Live Review: Hollywood Vampires – Birmingham

Hello Birmingham, I’m Captain Sensible, we are The Damned and this is what we do…”. It’s straight into ‘Street Of Dreams’ and it’s obvious that Dave Vanian not only still looks great, but sounds amazing. No time to rest as the unmistakable opening of ‘Neat Neat Neat’ blows the cobwebs off the front rows. Captain Sensible doesn’t waste the opportunity to remind everyone that he can play the guitar, and the solo that he peels off is a timely reminder. ‘Love Song’ is immense. Another lovely intro from the Captain before the Lemmy-esque bass kicks in. New album, ‘Evil Spirits’ is a bleedin’ corker, and, “To prove there is life in the old dog… here’s the new single.. Standing on the Edge of Tomorrow”. Life in the old dogs indeed. Then it’s into the last furlong or two with the enviable trio of ‘Eloise’, ‘New Rose’ and ‘Smash It Up’. The Damned; alive and kicking in 2018, and doing it in style. The Darkness are on a roll right now, with latest album ‘Pinewood Smile’ being hailed as their strongest since debut ‘Permission To Land’, ahem, landed in 2003. They’ve also just released a new live album, ‘Live At Hammersmith’, and if ever there was a band that belonged on the hallowed boards at the Hammy-O, it’s surely The Darkness. As British as they come, the boys from Lowestoft follow in the tradition of Queen and Mott The Hoople (more on them later) by having the same sense of epic splendour and wicked sense of humour. Opener ‘Solid Gold’ is a prime example, I can’t imagine an American act having the nerve to open a song with “We’re gonna blow people’s fucking heads off… they’re gonna shit themselves”. Even in the cavernous Genting Arena, every word that Justin Hawkins sings is crystal clear, and you can’t help but smile with the earworm chorus, ”…And we’re never gonna stop shitting out solid gold”. It’s only when you catch The Darkness in concert that you fully realise exactly how many bangers they pack in their armoury. In amongst new tracks like ‘Japanese Prisoner Of Love’ and ‘Buccaneers Of Hispaniola’, you have the totally hypnotic ‘Growing On Me’ (complete with Justin Hawkins going for a wander at the barriers), the ‘wave-your-hands-in-the-air’ gem that is ‘Love Is Only a Feeling’, the riff-tastic ‘One Way Ticket’ (with bassist Frankie Poullain on cowbell!). Then you have the closing pair of ‘Get Your Hands Off My Woman’ and, what else but, ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’. Hawkins is magical to watch, whether it’s star jumps from the drum riser, teaching the children in attendance new swear words, or introducing ‘I Believe…’ by saying “We’re going to sing a song that you are going to recognise”… and then crank out the opening riff to ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’. He is truly a frontman of some stature. By the time Hawkins, his brother Dan and Poullain gather atop Rufus Taylor’s drum riser for one last leap into the air, the crowd are on their feet and making one hell of a noise. So, after some gothic music, a werewolf howling, the sound of a thunderstorm, and Christopher Lee telling us “listen to them, the children of the night… what music they make.”, drummer Glen Sobel takes his position and the Hollywood Vampires take the stage. Through the darkness, the unmistakable sight of Joe Perry and his battered Fender greets those adjusting their eyes to the bright lights. One by one, each member is greeted by a roar, Johnny Depp ambles on as cool as you like and the screams intensify. Finally, here comes the original Hollywood Vampire himself, Alice Cooper, and the band steamroller into a fantastic new track. ‘I Want My Now’ is playing to virgin ears, but nobody cares. It’s Cooper, Perry, and Depp backed by a badass band, playing the bastard offspring of Deep Purple’s ‘Highway Star’ and Aerosmith’s ‘Draw The Line’. That same intense, gradual build up that ends up with the gas pedal getting floored. Following this with another original, ‘Raise The Dead’ (from the debut album), signifies that the Hollywood Vampires have more up their sleeves than just tributes. It’s a triple axe delight with Perry (his middle name? F*****g… as in Joe F*****g Perry), long time Cooper guitarist Tommy Henriksen, and Johnny Depp, all very much on the front feet as those on the front row struggle with the decision of who to actually watch. I’ve been lucky enough to catch Joe Perry in concert many times over the last few decades, and I reckon that today he is playing the best that he ever has, the last Aerosmith tour was incredible, and these dates with the Hollywood Vampires are the icing on the cake. Cooper is in incredible form. One of the hardest working performers in rock music today with a touring schedule to put younger upstarts to shame. He doesn’t normally speak on stage when he is in full “Alice” mode, but with the Vampires he introduces a few covers with a few brief words. “We are the Vampires… we play songs for all of our dead drunk friends…” and what a songbook they pluck gems from. Spirit’s ‘I Got a Line on You’ followed by Love’s ‘Seven and Seven Is’, which gets more of a traditional treatment than the new wave version that Cooper did in the early 80’s. It’s back to the debut Vampires album for ‘Dead Drunk Friends’, a slow burning moment with a snarling solo from Perry and a sea-shanty type chorus. All the while, images of fallen icons are displayed on the large screens. The mid section of the set is a veritable rock n’ roll jukebox ramped up to eleven; ‘Five to One/Break on Through (to the Other Side) is massive, ‘The Jack’ is dedicated to Malcolm Young (“our Australian blood-sucker”). It’s surreal with all the lyrics changed to exclude the double entendres, but it’s a highlight watching Joe Perry paying homage to one of his favourite bands. When Cooper utters “For Lemmy…” you know what’s coming next, a full throttle version of ‘Ace Of Spades’ with bassist Chris Wyse taking on the lead vocals. Coupled with the heavy organ sound from Buck Johnson, it’s a fantastic tribute, and when the larger than life image of Lemmy flashes up on the screen, there are a lot of people with “something in their eyes”. How do you follow that? With a romp through ‘Baba O’Riley’, of course, complete with a glorious drum solo. The sight of Alice Cooper and Joe Perry doing the Townsend windmill will live with me forever, simple as that. Depp is quite low key on stage. He moves around, knowing each step is followed by thousands, and when he gets his moment in the spotlight, he grabs it with both hands. ‘As Bad As I Am’ is introduced by Cooper as being, “...written by this man here“. Cue screams of delight as he points at Depp. He takes over lead vocals on the punk infused ‘People Who Died’, which is a hi-energy romp, but nothing compares to the moment when ‘Heroes’ kicks in. That intro alone is enough to drop a charging rhino, but coupled with images of Bowie flashing up on the screen and a very strong vocal performance from Depp, it truly was a spine-tingling moment. Chris Wyse on the upright bass… or was it a cello? Very visual, a very moving performance from Depp and all involved, but above all; very respectful. Cooper mentions “Speaking of heroes… we have a hero who’s going to come up and play… Ian Hunter!” Up steps Hunter, complete with acoustic guitar for a trip down memory lane on ‘All The Young Dudes’. So many highlights. Alice Cooper knocking ‘Sweet Emotion’ out of the park. C’mon man, that was worthy of admission price alone! The definitive version of ‘Train Kept A-Rollin” with Cooper blowing a mean harmonica. The sheer joy on the faces of everyone on stage… each memorable in every way, but special mention has to go to the ensemble. It can’t be easy being on stage with Cooper, Perry and Depp, but each of the Hollywood Vampires played their equal part in making it a night to remember for everyone in attendance. The Hollywood Vampires are on tour throughout the Summer. All dates can be found here. Get on board, you won’t be disappointed! Images: Becky O’Grady [gallery type='flickr' user_id='132278830@N06' view='photosets' photoset_id='72157695013564622' columns='3' tag_mode='any' sort='date-posted-desc' per_page='29' layout='square' caption='title' thumb_size='s' main_size='z' ]]]>

Check Also

NATE BERGMAN plunges into the “Deep End” as UK dates begin

NATE BERGMAN, the Nashville by way of D.C. singer-songwriter, is a performer with a voice …

US goth sensations LUDOVICO TECHNIQUE to make UK live debut next month

New York-based, goth-inspired, social sensations LUDOVICO TECHNIQUE recently cracked 1 million Spotify streams of their track, “Poisoned.” …

Sons of Liberty: New single – ‘Tertulia Time’

Sons of Liberty bring the party with…‘Tertulia Time’. The Sound of Summer 2024 releases on …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *