Sheryl for 43 years and has three kids and three grandkids. He’s never smoked, he’s been sober for 37 years and he goes to church every Sunday no matter what city he’s in.
“There was a time when I was drinking … where I really didn’t know where I began and Alice ended,” he said. “When I got sober, I decided there needed to be two entire different people. I could go out and go to the mall and coach Little League baseball. But at night, when I become Alice, it’s a character I totally become.”
So, it’s no more Mr. Nice Guy when he hits the stage each night.
“An Alice Cooper show is always going to be more than just a rock show,” he said. “This show is sort of like if you went to a carnival and there’s that ride called The Nightmare Castle that you don’t want to go on, but you do anyways. That’s what our show is. Only it’s hard rock all the way — three guitars, bass, drums and myself. We’ve got a monster band. We get onstage and people are knocked over just by the band and then put the show on top of it and it’s a pretty exciting night.”
There will be sets, props, costumes and lighting. It’s choreographed almost to the note and it’s kinetic and always moving, he said.
“Our show is like a giant vaudeville Cirque du Soleil of rock. Anything can happen on this stage,” he said.
His wife Sheryl plays two characters in the show and sings high harmonies.
“She’s a very intricate part of the show and that makes it a lot easier for me to tour because no matter where I go, she’s in both bands,” he said.
The hardest part of creating the show is writing a set list because “you want to make everybody happy,” he said. But he’s got 28 albums under his belt, after all. Audiences will hear all the hits, like “I’m Eighteen,” “School’s Out,” “Welcome to my Nightmare” and “Poison.”
“And then we throw in some songs they’re not expecting and of course, every single song has some sort of theatrical device to it,” he said. “By the end of the night, people are walking out of there going, ‘What just happened?’”
People might think they’re seeing a classic rock show, but that’s not the case.
“It’s anything but that,” he said. “It’s going to be the highest-energy show anybody sees all year. You’re going to see probably the best band you’ve heard all year. And it’s certainly Alice Cooper so every night’s Halloween with us. People walk out of there with confetti all over them and streamers and they’re going, ‘Wow, that was the best party I’ve ever been to.’”
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 30
Where: Genesee Theatre, 203 N. Genesee St., Waukegan
Information: 847-263-6300; www.geneseetheatre.com
Annie Alleman is a freelance reporter for the News-Sun.