At age 27, new Alice Cooper touring guitarist Nita Strauss is younger than many of the fans in the audience. But gigs playing guitar with acts as diverse as reunited ‘80s rockers Femme Fatale, video game tribute band Critical Hit, and Jermaine Jackson – yes, that Jermaine Jackson – have infused her with plenty of necessary experience for the task.
During a phone conversation from a tour stop in Wichita, the Santa Monica native gives the most credit to her time with The Iron Maidens for preparing her for the theatrics of an Alice Cooper performance. The all-female Iron Maiden tribute act’s own live show is also loaded with plenty of pomp.
“If I had not had the experience of playing with the Iron Maidens, playing for Alice would be more of a shock,” Strauss says. “Obviously Alice’s show is a much bigger production overall, but with The Iron Maidens I was still getting chased by [Iron Maiden mascot] Eddie onstage and dealing with CO2 cannons for many shows.”
In the ‘70s, Alice Cooper was one of the first rockers to incorporate large-scale theatrics into his live shows. He still proudly carries on that tradition in 2014, deploying a variety of outlandish set pieces for classic tracks like “Welcome To My Nightmare," ranging from large monsters invading the stage to simulated death sequences. Though many precautions are taken, Cooper did pull Strauss aside on the first day of the tour to promise one thing.
“He told me, ‘You’re gonna get paid, you’re gonna see the world, and you’re gonna get stitches!’” Strauss said. “I just try to stay out of the way when the guillotine comes out. If you’re not careful when Alice Cooper comes out swinging a sword, you’re gonna get poked!”
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So far, Strauss has been fortunate enough to avoid injury on the current tour, which hits the Hollywood Bowl on Monday, July 21. Opening for Mötley Crüe, Strauss spends every night both playing and listening to many songs that were written before she was born.
“These bands are a part of everyone’s journey growing up,” Strauss says. “There’s a moment during Mötley Crüe’s set where they say they’re taking the crowd ‘back to 1981!’ But in the crowd you’re seeing kids in Mötley Crüe and Alice Cooper T-shirts singing along with songs like ‘Billion Dollar Babies.’ It transcends age.”
Alice Cooper performs with Mötley Crüe at the Hollywood Bowl tonight.