Hollywood Vampires honor the dead with a show full of life (review, video)

VERONA, N.Y. — When three legends take one stage, and one of those legends is Alice Cooper, it’s hard to pay attention to anyone else.

Rock supergroup Hollywood Vampires, featuring Cooper, actor Johnny Depp and Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry, kicked off their summer tour on Tuesday night (May 24) at the Turning Stone Resort Casino.

At 68, Cooper is the picture of vivacity. He commanded the stage with vigorous vocals, glam rock swagger and full “vampire” attire. (Lestat, not Edward Cullen). His frilly poet shirt was splattered with blood, and despite wearing both a corset and skintight leather pants, Cooper missed no opportunities to gyrate his hips.

Perry, rock royalty dressed in deep purple, seemed to have an endless supply of guitars at his disposal. Around 8:30 p.m., Perry smashed his white guitar and threw pieces of it into the crowd.

It was only the fifth song of the night.

Another white guitar appeared in its place, only to be traded for an orange and white arrow during “Break on Through,” and later, a classic black shredder. He played just as he always has, with razor sharp licks and even a behind-the-head solo on “Stop Messin’ Around.”

 

Next to the wildly confident Cooper and Perry, global megastar and sex symbol Johnny Depp looked almost boyish.

Dressed in a simple black vest over a collared white shirt, Depp played the right-hand man for most of the show, backing up Cooper’s vocals and Perry’s guitar expertise. With a toothy smile, Cooper played down Depp’s celebrity, calling him “Johnny D from Kentucky.”

But Depp is no Hollywood hack. He showed off impressive chops during “As Bad As I Am” with a picking style to rival Keith Richards. One audience member remarked Depp looked like he could’ve been Richards’ son.

Depp seemed to enjoy taking a backseat to Cooper. He smiled coyly at the massive cheers following his solos, and wiggled his fingers at fans.

That’s important to note: Johnny Depp does not wave, he wiggles. It’s like a little piece of Captain Jack Sparrow never left him. The audience loved it, cheering wildly every time he murmured a “thank you” into the mic.

Depp said lots of other things too, but they were completely inaudible. Either he’s a terrible mumbler or his microphone was too low. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the only time the show was hindered by muddy audio.

Otherwise, the night was in every way a tribute to the real Hollywood Vampires, the 1970s celebrity drinking club of the same name (founded by Cooper). The set list (below) consisted of mostly classic rock covers by Cooper’s “Dead Drunk Friends.”

This is for all my brothers who drank until they couldn’t walk.

“This is for all my brothers who drank until they couldn’t walk,” Cooper told the audience. “I was the only one who walked out.”

But there was no bitterness or solemnity to the Hollywood Vampires performance. The tribute was celebratory, with deep respect paid to every fallen rock star’s life. “For John,” Cooper said, before belting out “Cold Turkey” as hard as he could.

What rang true was the sheer endurance of rock veterans like Cooper and Perry. Like they say in the hit musical “Hamilton,” “Dying is easy, young man. Living is harder.” To create a brand new, high-energy rock show after decades of performing is no easy feat.

Good thing they love the spotlight, and the spotlight loves them. Ever the consummate performer, Cooper sashayed around the stage all night, boasting his range of talents with his harmonica and four black maracas. He’s no John Popper, but he’s definitely having fun.

“Playing the role of Alice Cooper tonight…me!” Cooper joyfully declared during the encore, after throwing giant beach balls and Mardi Gras beads into the crowd.

Maybe he’s dressed like the dead, but no one loves life more than Alice Cooper.


Hollywood Vampires set list
Tuesday, May 24, 2016 at Turning Stone

Hollywood Vampires played from 8:13 to 9:52 p.m., with plenty of classic rock covers and several original songs co-written by Depp.

Raise the Dead (original)
I Got a Line on You (Spirit)
20th Century Boy (T. Rex)
Pinball Wizard (The Who)
My Generation (The Who)
Manic Depression (Jimi Hendrix)
Cold Turkey (John Lennon)
Come Together (The Beatles)
7 and 7 Is (Arthur Lee, Love)
Whole Lotta Love (Led Zeppelin)
Five to One/Break on Through (The Doors)
Rebel Rebel (David Bowie)
Suffragette City (David Bowie)
As Bad As I Am (original)
Stop Messin’ Around (Aerosmith)
Dead Drunk Friends (original)
Ace of Spades (Motorhead)
I’m Eighteen (Alice Cooper)
Sweet Emotion (Aerosmith)

Encore
Train Kept a Rollin’ (Aerosmith)
School’s Out (Alice Cooper)

The band includes Stone Temple Pilots bassist Robert DeLeo, drummer Matt Sorum (The Cult, Guns N’ Roses), guitarist Tommy Henriksen (Alice Cooper) and multi-instrumentalist Bruce Witkin (from Johnny Depp’s group The Kids).

By Katrina Tulloch | [email protected] for Syracuse.com