A Nightmare [Tour] Like No Other
The night of August 11 isn’t one to escape my memory any time in the near future. As you can likely imagine, a tour with Motionless in White opening for headliners Halestorm and Alice Cooper brought in quite a diverse conglomerate of concert attendees. While the alt scene was immensely outnumbered by middle-aged men donning Harvey Davidson jackets, it wasn’t burdensome to find a home in the chaos of the Bank of New Hampshire Pavillion.
Due to New Hampshire drivers actually obeying speed limits, (BOF is powered by a proud Masshole) we missed Motionless in White’s appearance. But, fellow MIW fans should stay tuned, as we’ll catch them in this marvelous line up in late October.
The sultry Halestorm opener, “Do Not Disturb,” electrified the brisk summer air. Storming the stage in glowing red stilettos, lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Lzzy Hale proved herself as a force to be reckoned with. Her never-faltering confidence was contagious, infecting the venue as she continued into a legendary rendition of the ever-captivating, “Love Bites (So Do I.)”
Percussionist Arejay Hale took complete possession of my focus the second that the “Love Bites” chorus hit, for two reasons. The first was the magic of witnessing someone doing what they truly treasure. His love for his art was palpable throughout the eventide and he had the skill to match his evident passion. The second, his striking ensemble consisting of a neon green patterned suit, matching tie and alien mask.
An intense communion, “Amen,” rallied the crowd. Lzzy’s cries of, “Can I get an Amen?” were answered in a thunderous echo.
Anyone who dared question Lzzy’s godlike ability to maintain vocal control was silenced as she carried to life the tantalizing lyrics, “I breathe you in again just to feel you underneath my skin, holding onto the sweet escape is always laced with a familiar taste of poison.”
After sailing through “Black Vultures” and “I Get Off,” was a well received drum solo, courtesy of Arejay, which featured stair-railing sized drumsticks. Lzzy’s younger brother flaunted his capacity to not take himself too seriously, laughing as he failed to catch his drumstick after throwing it in the air three separate times. This was the point at which I started to notice his wardrobe changes; he had been subtly stripping off layer after layer throughout the set. Now clad only in a white tank top and green slacks, his solo was equal parts humanizing and inspiring.
We now reach the only installment of Halestorm’s set that vexed me. Before cascading into “Freak Like Me,” Lzzy halted to pay tribute to Alice Cooper in manner that left my mouth tainted with the taste of internalized misogyny. The front woman proudly retold, “When I was 11, I brought an Alice Cooper CD to a slumber party […] It was then that I knew, I wasn’t like the other girls.” Answer me this Lzzy, how? What makes you exponentially different from other girls? Liking a very popular album at the time? It just read as a cheap dig at girls who enjoy more mainstream music in an attempt to further transform them into 2D objects, vanity projects. The music industry is already crawling with sexism and the last thing we need is female artists carelessly lighting matches in a field pre-coated with gasoline rather than bestowing an affinity for the effeminate.
Nevertheless, my spirits were instantaneously lifted as the first notes of “Chemicals” encompassed me. Though the lyrics are rather cliché, the message of the anthem was well received on my end, as someone who has dealt with the onerous effects of unbalanced brain chemicals my entire life.
“Uncomfortable” and “Killing Ourselves” kept the same exhilarating atmosphere afloat, but nothing could have prepared me for their powerhouse of a closer, the Halestorm staple, “I Miss The Misery.” My voice was adopted by the heated chorus of those around me, harnessing this power to alleviate some of my own lingering feelings surrounding conflicts with complicated past lovers.
Being rather unacquainted with Alice Cooper’s discography, thoughts of possible boredom crossed my mind in the time leading up to the show. I could not have been more amiss.
Theatrical isn’t even close to a compelling enough term to describe the enrapturing sight before me. I can’t begin to fathom the group’s production budget, the stage a consummate reflection of Cooper’s Nightmare Castle. The set launched with “Feed My Frankenstein.”
From the moment the lights arose, my concert companion grabbed my arm and directed my focus to the indomitable powerhouse that is Nina Stratuss. Replacing Orianthi as Alice Cooper’s touring guitarist in June 2014, it was unquestionable that Stratuss is doing what she was quintessentially destined to and loving every minute of it, as was I.
Alice Cooper’s set list is a bit precarious to confidently recollect; blame either my vice of choice or my lack of familiarity with the band. But, the galvanizing experience of hearing “I’m Eighteen” live is vividly set in my memory, especially since recently turning eighteen myself. I found myself identifying with the song’s theme of directionless-ness and not knowing what you want but yearning for a change, nonetheless. Percussionist Glen Sobel delivered, clearly sustained by the crowd’s vivacity.
“Billion Dollar Babies” preceded the band’s greatest hit, “Poison.” The entire pavilion chanted in tune with the heart wrenching, ever-relatable track. Who can’t orient themselves to the feeling of falling for someone you know will only engender pain? Rhythm guitarist Tommy Henrikson was in his element as the intensity skyrocketed.
That ardent energy never wavered as Stratuss went on to command the stage solo, unaccompanied by her five bandmates. The seasoned guitarist executed riff after flawless riff with a sly smile bearing her lips, fully aware of the hold she had over the stadium.
Picture this. A 15-foot-tall inflatable baby, accompanied by two smaller bobble headed babies, a black carriage, and Alice Cooper himself attempting to stab the contents of aforementioned stroller to death, only to be stopped at the last second by his own daughter, Calico Cooper, dressed as a Tim Burton-esque nurse. Yep. That was the scene all throughout “Dead Babies,” verging into “I Love The Dead,” in which Cooper turned control of the vocals over to Stratuss, Henricksen, Roxie, and Garric.
While his performance abilities would never reveal his 71 years of age, Cooper’s choice to perform in a straitjacket and act as a violently mentally ill character during “I Love The Dead,” did. This artistic choice, complete with omnipresent catatonic movements, was questionable and insensitive at best, and was completely unnecessary to keep fans engaged; coming off as a poor jab at the already over-stigmatized mentally ill community.
“Teenage Frankenstein” was penultimate to the encore. Veteran Bassist Chuck Garric delivered the defining, adrenaline-boosting bassline backing the chorus, “I’m a teenage Frankenstein, the local freak with the twisted mind//I’m a teenage Frankenstein, these ain’t my hands and these legs ain’t mine.” It’s humorous that despite penning two songs about Frankenstein, Cooper didn’t note that Frankenstein is the doctor, not the monster, but I digress. ‘Stein’ is easy to rhyme, I guess.
After deafening applause and cries for continuation, the band regrouped to perform “Under my Wheels,” but the real killer was the true closer, School’s Out. Joining Alice Cooper and his band were Lzzy Hale and Joe Hottinger from Halestorm, along with Chris Motionless from MIW. Seeing Lzzy and Stratuss share a standing mic was enough to leave me begging for a future collaboration between the pair.
While it seems inharmonious to characterize an emo metal-core frontman “adorable,” I can’t call to mind a more fitting term for Chris Motionless as he performed alongside his hero, joining the procession onstage in his increasingly iconic oversized black and white knit striped sweater.
As the song was nearing its final chorus, Alice Cooper unearthed a sword from god-knows-where and handed it off to Chris, allowing him to violently pop the balloons falling in tandem with confetti from above their heads.
The collective aura was hallucinatory. The pure ecstasy of the three groups on stage was more than matched by the crowd and I myself was joyously singing and dancing in the pandemonium, reminded of why I chose the path I did and why I spend far too much money from my minimum wage jobs on nights like these. Halestorm and Alice Cooper were absolutely mesmerizing live and put their studio recordings to shame.