Alice Cooper Reunion at TPAC: Dennis Dunaway's Behind-The-Scenes

On May 14th, the original Alice Cooper group reunited on stage at Tennessee Performing Arts Center. Dennis details how it came together.

The rehearsal process was a peculiar one; each of us had our own process. Michael and Neal rehearsed in Phoenix with Michael’s wife Lynn playing bass. I ran through the songs in Connecticut with an unplugged bass while watching TV, and occasionally with the songs cranked through my stereo and a small Fender bass amp.

 Dennis Dunaway and Chuck Garric at TPAC. Photo by Patrick Brzezinski. 

Dennis Dunaway and Chuck Garric at TPAC. Photo by Patrick Brzezinski. 

Finding an outfit wasn't a daunting task; I happen to know a superb costume designer! Cindy went to her sewing room and got out her sparkly treasures from the original Alice Cooper stage costume stockpile. She covered a black shirt with moon-shaped mirrors, crystals, glitter, and rhinestone bracelets in the concept of the tuxedo she had designed for me for our induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The shirt was intended to be an extension of the Billion Dollar Bass, as if someone had grabbed a handful of the mirrors from the bass and threw them at the shirt.

When we got to Nashville, we rehearsed the songs in the dressing room with Ryan Roxie. We had to decide which guitar parts each guy would play—sometimes Ryan plays Michael’s parts with Alice, and now he had to play all of Glen’s parts. We also had to lock in which guy to look at for each cue. We had arrangements and endings to sort out. Neal played on little practice pads (Alice joked that Neal should play them in the real show). The guitars and bass played through tiny amps at low volume. Bob Ezrin and Shep Gordon were there.

At the first sound check at TPAC, Michael bent over to adjust his effects pedal. Not one to pass up a slapstick opportunity, I ran over and pretended to kick him in the butt. In perfect synch, Neal did a loud cymbal crash.

We had a short break to grab a bite to eat, and then it was time to warm up in the Green Room.

Alice's current band rocked through a modified version of their set for thousands of fans who filled two balconies. I stretched my high-kick leg. Exercised my hands. Polished my golden sunglasses. 

Finally, it was time. The curtain had closed at the end of Alice’s modified set, but the house lights didn’t go up. The die-hard fans knew what was about to come, and raised their iPhones like a sea of lanterns. The drum tech prepared Neal’s set and the roadies got us ready to go. The curtain rose.

 Alice Cooper live at TPAC. Photo by J. Scott Watson.

Alice Cooper live at TPAC. Photo by J. Scott Watson.

We blasted “Eighteen,” “Billion Dollar Babies,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “Muscle of Love,” and then “School’s Out/Another Brick in The Wall” with both bands for the big finale.

Whenever I looked into the crowd, I was surprised to see so many people were crying. Some shows are good, some are great, and some feel downright transcendent. Performing with Michael, Neal, and Alice is very special, and since it doesn’t happen often, magic was in the air. Of course everybody misses the fiery Glen Buxton, but I know he would have liked Ryan.

 Dunaway family and Alice Cooper group backstage after the TPAC show. L to R, Chelsea, Renee, Dennis, Cindy, Alice, Michael, Neal.

Dunaway family and Alice Cooper group backstage after the TPAC show. L to R, Chelsea, Renee, Dennis, Cindy, Alice, Michael, Neal.

I loved that our daughters joined us, especially since it was Mother’s Day. (On Father’s Day two years prior, they travelled to Cleveland to support me at a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame event.) 

The players in Alice's current band are exceptionally talented rock stars, and hanging out with them feels like being with extended family. Ryan, Tommy Henriksen, Nita Strauss, Glen Sobel, and Chuck Garric are always friendly and accommodating. It was fun sharing the stage together, and spending time after the show!

I was on cloud nine over how many amazing fans had gone to such great lengths to be there. Some came from Canada, France, and even Australia.

As far as future reunion shows, hopefully our fans will make a big enough noise to reach the ears of the concert promoters!

-DD