On Sunday, August 13th at The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, Calif., three legendary headliners with nearly 150 years of professional experience between them – Alice Cooper, Deep Purple, and The Edgar Winter Band – revved up a sold-out audience of 5,870 for an astounding four-and-a-half-hour extravaganza.
With three different sets, and about 75 minutes allocated to each of the acts – who are touring together until September 10th – there was something for everyone at the supershow on August 13th. Whether one actually lived through the ascendance of these performers, or became acquainted with them through parents, family, and/or friends, there is, unequivocally no question that the rock legacies of these classic artists have become etched in music lore.
In the meantime, there is no stopping them, as Cooper, Deep Purple, and Winter continue to regale their fans with very much the same gusto and panache they became known for – and impressively doing so when most tend to slow down. Invigorated by their devout legions, they are unceasingly empowered on stage, even at the mean age of 70.
Edgar Winter, who went on first with his esteemed band, showed off his compellingly gritty vocals with enduring hits like “Free Ride,” “Keep Playin’ that Rock and Roll,” “Frankenstein,” Rick Derringer’s “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo,” and John D. Loudermilk’s “Tobacco Road,” which was dedicated to Edgar’s departed brother, Johnny (interesting note: Johnny Winter and another fallen rock legend conspicuous by his absence on this night, Jon Lord of Deep Purple, both passed away on July 16th, two years apart, on 2014 and 2016, respectively).
In addition to hitting a high-pitched F5 note at one point (an incredible feat for any male), and effortlessly oscillating between vocal intervals with a confidently likable disposition, Edgar Winter also demonstrated his varied musical wares with the guitar, shoulder-strapped keyboard (he was the first musician to implement this ergonomic functionality during live performances), drums, and saxophone. But, perhaps the most memorable part of Winter’s set, was his can-you-up-keep-up game with guitarist Doug Rappoport and drummer Jason Carpenter. For instance, Winter would sing out colorful trills, covering an array of notes, some much longer than others, and his band mates would stunningly replicate the exact same sequence using their instruments. It was a joy to watch, not just because of the staggering musicality, but because it was engagingly humorous. Best of all, it wasn’t something you’d really expect to see at a rock concert, though it was a welcome surprise all the more.
Next up was the inimitable Alice Cooper, who, with cane, top hat, and his diabolical charisma in tow, proved his exemplary showmanship to the sea of admiring attendees, who held onto his every phrase and gesture. In an era when it’s difficult to separate the performer from the person, Cooper remains a rare breed, whose dark and ghoulish persona is diametrically opposite to the articulate and well-behaved gentleman. Perhaps, this is why we have no qualms about letting him lead us into the hair-raising realm of parts unknown – because we know he ultimately has good intentions.
Cooper’s set and many costumes were, unsurprisingly, the most visually appealing and eye-catching of the evening. And, true to the marketing for this concert, Cooper sang many of his hits, including one (“Paranoiac Personality”) from his recently released album, Paranormal. With all the pageantry he could muster and more, Cooper began with “Brutal Planet,” then “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” before majestically shedding bills (with his likeness on them) off his Victorian sword into the front row during “Billion Dollar Babies.”
Of course, the visual and narrative splendor of watching Cooper reign supreme as the master of concert theatrics became more macabre and larger than both life and death. We saw him get electrocuted (and later get his “head” lopped off in a guillotine) for “murdering” a woman at the conclusion of “Poison” before a 15-foot-tall Frankenstein (or giant-sized Alice) jaw-droppingly appeared on stage during “Feed My Frankenstein.”
Cooper, a conductor of darkly imaginative musings and all that is outrageous and grisly, also shined during “Cold Ethyl,” which included a little dance number with his previously mentioned victim (represented by a doll), and during “Only Women Bleed” (a song about women who suffer the insensitivity of their men), when Cooper executed a finely tuned falsetto.
Cooper’s last two songs of his set – “I’m Eighteen and “School’s Out” – were performed with great vitality, but it’s especially the latter that brought out the rebellious inner child inside all of us. Ingeniously, Cooper spliced together “School’s Out” and Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall,” commanding the frenzied attendees in a balloon and firework-filled spectacle that had everyone dreaming of a summer without nagging homework and other burdensome responsibilities.
Last, but not least, it’s important to note that the visuals of Cooper’s concert production are as effective as they are because of the complementary talent surrounding him. Glen Sobel is a fabulous drummer, and Nita Strauss, Ryan Roxie, and Tommy Henriksen (all three play the guitar), along with Chuck Garric (bass), are very proficient at what they do. Strauss, who glowed spectacularly with a purple-hazed guitar solo during “Woman of Mass Distraction, is particularly worth mentioning, as she has a very graceful presence to go with a mettlesome sound.
Deep Purple, who closed out the festivities, had a rollickingly surreal set, a little more than a year off the heels of their well-deserved Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction. The band’s stage aesthetics were simple, with towering grey columns seemingly serving as sound walls in background, and an open entranceway in the middle for eminent vocalist Ian Gillan to enter the setting, where he was joined by original members Ian Paice (drums), Roger Glover (bass), as well as Steve Morse (guitar) and Don Airey (keyboards).
They immediately got the hordes pumped with “Highway Star,” which was inclusive of other classic chart-toppers like “Fireball,” “Strange Kind of Woman,” “Perfect Strangers,” “Smoke on the Water,” “Space Truckin’” and, finally, an epic rendition of “Hush.” Gillan’s high vocal register became more and more entrancing to listen to with each successive song, as he focused intently on every note, combining each one with the emotions influencing him in the moment. His relentless passion for what he does is highly apparent, and he moved around on stage with a purpose that added significant substance to his lyrics. Not to mention, when Gillan sang “Uncommon Man,” his vocal range and versatility rang out proudly, revealing that he still has very much to give the world of music if he so chooses.
Moreover, “Lazy” was performed terrifically, highlighting an instrumental collage of tonal flourishes that Deep Purple has become renowned for with excellent playing by Paice, Glover, Morse, and Gillan (harmonica). The surprise of the night, though, was Don Airey on the keyboards. Airey came across like a musical wizard, his fingers moving faster than thoughts can be processed, let alone keys can be pressed. Nonetheless, he alternated between synth and the traditional piano sound, collating mellifluous melodies almost out of thin air, with intermittent recognizable patterns of familiarity during interludes (e.g., “America the Beautiful”). Airey’s playing style is funky, futuristic, and classical all at once, paying homage to several musical eras, just as the long-standing Deep Purple legacy does.
With many conquests still to be had, brand-new songs such as “The Surprising” and “Time for Bedlam” from the band’s 2017 album, inFinite, underscored the group’s collective eye toward the horizon, demonstrating an adept ability to evolve without straying too far from their roots.
To purchase tickets to an upcoming concert featuring the three acts, please visit: http://bit.ly/2wOhQf5