Early Sunday morning, after a long and music-stuffed Saturday at Bonnaroo, I had a Wayne's World moment: I walked through the lobby of my hotel and into the elevator, where I found myself standing next to THE Alice Cooper. I almost dropped to my knees to praise his Rock Holiness, chanting "I'm not worthy! I'm not worthy," just like the famous scene from Mike Myers' titular 1992 comedy. Instead I said, "Great show, man." He replied, leaning against the elevator wall, "Thanks man. I burned a lot of calories tonight. It was fun."
How would've Wayne Campbell or Garth Algar reacted to that? "Psssssssschhhhha"? Or perhaps, "Exsqueeze me?" Either way, he was right: Cooper, now 64, stomped all over That Stage during his nearly two-hour-long performance. It was a total shock rock spectacle with props, including a guillotine and 15-foot-tall frankenstein, and cover of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way," and it sounded absolutely great.
Alice Cooper, "Born This Way" Live at Bonnaroo
Cooper's five-piece band of tattooed metal/hard rock heads was razor-sharp, especially guitarist Orianthi (who played with Michael Jackson). When she soloed a fan blew her long blond hair around her mad-hatter top hat—it looked like a lost Guns N' Roses music video.
I arrived to the show during a long, long drum solo (Wayne would've loved that), followed by a four-gun salute with all four guitarists at the edge of the stage, in hip lock solo stance, aligning the necks of their axes like fighter jets ascending into the sky, then wailing. Cooper ran onstage screaming, "I'll cut your face off!" while dragging around, dancing with and occasionally humping a dismembered mannequin. Welcome to Alice's World.
Alice's World is also the only place at Bonnaroo where you'll see lighters, not cellphones or glowsticks, held high during torch songs like "Only Women Bleed," which found Cooper again slow dancing with his lady love. And perhaps the most fun I've had during Bonnaroo 2012, came during his classic rocker "Feed My Frankenstein." With his guitarists all handling backup vocals, too, the song sounded strong and full. Cooper slipped backstage and returned in a 15-foot-tall frankenstein costume (made in his likeness) that was sort of hilarious as it wobbled across the stage.
Later, between songs, the horror continued with Cooper chopping off a doll's head with a huge guillotine. He then handed the decapitated head to the crowd as a sacrifice. Rock!
The undeniable highlights came during the set's final 15 minutes. During "Elected," stagehands dressed up as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney punched it out. Then the opening chords of "School's Out," Cooper's most popular song, rang out and the (shamefully) small audience lost it.
Big colorful balloons were dropped on the pit and Cooper, now wearing an extra big mad-hatter top hat, stormed the stage armed with a sword. He stabbed the balloons which exploded in confetti.
He closed out the set with a relatively true-to-form cover of Lady Gaga's freak anthem "Born This Way." They had the dance beats and riffs down, and the subject matter was certainly apropos for Cooper, who over four decades has helped mold heavy metal with his signature style. He's a wildly influential artist with an indelible imprint on the rock world.
Fittingly, after the Cooper's set, as I walked across the festival grounds towards Skrillex's pulsing bass, all I could think was, "Party time. Excellent."