Alice Cooper + The Cult + Creeper
@ The O2 Arena, London
25th May 2022
Review and pictures by Ryan Whitwell
A bunch of firsts for me tonight. First time seeing all three bands on the bill, Alice Cooper, The Cult and Creeper, plus I think it’s also the first all seated gig I’ve been to at the O2 Arena in London, although those seats would see little use later into the evening.
Before we get into it, I’d like to note that there wasn’t a photo pass for this one, so I had to try and shoot from up in the seats. It was a good spot, but zooming in that far is a bit tricky so images are not to my usual standard.
7pm rolled around and the O2 was still filling up as Gerard McMann’s “Cry Little Sister” (from The Lost Boys soundtrack) blasted from the PA before Creeper took to the stage opening with ‘Cyanide’. Singer, Will Gould, took time between numbers to show the bands’ appreciation for those who got into the arena early to see them. I don’t know much about Creeper, but for my first time seeing them I really enjoyed their fun collection of rock and roll numbers with a goth edge (Goth and Roll?).
There was a little bit of crowd participation encouraged for ‘Down Below’, as people had got up from their seats to stand along the barrier at the front. It took a few goes but Creeper got a good call and response once people warmed up a bit. The band sounded good too, a lot of bass being pumped out into the vastness of the O2 which got heads nodding. Keyboard player, Hannah Greenwood, came forward to give some more prominent vocals for the 4th number, ‘Midnight’, rather than staying behind the keyboard. Another fun number with the Southampton six-piece clearly enjoying themselves, interacting with each other and having a good time. The three string pluckers were active, buzzing around the stage during each number, which looked fun, but as I was trying to zoom in from the stands up the side it was hard for me to follow them around the stage, but the movement matched the upbeat and lively attitude of the band so I can’t really complain.
The short 30 minute set ended with the 5th song, Annabelle. Another great track to bop along to, with that old school rock and roll vibe really shining through. I really enjoyed their set, even if it felt a little short. Creeper will also be at Download Festival this year too, so if you’re going to Donington and fancy something a little less heavy that you can have a little dance to, they will be perfect for you!
The venue was still continuing to fill, even as the lights dimmed and Massive Attack’s ‘Angel’ played, signalling the beginning of The Cult‘s set. Each band member would be illuminated by spotlight, one at a time, which raised the anticipation a bit.
Although I have never seen them live before there I am aware of their music and some of their history, including; break-ups, reformations, plus many different line-ups. But I don’t see that past as a bad thing, all that history just makes the band more interesting. However, as soon as singer, Ian Astbury, took to the stage he was demanding the crowd “Get off your arse! It’s a rock and roll show!” The demand seemed to have the desired effect though, as those seated in the stalls got up and made their way to the front to fill the gaps between the band and the seated areas. He would repeat the instruction a few times throughout the set, and as the set went on the throng of people standing at the front would grow larger.
The band opened with ‘Sun King’, which is a good indication of the crunchy riffs and solid rock that would carry throughout the set. Those at the front were already loving it! Interestingly there were no photographers in the pit for The Cult. I found out from a photographer friend that, for some reason, they were instructed to shoot from the back of the room! No easy task at the up to 20,000 capacity O2 arena!
Second number was also from the Sonic Temple album, Automatic Blues. The whole set tonight would be from the band’s mid-late 80s era, with tracks from Love, Electric and Sonic Temple. All great numbers and the energy and tone got people off their butts with more and more people standing as the set progressed and the venue reached capacity. The lighting was also quite intense and creative, with huge spotlights sweeping around the arena and adding a good spectacle to proceedings.
Of course, there are a few particular numbers by The Cult that are guaranteed to get hands raised and camera phones held high, but the biggest hits would be saved for later. The crowd were still up for this one, so it seemed that every number got a great response. ‘Sweet Soul Sister’, with the organ solo opening, seemed to get a good response from the crowd as guitarist Billy Duffy made himself known with a really nice guitar tone as he stepped towards the front. He played what I think was a Gibson Les Paul, but he would also give his iconic Gretsch White Falcon a go for a few numbers, much to the joy of some of those on my side of the arena.
Astbury had no problem talking directly to the crowd between numbers. He was still seemingly eager to get more people standing and moving, asking why people were being so well behaved, although the seats in the front probably made it difficult for people to move much. At one point Astbury declared one lucky crowd member as “The best dancer”, and would later toss that winner a tambourine.
The set was really good, with all players on form, but there was a noticeable lift in the arena a little over halfway through the set when ‘Fire Woman’ began to hit our eardrums. It’s one of my personal favourites, and Ashbury was giving it the beans throughout. His signature vocals really coming through now! Plenty of limbs in the air, dancing, nodding, camera phones, the band and the crowd really hit their stride at this point! It’s a cracking tune, big vocals, tasty solos, exactly what you want at a rock and roll show!
And the positive energy continued, as Ashbury draped a Ukrainian flag over his monitor before ‘Revolution’. At one point seemingly praying on his knees during the track before carefully placing the flag over a stack of cabs. And the hits kept on coming, with ‘Rain’ and then ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ keeping people moving and singing before finally closing the set with ‘Love Removal Machine’, in which I really noticed the guitar tone as the singer engaged in a final session of tambourine slapping. Even the microphone was losing its composure as fidelity waned and it sounded like it was about to blow out! Brilliant energy to wrap up a fantastic set! “Thank you for supporting live music” boomed Ashbury before putting his Ukrainian flag over his shoulders and leaving the stage.
A bit of time between acts now, but that was to be expected as Alice Cooper was up next. Big theatrical sets are a standard for him, and tonight would be no different as the curtain dropped to show his multi tiered “Nightmare Castle” before ‘Feed My Frankenstein’ rang out to the cheering arena as the man himself walked out with a top hat and cane!
Tonight would be a massive set, with every one of the 20ish numbers being a big one. Which is just as well seeing as there would be four guitarists and bassists on rotation (with a special guest swapping in on bass later), taking it in turns to step up to the front platform and show us what they can do! The setlist was run through pretty much non-stop, with nothing more than a brief blackout between each number before another classic intro boomed out. I barely had time to note the setlist before another song played, and I couldn’t look away for too long to note anything as the theatrics on stage were brilliant. Not just the guitarists running about and interacting with each other, or drummer, Glen Sobel, throwing his sticks in the air to catch them in time for the next hit, but also the additional costumed ghouls, brides, babies etc. It was one hell of a show and at times I didn’t know where to look!
Around half way through we were treated to a solid guitar solo from Nina Strauss. This allowed time for one of Alice’s many costume changes before he appeared in a bloodied white shirt for ‘Roses on White Lace’, in which he would be joined by a huge cloud of smoke from which a bloodied bride would appear for Alice to serenade atop his nightmare castle. One of many great bits of theatre that I expected from an Alice Cooper show. It’s amazing that he’s still such a great performer with so much energy at 74! And that energy was reciprocated by the crowd during the next number (after another costume change), ‘Eighteen’, as we all chanted along to the chorus to this classic!
Cooper would don a rather fetching red velvet jacket before an absolute fan favourite, ‘Poison’, really got the crowd cooking. It’s a timeless track, so of course it got a great response. And those energy levels wouldn’t dip as a quick drum solo intro ushered in ‘Billion Dollar Babies’, complete with a giant baby waddling onto the stage!
There felt like a shift in mood, as the set took an even more theatre themed tone with an instrumental version of ‘Black Widow’, complete with amazing guitar work from all the axe wielders, Ryan Roxie, Tommy Henriksen, Nina Strauss, and Chuck Garric on bass, plus a huge drum solo from Sobel! Alice was off stage for another costume change, which left the stage free for the band to do their guitar and drum solos. Soon Alice would reappear, escorted by two people with creepy giant baby masks, to kick off the song ‘Steven’. The theatrics wouldn’t stop there as ‘Dead Babies’ went hard into nightmare mode, including a very creepy mother, Alice threatening to attack a baby with a cleaver, and a giant guillotine which, after use, would see Alice’s head shown to the crowd during a rendition by the surviving band members of ‘I love the Dead’.
If there was one thing I wanted a bit more of, it was more cowbell. Fortunately Sobel was on hand to get some cowbell going for ‘Escape’ as a reanimated Alice returned to the stage to re-join the band. Obviously the stage would have more than just the band on it as ‘Teenage Frankenstein’ signalled a giant Frankenstein’s monster and a cloaked assistant to antagonise the other performers before ending the show.
A short round of chanting “Alice, Alice” within the crowd before the band re-emerged once more, this time with Chris Wyse (Fellow Hollywood Vampire) on bass, replacing Chuck Garric (who I recognised from Beasto Blanco) for this one. A cheer erupted in the dome as a school bell rang and the foam machines kicked in. ‘School’s Out’, featuring a bit of Pink Floyd’s ‘Brick in the Wall’ in there, would see us out in good voice. The party continued as giant confetti filled balloons were tossed out and popped over the crowd before Alice went around the band giving us a chance to cheer for each member, including Calico Cooper who had played the role of bride and creepy mother earlier. I couldn’t have hoped for a better show, it was a fantastic spectacle!
Alice Cooper Setlist:
Feed My Frankenstein
No More Mr. Nice Guy
Bed of Nails
Fallen in Love
Shut Up and Rock
Go Man Go
Under My Wheels
Guitar Solo (Nita Strauss)
Roses on White Lace
Billion Dollar Babies
Black Widow (Instrumental)
I Love the Dead
Encore: School’s Out