After nearly 19 months off tour, Alice Cooper and his band return to the stage tonight (Sept. 17) in Atlantic City, N.J. The rock icon admits to UCR that the band needed "a lot of rehearsal" to get prepared.

"We have not done this show for a year and a half," acknowledges the shock rock veteran, who had COVID-19 last year. The band's last performance was Feb. 22, 2020 in Christchurch, N.J. Cooper himself was on a Rock Meets Classics tour in Germany the following month when the pandemic brought live music to a halt.

"Everyone's trying to remember where everything is, all the little moves," he confesses. "It's really just getting your wings back. I think everyone’s just happy to get back on stage -- it's almost to the point of being giddy."

Getting ready is especially important given how unique an Alice Cooper performance is compared to other concerts. "Other rock 'n' roll shows you're gonna get up there and play your songs. Great. With this show it's also the fun of the show and remembering all the little nuances that worked," Cooper explains. "It's just about getting back on the boards and feeling comfortable with the show, and then all of a sudden you go, 'Oh yeah, I remember what we did there,' or 'I've always wanted to change that. Let's change that now.' I guarantee by the second show it's gonna be back to what it was, and then I can start to think about, 'OK, now what...'"

The tour is also Cooper's first since the release of his Detroit Stories album in February, which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Top Album Sales chart. The set will provide some new material for the upcoming shows -- he specifically mentions "Social Debris," co-written and recorded with members of the original Alice Cooper Band, and his version of the Mitch Ryder & Detroit arrangement of the Velvet Underground's "Rock and Roll."

"I told (the band) to learn three or four songs and we'll see which ones are gonna get the audience," says Cooper, who will have a street, Alice Cooper Court, named after him on Sept. 23 in Westland, Mich., near his hometown of Detroit. "We'll have to try them out and see which ones will work. It's so funny; I'm thinking about (Detroit Stories) as being an old album, 'cause I've been working on three other albums right now. I'm already into the next album a whole bunch, so now I have to go back into (Detroit Stories) and figure out what we're gonna do."

Cooper is working on the new material with producer Bob Ezrin, who helmed Detroit Stories and its two predecessors, as well as vintage Cooper releases such as Love It to Death, Killer, School's Out, Billion Dollar Babies and Welcome to My Nightmare. "It's not Cincinnati Stories or St. Louis Stories or stuff like that, but it's really good, hard-driving rock 'n' roll and I'm working with a lot of different people," Cooper says. "I'm always looking forward. I appreciate the history, and Detroit Stories having the debut it had tells me that people aren’t just kind of considering me an oldie but a goodie. People are liking the new material."

At this point in his career, the veteran rocker knows when he's onto a good song idea. "You're sitting there with a pad of paper and we're in a studio and when we get an idea it's like, 'OK, put that riff down, put that vocal down, put that lyric idea down,'" Cooper explains. "And then I can go home and work on it. And Ezrin and I have done this so many times we can hear something one time and go, 'No, no, no...Yes! That one!'"

Cooper's latest tour wraps up at the Shaky Knees Festival Oct. 23 in Atlanta, and next year he'll be part of the Monsters of Rock Cruise during early February before playing June festivals in Europe. Hollywood Vampires -- his all-star project with actor Johnny Depp and Aerosmith's Joe Perry -- is also mulling possibilities after canceling a summer tour in the U.K. and Europe.

"We haven't really talked about that tour yet, even though we're all aware of it coming up next year, probably," Cooper says. "I know that Joe's working on stuff, and Johnny's working with Jeff Beck now on some stuff. I don't know if we'd do an album first and then think about touring or if we would just continue with where we left off. The nice thing is there's no pressure with the Vampires. Everybody is just kind of saying, 'When it happens it happens.' Everybody has their own other things they're doing. So when all that's done and my tour's done, then we start going, 'OK, what will the Vampires do now?'"

20 Best Albums of 2021 (So Far)

More From 99.1 The Whale