Alice Cooper serves up Christmas Pudding in Phoenix, AZ 12-13-14

alice pudding slide 2 - Alice Cooper serves up Christmas Pudding in Phoenix, AZ 12-13-14

Alice Cooper serves up Christmas Pudding in Phoenix, AZ 12-13-14

Alice Cooper serves it up again with his fourteenth annual Christmas Pudding event which tasted so sweet.  Cooper, who calls Phoenix, Arizona home, puts on the annual event to benefit his foundation Solid Rock and The Rock Teen Center.  Cooper’s Solid Rock Non-Profit Organization is a faith-based organization and its primary mission is to make an everlasting difference in the lives of teens by helping them meet the spiritual, economic, physical, and social needs.  They do so by offering a safe, engaging environment during non-school hours; a time when they are most vulnerable to drugs, violence, and gangs. Maintaining the maxim that “a teen’s worst enemy is too much time on their hands,” Solid Rock provides the music, arts, vocational programs and fellowship that challenge teens to discover their passions through music, dance, self-expression, and creativity.

In a time where public schools are cutting funding for empowering programs like music and dance, Solid Rock cultivates a love of the arts to inspire teens to embrace artistic excellence and avoid drugs, guns, and gangs. This is precisely why Cooper and his wife Sheryl opened “The Rock Teen Center” along with Solid Rock. What began as only a dream has now become reality. The doors to the center opened a little over three years ago, capping what has become an absolute success story. The program not only succeeds in getting kids off the streets, it gives them a place to find themselves and eventually to soar. The center has truly given these kids a family beyond their own that truly cares.  Just in time for the holidays this years Christmas Pudding event held on Saturday December 13th at Comerica Theater featured Jonny Lang, P.O.D. Payable On Death, Thousand Foot Krutch, Nils Lofgren, Joe Lynn Turner, Gary Mule Deer, Daniel Roumain, Andrew Johns, and Alice Cooper himself to entertain an excited audience.

With a wing and a family prayer 2014’s serving of Christmas Pudding was underway.  Cooper and wife Sheryl took the stage with his entire family along with his newborn twin grand babies. To start things off Andrew Johns (keyboardist) played songs, rolling out some comedy and attempting to take requests. Next up the Teen Center’s own Solid Rock Dancers (directed by Hodgie Jo) joined in on the fun. With this annual Pudding there is always the contest “Proof is in the Pudding” which gave us this year’s winners (Laura Walsh and band UFN). A showcase of pure artistic ability gave audience Rock Demarco (a Pudding regular), doing an onstage “Cooper” portrait masterpiece. Next up on this first serving was Teen Center’s own “Rock” Bucket Brigade, a plastic bucket percussion group giving everyone a glimpse into what the center can offer. To keep the family theme rolling on this night’s menu, Alice Cooper’s son Dash and his band Co-Op performed, showcasing more of The Rock Teen Center’s own young performers. The always-funny Gary Mule Deer, who looks like a slightly happier version of popular children’s Christmas character Mr. Heat Miser, brought out the laughs right before a one song acoustic number by Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band member Lofgren.

Keeping true to the statement that there can not be “fun” without the fundraising, a big ticket live auction came next and showcased paintings of Alice Cooper by Rock Demarco as well as an autographed guitar signed by Mötley Crüe. There was a fan in the audience that held the bid at $12,000, but offered up a little more; a request to have his head put into the infamous guillotine. Cooper playfully complied saying, “Be careful what you wish for.”

The evening began to heat up and after an intermission things got a little louder when Canadian Hard Rockers Thousand Foot Krutch took the stage. Thousand Foot Krutch, together now two decades have been a cornerstone of electrifying edging guitar riffs, razor sharp rap and singing vocals, and inspiring lyrics.  Receiving much praise over the years the band declared their independents from a record label back in 2011 prior to the release of The End is Where We Begin, having not looked back since.  Recently following up with 2014’s Oxygen:Inhale, and are showing no signs of slowing down. Playing a short be exciting set that included “War of Change,” the band received an incredible round of applause from the audience after performing their newest single “Born This Way.”  Be sure to check them out on Shiprocked 2015 departing from Miami, FL February 2nd.

It just seemed to get hotter from there when San Diego, Californian’s P.O.D. up.   This much respected Alternative Metal band who already has more than twenty years of experience under their belts gave an exhilarating three song set that included “Boom,” “Youth of the Nation,” and “Alive.” This intense set shows that P.O.D. is still a force and have a lot more to give. They certainly had fans on their feet and ready for more.  Their latest acoustic album titled So-Cal Sessions features stripped down versions of new and older songs is out now and worth picking up.

From there it was a band called Super Group. Despite their lack of an actual name, they jammed out with some good star power. The group was put together just for this year’s Christmas Pudding and was brimming with some raw energy.  Consisting of Nils Lofgren (guitar), Jonny Lang (guitar), Jack Blades (bass), Joe Lynn Turner (vocals), Glen Sobel (drums), and Andrew Johns (Keyboards), this was an all-star rock band of the highest order.  Lofgren led the group in a bluesy rendition of the Beatles’ “Any Time At All” which had a feel and a groove that felt like that of All Green’s “Take Me to the River.”  Lang’s performance earned a standing ovation for U2’s “When Love Comes to Town,”   while former Rainbow/ Deep Purple star Turner was welcomed to the stage to lead the Super Group in Rainbow’s “Stone Cold” and Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.”  Certainly an inspiring performance all around, seeing all these musicians on stage together was a wonderful early Christmas present.

As the evening moved along Norther California’s Night Ranger was the final warm-up act, and they kept the crowd extremely electrified.  Having a mass of success during the 1980s, this arena Rock band has sustained their popularity through the years and in 2014 released on of the best pure Rock albums of the year titled High Road.  Going strong with the team of Kelly Keagy (drums/vocals), Brad Gillis (guitars/vocals), Jack Blades (bass/vocals), Eric Levy (keyboards/vocals), and newest member Keri Kelli (guitars), Night Ranger was ready to roll.  They performed a hit-filled set of their best material which started with “Touch of Madness” before jumping into Jack Blades’ other projects, the Damn Yankees tune “High Enough.” They then kicked up the energy with “When You Close Your Eyes,” “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me,” and stadium rockers “You Can Still Rock in America.”  Adding to the fun Keagy handed off the sticks to Cooper’s drummer, Glen Sobel, and delivering the goods vocally “Sister Christian,” which immediately turned into one big sing-along.  Do not miss a chance to see this classic band live, they will not disappoint.

After one final intermission, a quick set change, and the lights dimmed for the evening’s much anticipated headliner. With bits of “Welcome to My Nightmare” and classic “Steven'”setting the tone, Cooper appeared through a shower of sparklers that seemed to be raining down from the sky. He wore his traditional red-and-black striped suit to welcome the fans to his Christmas nightmare with “Hello, Hooray.”  The stage was an absolutely amazing vision, complete with a Santa bag marked “naughty,” Christmas stockings hung by the drum set with care, and of course all of the Horror masks and props that usually accompany  Cooper’s theatrical sets.  He  and his talented band rocked on through some of his timeless hits including “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “Under My Wheels,” and “I’m Eighteen.  As they moved into “Billion Dollar Babies” bassist Chuck Garric handling the spoken voice under Cooper’s own vocals, as he brandished a sword with stacks of hundred-dollar bills as Cooper started swinging it to feed money to the crowd. During the performance of ’80s hit “Poison” Cooper instructing the crowd to “Raise your hands if you’re poison,” which had everyone full of energy and enjoying themselves to the fullest.  Keeping the momentum going “Dirty Diamonds” followed  before Cooper left the stage to give his band time to shine.   As the three guitar attack of Ryan Roxie,  Nita Strauss, Tommy Henriksen jammed the backbone was held together by Garric and Sobel.  A perfect musically interlude, the next surprise was just moments away.

The sound of a thunderstorm overcame the auditorium as Cooper reappeared with his boa constrictor draped around his neck, holding it just so to give the illusion that the snake’s head was coming from his mouth. With an eerie look Cooper said, “Welcome to My Nightmare.” Things got more theatrical from there as he put on his bloody lab coat for “Feed My Frankenstein,” getting strapped to a giant operating table and disappearing in a cloud of smoke from all of the electrical sparks and pyrotechnics going off. Right then the Frankenstein’s monster appeared in a Santa suit keeping the Christmas spirit going. Stimulating for everyone experiencing the show the time came for the man to be put in his straitjacket on for “Ballad of Dwight Fry,” with Sheryl, and Calico Cooper (his daughter), as sadistically dead nurses. As the song built to its conclusion, Cooper yelled, “Don’t touch me!” and started to strangle Sheryl with the sleeves of his straitjacket. Stabbing him, he was subdued and off to the guillotine he went.

In keeping with the Alice Cooper tradition, the beheading was followed by the “I Love the Dead” off of 1974’s Billion Dollar Babies and the executioner paraded his severed head around, even pausing a moment to give it a big kiss. Then without a warning a school bell rang for “School’s Out.” Cooper returned, head intact, and managed to include a little bit of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.”  As bubbles and confetti-filled balloons filled the air, fans grabbing at them to hold for Cooper as he sliced at them with his saber, bringing the set to a festive holiday close, but all through the house so many creatures were stirring it just could not be over. That is when it started to snow and all of the other artists of this lineup returned for one huge Christmas spirited cover of the Beatles’ “Revolution” with Night Ranger’s Blades joining Cooper on lead vocals. It was a fun filled finale with countless solos and snowball fights before Cooper brought it to a close shouting “All right!” waving his hands and saying “To all a goodnight.”  A goodnight indeed, and all for a good cause, now that is what Christmas is all about.

For more information on donating, volunteering, or sponsorship at Solid Rock and The Rock Teen Center visit: alicecoopersolidrock.com

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Rick Triana
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