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A guy from Slipknot, a guy from U2 and Alice Cooper walk into a bar ...
There is no punch line. This, almost literally, was the scene at The Basement East Thursday night, where — for the second time in less than three years — shock-rock icon and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Cooper made a surprise club appearance in Nashville to take his turn as a bar-band singer.
It was truly a twice-in-a-lifetime experience for fans — TBH, they all seemed ready for and expecting the surprise — who packed the Beast for Beasto Blanco, a fun, campy-by-design, Rob Zombie-esque riff-rock outfit offering club-sized arena-rock antics. The band is led by mutton-chop-sporting longtime Coop bassist and Nashvillian Chuck Garric and features the rock legend's daughter Calico Cooper. On Thursday, fans were treated to the elder Cooper leading the band and some of their famous friends for a four-song set of his classics.
Without introduction (or face paint), the leather-jacked-clad 68-year-old Cooper slyly strode onstage to the opening riff of "No More Mr. Nice Guy" and transformed the room into a tightly packed army of amateur iPhone videographers. Off the bat, there was something extraordinary happening here; something beyond a rock star simply doing his thing in an intimate setting. You see, when you go to an Alice Cooper concert, you get the props, the blood, the mock executions and all that, with Alice Cooper the character playing ringleader to the whole cartoon horror show. But at the Beast — much like at the pop-up mini-show Cooper delivered during a Thee Rock N' Roll Residency appearance at Dan McGuinness Pub (now called TailGate Beer) — we got Alice Cooper as Vincent Furnier, joyfully belting out "Nice Guy," the rather unexpected "Under My Wheels," "I'm Eighteen" and the pretty much inevitable "School's Out."
"Do you ever get tired of anywhere you show up people are just happy to see you?" Black Star Riders and former Brother Cane guitarist Damon Johnson, who opened the show and joined in for the encore, asked Cooper midway through the performance. "The fact that I'm on this side of the dirt [is enough]," the singer bantered back.
Unlike the Dan McGuinness show, at which The Coop sang classic rock covers as backed by his own nut-tight band, this appearance had a raw, loose,100 percent rock 'n' roll, no-fourth-wall feel that you'd never get from Cooper's trademark arena-ready spectacle. Halestorm frontwoman Lzzy Hale joined Cooper for a shout-out duet on "School's Out," and by the time Cooper eye-contact-cued the song's close, the show felt more like party time with Alice Cooper than a performance. "All right, I've got class tomorrow, so I've gotta get going," Cooper said in mic-drop style before disappearing. Yeah, it was pretty awesome.
Meanwhile, next door at the club's sister bar Beast Pub, Slipknot drummer and Nashvillian Jay Weinberg (he's Max's son) was spinning emo records as guest DJ for recurring millennial nostalgia night Nashville Is the Reason. But Weinberg was far from the most famous drummer in the house. Seconds after Cooper & Co. left the stage, we turned around and found ourselves face to face with U2 drummer Larry Mullen Jr., who was making his way backstage. First of all, holy fn s##t! Second, what the hell is he doing in town?
We think we might have an answer to that, and it's one that only makes sense in an anything-is-possible world where Donald Trump is POTUS. An insider tells us Mullen is involved in some kind of recording collaboration in town with Cooper and ... not kidding ... Peter Cetera. Sorry to bury the lede?