@ Edinburgh Usher Hall, October 31 2012

Sky Arts might have been rolling out last year’s Alice Cooper Halloween spectacular in crystal clear high definition for armchair fans of pop metal but there’s nothing like the real deal.

And those ghoulish souls packed into Edinburgh’s Usher Hall had the fright night of their lives as the ultimate shock rocker headed north of the border to prove he’s still Scot the lot.

In keeping with All Hallows Eve the familiar array of pirates, nurses, pumpkins – and even two Fraggles -were dressed to the nines and determined to party.

Loaded proved the perfect openers as Duff McKagan fused arena-honed stagecraft with garage rock scuzz to prove there’s still no substitute for experience. 

Spotting that some seriously young fans had crept in unawares, he said sorry for swearing but made no apologies for the full-on racket that ensued.

Loaded are no longer an intriguing side-project – in the absence of Velvet Revolver they afford fans the only true opportunity to see McKagan – one of the world’s most accomplished musicians – up close and personal.

Ugly Kid Joe looked like extras from an 80s high school movie and played the songs that soundtracked a generation of teen rebels.

Flamboyant frontman Whitfield Crane took a couple of brave excursions into the crowd before hopping back on stage via a backward roll and the singer’s boundless energy more than compensates for the fact that his band still lacks a meaty back catalogue.

But Ugly Kid Joe have always been about quality over quantity – their version of Cats In The Cradle and the iconic Everything About You two of the finest rock performances you’ll hear all year.

With the gauntlet well and truly thrown down by two hugely enthusiastic support acts the old stage had it all to do. But Alice thrives under pressure and almost always has a trick up his sleeve.

For some reason Hello Hooray barely scrapes into the top 50 when it comes to the most-played Cooper classics but on this evidence it deserves to be heard more often. Setting the tone it ushered in a set mixing the greatest hits with the pick of the critically acclaimed Welcome 2 My Nightmare tracks with the pace always unrelenting and frequently breathless.

Alice’s on-stage chemistry with axe killer Orianthi has added a sparky element to a fiery live show and the pair now appear comfortable in each other’s company. In the absence of any killer nurses, the talented guitarist is an obvious focus for Cooper’s sleazier side.

Halloween treats Welcome To My Nightmare and He’s Back (The Man Behind The Mask) were greeted with suitably ghostly screams from the infatuated masses and from here on in the theatrics dominated.

Devil’s Food saw the snake take centre stage and Alice managed to fry himself during a suitably spooky rendition of Feed My Frankenstein. It’s all been done before but nobody does it better.

Watching the master at work is always a pleasure and once the Coop does retire to the golf course for good it’s impossible to imagine who or what will fill his void. It’s an unthinkable future and a prospect far more frightening than any of Alice’s chilling devices.

Keeping it fresh and delivering a fitting tribute to his own rock n roll heroes, Cooper rotated back cloths and global hits to celebrate the work of Jim Morrison, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix and Keith Moon. A neat twist on the traditional, it made a great night very special.

Giant pumpkin coloured balloons, cannons and ticker tape are more Alice’s style – set against a backdrop of the Schools Out/Another Brick In The Wall mash-up it was business as usual during a fittingly frantic finale. And yet this wasn’t just business as usual for one of rock’s great survivors – Cooper excelled himself on the one night he really should be able to perform to his peak and it will be far easier to top himself than top this in the weeks and months to come.

Richard Miller