Review: Hollywood Vampires – OVO Hydro, Glasgow

A jam-packed Summer schedule of high-profile UK rock gigs (Maiden, Kiss, Muse, Springsteen, Def Leppard/Mötley Crüe) was brought to an end by a run of gigs by the self-proclaimed “Best bar band in the world”: the Hollywood Vampires. A slightly modest description to say the least considering that Alice Cooper and Joe Perry are amongst the insanely experienced seven-piece band. Walk into your local bar on any given night, and chances are that you won’t find anything remotely like these guys; sure, you’ll find numerous bands playing some of the same songs, but it won’t have the same coolness factor that the Hollywood Vampires bring. Or the same fun.

Alice Cooper regularly tells the tale of how in the early days of the original Alice Cooper band, they used to empty venues because audiences couldn’t understand what they were witnessing playing out in front of them. Experimental, and mentored by Frank Zappa, early on, the AC band were art-rock before it was even a phrase, and to an extent, tonight’s opening act The Tubes could be considered frontrunners of the art-rock movement. Often unfairly lumped in with the Punk scene, the San Francisco veterans have been shocking audiences for decades, and if the purpose of a rock show is to provoke a response, then The Tubes certainly do that tonight.

Suited and booted in loud colorful suits, the members of The Tubes take to the stage in a theatrical manner, almost like the famous walking style from British SKA favourites Madness. After a few moments frontman Fee Waybill saunters on looking like the leader of the pack. Not quite sure what to make of the band, the crowd offers up polite applause with a few outbursts of approval from those familiar with the band. Although ‘White Punks On Dope’ is the one that most will recognise, ‘She’s a Beauty’ is the biggest hit, and Waybill jokes “Here’s a song we did back in the 80s…about 100 years ago”. Very of that time, it’s their biggest hit for a reason and is steeped in 80s-isms. Kind of like when the Talking Heads briefly had their MTV moments.

Waybill, assisted by a statuesque nurse, strips off to his shirt first of all, and then for a moment or two goes shirtless before the nurse hands him a black leather jacket for a nutty version of the Elvis classic ‘Trouble’. Looking around at the crowd, most do not know what to make of it, and who knows what their reaction would have been if Waybill had come on as his 7ft tall alter-ego Quay Lewd. ‘White Punks on Dope’ is introduced by Waybill asking in a mockney accent “Are there any white punks on dope out there?” and ending on a punky, fast version of The Beatles’ ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, The Tubes exit and leave a bemused audience wondering what the hell did they just watch?

When the Hollywood Vampires made their UK live debut in 2018, the only thing that was missing was a production deserving of those onstage. No such concerns this time around as the large production impresses in every department (including huge inflatable fangs that appear halfway through the set). Those on the sides of the arena, and up on the outer tiers don’t need to strain their eyes too much as this time around there are screens allowing everyone to get up close and personal. And once the short introduction movie ends on the screens (loudest screams for Johnny Depp, naturally), and the audience is welcomed into the lair of the Hollywood Vampires, the theatrical Christopher Lee/Dracula voice-over booms “Listen to them, the children of the night, what music they make” and the band members take to the stage one at a time as the stage is awash in a wall of red lights and plumes of smoke. Last to make his appearance is the ringmaster of the Grand Guignol: Alice Cooper. And once the smoke plumes settle, the giddiness factor kicks in as it becomes apparent that Joe Perry is playing a gorgeous red BC Rich 10-string guitar (the Rich Bich – no “T” in this bich), similar to the one that he is brandishing on the inner gatefold sleeve of Aerosmith ‘Live Bootleg’. The coolest guy on the planet, with one of the coolest guitars ever. Nice.

With Glen Sobel powering the band forward with every hit on his drums, the well-paced set follows a pattern of alternating original material with some well-chosen cover versions that get the Vampire treatment. The opening pair of originals ‘I Want My Now’ and ‘Raise the Dead’ are a great opening salvo, and there is a cool moment when Joe Perry points at Johnny Depp to take the lead guitar solo on the latter, much to the delight of thousands in the audience. It’s fascinating watching how the crowd reacts to Depp. Every time that he appears on the screen, cell phones are raised en masse, when it cuts away from him; the phones are lowered. He appears again seconds later and the phones are back up. He disappears; the phones are lowered again. There is a great deal of Depp fans in the building tonight, and they are making themselves heard. And if their gateway into the likes of The Doors and The Who is through Johnny Depp playing on ‘Five to One/Break on Through (to the Other Side)’ and ‘Baba O’Riley’ then that is alright. Incidentally, the cover of ‘Baba O’Riley’ is an utter delight: beginning with Aerosmith’s long-time multi-instrumentalist Buck Johnson on acoustic guitar, and with a dedication to John Entwistle and Keith Moon from the ageless Alice Cooper, it’s stunning. Especially when Cooper and his man-at-arms Tommy Henriksen (one of three lead guitarists tonight, and Vampires’ secret weapon) unleash some Pete Townshend windmills during that intro.

If the noise from the crowd was loud when Depp appeared on camera, then that is nothing to what it is like when he takes the mic to sing lead vocals. Singing in a lower register, almost spoken-word-like, his vocals are perfectly suited to ‘People Who Died’ (The Jim Carroll Band) which features the names and images of much-missed musicians on the large screen, and the song takes on a personal meaning for Depp as he pays special tribute to his bodyguard of twenty years Jerry Judge who passed away in 2019. Pointing at the tattoo of Judge that he has as a memorial, Depp changes the character named Eddie in the song to “Jerry” and utters a heartfelt “…this song is for you, my brother…” before Sobel brings the band back in. ‘Heroes’ is another spine-tingling moment and again, Depp’s lower register is ideal for what is a very respectful tribute to The Thin White Duke – throw in Chris Wyse (The Cult) on a custom upright bass, and Joe Perry on his famous Billie guitar (and EBow), and the end result is hair-raising. The best Depp moment though is a riotous and surprisingly heavy cover of Killing Joke’s ‘Death and The Resurrection Show’.

When blogs, YouTube videos, and social media posts are full of how certain famous rock vocalists of a certain vintage are needing some assistance with their live vocals, it’s refreshing just how strong Alice Cooper’s vocals still are. Clean living and staying in shape mean that his relentless touring schedule doesn’t cause any problems, and you can bet that if The Coop is not back over here later this year after the release of his forthcoming new album ‘Road’ in August, then he will be in the first part of 2024. The ultimate professional, he controls the audience with ease and everything goes through him. A lesson to be had for all those other veterans of the same age who dial it in night after night.

The real revelation though is Joe Perry. Free from the restraints of the shenanigans that usually surround Aerosmith, Perry is more animated onstage than he has ever been. So much so that you could be forgiven for thinking that he is relishing being away from the Steven Tyler show. Constantly smiling, and looking effortlessly cool throughout, he shines as he takes lead vocals on the Johnny Thunder classic ‘You Can’t Put Your Arms Round a Memory’ (with Wyse on the upright bass, and bow, and Cooper on Perry’s Fender guitar), and the Aerosmith deep cut ‘Bright Light Fright’ (featuring Alice on harmonica), and it is a set highlight when Depp hands him Jeff Beck’s white Fender – that has been the pride of place on Sobel’s drum riser – for an emotional tribute to Beck that has Perry playing ‘Beck’s Bolero’ in the same picking style as his idol Jeff Beck.

The closing triumvirate of ‘Walk This Way’ (introduced by the famous scene from Young Frankenstein that inspired the song title), ‘The Train Kept A-Rollin’, and the trademark mash-up of ‘School’s Out’ with ‘Another Brick in The Wall’ is as joyous a twenty minutes as you are as likely to witness in the live arena. During the band introductions, Alice coaxes Depp out of the wings and asks “Do I really need to introduce this guy?!” before introducing him as “…the Demon Guitarist of Fleet Street…”, and the screams from the crowd grow in intensity.

Hollywood Vampires

There is another great moment during the introductions; ‘Schools Out’ always sees massive balloons thrown out into the crowd, and one makes its way back to the stage. Joe Perry picks it up as he is being introduced and hides behind it, causing Alice Cooper to break character for a split-second and start laughing. Perry drops the ballon and is himself laughing and smiling. As mentioned earlier, Perry is as animated onstage as he has ever been and is having a total blast. Will we get to see Aerosmith back in the UK and Europe? Doubtful. But hopefully, we will get a Perry return somehow as the guy is on fire right now.

One of the top-ten all-time sets that this reviewer has witnessed…and not just for Alice Cooper ad-libbing during ‘The Jack’: “…she’s got the Jack…but we’ve got the Joe!”.

All remaining tour dates can be found here.

All live images – Callum Scott

Check Also

FAHRAN: New Single “Sever The Ties” July 29th

Nottingham’s rock-metal band Fahran (pronounced Fa-Ren) are set to release their eagerly anticipated new album, …

SIMONE SIMONS – releases video for ‘R.E.D.’ from her debut solo album

SIMONE SIMONS has released the video for ‘R.E.D.’, from her debut solo album, Vermillion, that’s …

TUK SMITH & THE RESTLESS HEARTS share new album details and single

TUK SMITH & THE RESTLESS HEARTS have today announced the release of their second album. …

Leave a Reply

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