Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper offer tale of two merch tables in Vancouver

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, MAY 2, 2010

You can learn a lot about rock stars by what they’re willing to offer up for cold hard cash. Scanning a merch table at Saturday’s (May 1) Gruesome Twosome show I noticed Alice Cooper was flogging T-shirts that read “Love It to Death Tour 1971”. Now, even for a dedicated salesman like Cooper, that’s embarrassing, making something churned out in China last week seem like a sought-after ’70s-rock collectible.

I was damn near tempted to buy one.

Love It to Death was the first great Alice Cooper album, and it set the bar for his other stellar ’70s discs, like School’s Out, Killer, and Billion Dollar Babies. It’s the timeless tunes from those records that people want to hear when they go to an Alice Cooper show; they also want to see him get hanged, beheaded, and menaced by sexy nurses while wrapped in a straitjacket. This time around, the Coop offered plenty of the shock-rock theatrics he’s famous for, but his set list was no screaming hell.

Sure, he started off with the teen anthem “School’s Out”—prowling around in black leather and studs and brandishing a cutlass that wound up embedded in the stage floor—but his set included way too many songs from recent throwaway albums like Dirty Diamonds and Along Came a Spider. Cripes, he didn’t even leave enough time for “Halo of Flies”!

Most of the crowd seemed thrilled by the show, though, especially when Cooper played up to their hometown pride by donning a Roberto Luongo Canucks jersey. Of course, in true Cooper fashion it was stained red with what he called “Blackhawk blood” in honour of the evening’s playoff slaughtering in Chicago.

After Cooper’s set—during which he was guillotined, hanged, and lethally injected with neon-green fluid from a four-foot syringe—I headed over to another merch table to kill time while coheadliner Rob Zombie set up. That’s when I discovered a Zombie T-shirt proclaiming him a “100% corpse-fucking, flesh-eating, zombie-loving, god damn son of a bitch”. Turns out it should have also read: “And don’t pull his hair!”

Zombie was partway through “More Human Than Human”, his porn-sampling, Blade Runner–referencing White Zombie hit of ’95, when he decided to get up close and personal with his rowdy fans. But as he strode alongside the stage-front barricade one of the rowdier ones grabbed his long, grimy hair, causing the singer to lash out with a knuckle sandwich.

After the song was over and Zombie was safely back on-stage he apologized for punching the guy in the face, claiming it was a “muscle reflex” brought on by the hair-pulling. To prove his theory he invited guitarist John 5 to yank on his hair, but apparently the former Marilyn Manson sideman doesn’t enjoy knuckle sandwiches.

The senseless violence perpetrated on Zombie’s mop wasn’t all that shocking, considering that he’d spent the previous 20 minutes working the crowd into a frenzy with his grinding, industrial-tinged metal. During this assault, multiple video screens flashed newsreel footage of Charles Manson and his twisted disciples. The steady barrage of flames shooting up at the back of the stage was enough to get anyone a little hot under the collar.

The only time Zombie showed his soft side was at the end of his set, when he showered the audience with tiny white feathers. They were still floating lazily down from the rafters when he encored with “Werewolf Women of the SS” and his biggest solo hit, “Dragula”, which incorporated some vintage Munsters drag-race footage.

Ah, Fred Gwynne. Too bad there was no Herman Munster bobblehead on the merch table.

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