Def Leppard, Alice Cooper, Thin Lizzy
"Tonight there's going to be a jailbreak!" Phil Lynott famously once sang, before qualifying with, "Somewhere in this town." Normally, the local jailhouse would be the best place to start looking, but on this rather gloomy Tuesday evening, Belfast's Odyssey Arena plays host to more than a few criminal fashion choices. With the legendary "Canadian Tuxedo" in full representation (denim jeans, denim shirt, and denim jacket), all manner of rock fans, young and old, have swamped the venue for a tantalisingly juicy triple headed feast of classic rock and roll. It might not be particularly stylish, but tonight, Thin Lizzy, Alice Cooper, and Def Leppard are going to rock you. Tonight.
Opening the proceedings, a rejuvenated Thin Lizzy make a grand stab at hometown heroics, new frontman Ricky Warwick originally hailing from Newtownards. For the most part, he does a reliably workmanlike job of filling the late Phil Lynott's shoes, his gruff, macho persona occasionally at odds with Lynott's "wounded poet", but the songs still sound absolutely untouchable, with Scott Gorham and Brian Downey from the classic line-up of the band giving the set some much needed "oomph." Despite the odd dodgy moment here and there, songs like 'Cowboy Song' and 'Black Rose' still get the crowd pumped. The surprise addition of Snow Patrol's Nathan Connolly on guitar for 'The Boys are Back in Town' raises more than a few eyebrows, but it's all well received.
Belfast's supplies of black hair dye, leather, and eyeliner are at an all-time low. It can only mean one thing - Alice Cooper is in town. At the age of 63, the one time Vincent Furnier could give many men half his age a run for their money when it comes to performing. Whether he be sat atop a podium with stuck on spider legs, proclaiming himself to be the black widow, bringing to life a twenty foot high Frankenstein's monster, or having his head sliced off by a guillotine, Alice Cooper pulls out all the stops to put on the greatest rock and roll show on Earth. And it's not all just schlocky cheap horror tactics, with hit after hit bombarding the audience, causing even the sceptical to accept what a significant force Alice Cooper has been on popular music. Beside the big guns like 'School's Out' and 'Poison', we get 'I'm Eighteen', 'No More Mr Nice Guy', 'Feed my Frankenstein', and more. The fact that most of the props have a slightly 'home-made' look to them only serves to add to the experience. It's big, it's silly, and it's absolutely top dollar rock and roll entertainment.
And then Def Leppard come out and spoil it for everyone. Everyone, except the hardcore Def Leppard fans, that is. The Sheffield rockers were one of the biggest bands in the world during the 80s and 90s, and still have a devoted following, girls dancing and belting out their favourite hits, whilst moody guys display their sensitive side by crooning along with the ballads. However, compared to the raw energy of Thin Lizzy and the awesome spectacle of Alice Cooper, the Lep come across as rather tame, having none of the aggression of the former, and unable to entertain like Alice Cooper.
As if punk never happened, we are hit by guitar solo after guitar solo, a bass solo, an "intimate" acoustic session, and some of the most predictable stadium rock banter the Odyssey has ever seen. It's expertly played, of course, and the band have enough big hits to satisfy the curious, but it remains a 'fans only' experience, many in the crowd drifting off after Alice Cooper. Joe Elliot's voice might not be as up to the task as it used to be, but the audience more than compensate, shouting his lyrics to the rafters, regardless of what they actually mean.
So, whilst Lizzy aren't quite back in town, and the Lep's Sheffield steel is a little rusty, Alice Cooper's tales from the crypt still dazzle and delight. All in a night's work for one of the legends of hard rock.
View Photos on ATL's Flickr.