December 8, 2012 – Alice Cooper’s 12th Annual Christmas Pudding was one surprise after another; mixing hard rock and gospel, magic and speed painting; sunbelt comedy and big-money auctions.
It’s after Christmas, so I’m going to skip all of the stupid holiday puns and get straight to the show.
Alice Cooper’s 12th Annual Christmas Pudding, a fundraiser for Cooper’s Solid Rock Foundation, and The Rock Teen Center, brought a motley crew (no Motley Crue) of performers, Johnny Depp, Zombie Santa, and snow to Phoenix’s Comerica Theater on December 8th, 2012.Split into two “servings,” the show opened with the powerful and exuberant voices of The Pilgrim Rest Mass Choir .
Since Solid Rock *is* a faith-based organization, and The Rock Teen Center a partnership with Genesis Church, I was not surprised by the prayer offered up by Genesis pastor Pat Stark. Focusing on thankfulness and grace, there was not one moment of the entire affair that my non-faith-based self found heavy handed, preachy, or offensive. It was all love.The show was co-hosted by Seinfeld’s John O’Hurley and comic/magician, Murray SawChuck.
The rest of the first serving highlighted local talent, including internationally known singer (and recent Valley relocatee) Jia Frances, who knocked out a few numbers with local church community favorite Danny Hunkin. I was completely knocked out by Hodgie Jo’s “Gift of Drums”, a drum group accompanying several
astonishingly talented dance groups.
AJ Odneal, one of Cooper’s ‘Proof is in the Pudding’ contest winners, put on a lovely acoustic set, followed by fellow contest winners Smokestack, a teen rock band out of local Rock and Roll High’s program. Paradise Valley High School Dancers followed.
Cooper and his son, Dash, proved that the family that plays together … well, you know. Cooper (the elder) joined Cooper (the younger) for a few song’s with Dash’s band, Co-op.
The excitement level ramped up when Orianthi hit the stage. A whiz-kid guitarist, discovered by Carlos Santana during a tour stop in Australia, Orianthi Pangaris was named Breakthrough Guitarist of the Year in 2010 by Guitar International magazine. Probably best known for her work with the late Michael Jackson, Orianthi has played with superstars ranging from Carrie Underwood to, uh…Alice Cooper. She’s the first female member of Cooper’s touring band, and she is AMAZING. Check out this amazing guitar jam featuring Steve Vai.
The rock continued with speed painter Rock DeMarco doing a live, music-backed portrait of Cooper … much more fun than it might sound … DeMarco isn’t ‘just’ a painter, he’s an entertainer. Long before the paint could dry, the portrait was auctioned off to a member of the audience. The bidding was fast and furious. The winning bid: a whopping $8,000. That was just the beginning, though. Two guitars, autographed by all of the Pudding performers were auctioned for $11,000 EACH. Things really heated up, though, when a DeMarco painting of guest star Johnny Depp hit the auction block. I’m not sure if it was the painting or the accompanying meet-and-greet with Depp that whipped the crowd into a frenzy. The frantic bidding ended at $20,000. I was watching the audience go at it, and saw one of the losing bidders furiously punch her husband in the arm when he wouldn’t top the winning bid.
The second helping of pudding, after a brief intermission, consisted of base of 80s hard rock, mixed enthusiastically with 70s mainstream, and sprinkled with Hollywood magic. The latest incarnation of L.A. Guns (guitarist Stacey Blades announced that he was leaving the band (again) a few days after this show), fronted by Phil Lewis, kicked things off with three from their best-selling 1989 album, Cocked & Loaded: “Never Enough”, “Ballad of Jayne”, and “Rip and Tear”.
The night before, at the sound check, Felder and Orianthi seemed to have a blast tweaking the intro to the iconic Eagles hit, Hotel California. They killed it the night of the show.