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The eve of 'All hallows eve' and a highly excitable crowd gather outside the Manchester Apollo, a considerably large number in fancy dress I might add. One couple dressed as a she-devil and Alice Cooper, complete with snake and disfigured baby doll with red glowing eyes, are determined to enter into the spirit of the occasion and stand and chat as if it's the most normal of attire, which, at an Alice Cooper show, it probably is!

The night started just after 7.30 to the sound of an operatic intro tape as the New York Dolls took to the stage. The two surviving members, Sylvain Sylvain, looking like a pillar-box pimp in red leather cap and matching leather attire, and David Johansen, looking pretty in pink shirt, stick thin and Jagger swagger, adopted a laid back confidence that only 40 years in the business could produce.
From the opening number, 'Looking for a kiss', it was plain that Johansen’s voice, one would expect from years of over indulgence, had been reduced to a low, bluesy rasp but was, none the less, rich and a perfect vehicle for the Dolls mix of high powered blues and thrashy rock 'n' roll.
The current line up
consisting of a rock solid drummer and a truly excellent bassist who looked like a cross between Joe Strummer and Johnny Bravo, providing a much tighter unit than one would expect from the bands past reputation.
One time Bowie sidekick, Earl Slick, completing the group, but somewhat underused and very low in the mix for a man of his talents, but still adding his credibility, confidence and considerable experience to the proceedings.
The Dolls played an absolutely faultless set of old and new songs with their usual smattering of covers, including Bo Diddley's 'Pills', featuring some great harmonica work from Johansen, and finally finishing to rapturous applause with 'Jet boy'.
A well deserved encore of 'Personality crises' that left the audience in a much higher state of excitement than many modern bands could have mustered, and the set, only just shy of an hour, remained fresh and full of controlled energy throughout.
Thirty odd years ago I was never much of a Dolls fan, I am now and would love to see the new New York Dolls in a smaller, more intimate venue.
And so behind the front 'Night of Fear' curtain, the stage was being set for the main act.  The lights dimmed as the familiar sound of Vincent Price began his introduction, recounting his love and admiration to, 'The Black Widow'. The curtain fell away revealing the five piece band standing still, as if waiting for the spider’s venom to take effect, in front of a tattered back drop of sack cloth and props.

Alice, high up on a metal pulpit and dressed in his eight armed black widow suit, began his sermon, preaching to the already converted throng. The band, featuring three guitarists, one girl, one boy and long time collaborator and ex Lou Reed six stringer, Steve Hunter, were complimented by a young, virulent rhythm section, so tight you wouldn't get a hair from a spiders leg between them. Straight into brutal planet and out of the spider jacket saw Alice in the first of many costume changes, most of which comprised mainly of studs, buckles and black leather, with just a hint of bondage and restraint. Some people may doubt the authenticity of someone only a year from pension-able age singing out the chorus of 'I'm eighteen', but as the next number kicks in and Alice emerges limping heavily on a crutch, It's then that you realise that Alice's tongue is, as always, firmly in his cheek. 'Under my wheels', 'Billion dollar babies', 'No more Mr Nice Guy' and 'Hey stoopid' are performed with the precision of a diamond tipped cutting blade slicing through steel, and 'Is it my body' sees the golf monster serenade his latest pet snake with menacing love and affection. The old and the new, the old being 'Halo of flies' featuring an entertaining bass and drum solo, followed by the new, 'I'll bite your face off', from the highly anticipated album 'Welcome 2 my nightmare'. As the only new song, it managed to sit nicely into the set while an annoying paparazzi guy continually taunting Alice and his crew but being part of the show, you just knew it was only a matter of time before he got his just deserts.


With his long serving mannequin, Ethyl, the loveable rogue tangoed his way through 'Only women bleed' and 'Cold Ethyl, from the original Nightmare album, before being joined onstage by a impressively nimble, nine foot Alice monster for 'Feed my Frankenstein. Blistering guitar solos throughout from new girl, Orianthi [Alice’s first Female musician] aided by Hunter and occasionally by latest co writer, Tommy Henriksen. 'Wicked young man' sees the paparazzi guy back to annoy and hound the 'celebrity Alice', who fends him off with a long steel bar before finally impaling him, very convincingly, straight through the chest. The show may not have the shock value of yesteryear but more than makes up for it in family entertainment, as fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, look on and cheer, with twisted smiles of approval. 'Clones', 'Poison' and eventually 'Killer', beat a path to the chosen mode of execution, tonight's provided by non-other than Madame Guillotine and as the band lament the now beheaded singer with 'I love the dead', he is soon re-dressed and resurrected in time for the closer, 'School's out' segued with, surprisingly, Floyd's 'Another brick in the wall'. The encore commences amidst an explosion of ribbons and tick a tape and sees Alice finally emerge in mirrored top hat and tails, waving a union jack and campaigning to the strains of 'Elected'. And I'm sure, from this crowds reaction at least, he could easily give this current government a close run contest, and a lesson in good old fashioned morals, here endeth the nightmare.

Review by Les Glover
Photos by Mel