Music DVD Reviews: Review of Alice Cooper: The Nightmare Returns

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Buy your copy from Alice Cooper: The Nightmare ReturnsstarstarstarstarstarLabel: Geffen/Universal
Released: 2006

“The Nightmare Returns” is a DVD release of Alice Cooper’s concert at Joe Louis Arena on Halloween night, 1986. Compare this performance to Cooper’s “Live in Montreux” DVD, released in May of ’06, and it isn’t even close: “Montreux” was performed in a smaller venue, with a smaller stage, but the performance is absolutely tremendous because the band is such a tight and potent outfit.  

Don’t get me wrong. Kip Winger on bass, Devlin 7 on guitar, he-man muscle boy Kane Roberts on lead guitar, Paul Taylor on keys/guitar, and drummer Ken Mary are good musicians; their collective whole, however, can’t compare to the band chemistry and execution of Chuck Garric, Damon Johnson, Ryan Roxie and Eric Singer. The Montreux lineup, performing many of the same songs, has a crispness that just isn’t present in the Nightmare performance. Perhaps the mix, or the enormous stadium, has something to do with it, but it just doesn’t leap out of the speakers the way the Montreux concert does.

Cooper himself suffers from the same comparison; his voice cracks on several occasions during the “Nightmare” concert, and he struggles to hit the high notes on “Only Women Bleed.” He’s changed his vocal delivery over the years, relying more on a growl then singing, but during Montreux, his voice sounds better than it did years ago. 

A lot of the same parlor tricks and horror camp – snakes, swords, guillotines, et cetera – are present on both releases. Regardless of those fun and games, the performance just seems flat. The band is working hard, and Roberts runs around the stage flexing his muscles and ripping out solos, but it just doesn’t have the musical pop boasted by Cooper’s newer band. The classics – including “Billion Dollar Babies,” “Be My Lover,” and “Go to Hell” – sound better 19 years later, which says something about the material and the artists performing it. “Nightmare” is fair, but “Montreux” is the one to grab.

~R. David Smola