Let me check the bucket list. Finally see Alice Cooper live. Tick. Watch Johnny Depp rock out, stalking the stage like a restless panther strapped into a six string. Yep, done that now too.

Anyone with a passing interest in the rock era’s geological record can’t not be intrigued by The Hollywood Vampires.

The occasionally-convened supergroup was the brainchild of Alice Cooper, who drank the ‘70s away with John Lennon, Keith Moon, Harry Nillson, John Bonham and other assorted rock royalty at fabled Sunset Strip joint, Rainbow Bar and Grill. Staff there christened the elite set of hellraisers.

The old shock rocker is the last survivor and the band of the same name exists as a tribute act to his many fallen friends and colleagues.

Alice, who was plastering on the war paint long before Kiss and rocked a top hat when Slash was still a Stoke-on-Trent street urchin, knew everyone: Jim Morrison, Lemmy, Bowie, the Ramones, Led Zeppelin… you name them, he was a friend.

And tonight, at the Manchester Arena, the famously reformed clean-living, teetotal, scratch-golfing, born-again-Christian led his motley crew of very-much-alive rockers on a joyful stomp down memory lane.

Although top-drawer self-penned numbers, such as the raucous shanty, ‘My Dead Drunk Friends’ (no prizes for guessing who that’s about), were aired, tonight was all about bringing deceased members of AC/DC, Motorhead and the Doors back to life – with many other fallen rock gods hailed.

Although he was generous with the mic – other Vampires had a good shout too – nobody was going to upstage Alice. Not even one of the world’s biggest film stars.

Johnny Depp on rhythm guitar obviously adds rocket boosters to the band’s appeal – there was a 55:45 female/male split – but everybody was there for the music too. With that in mind, ‘Cap’n Jack’ seemed a bit of a spare part at first, his guitar parts indistinguishable his occasional vocals gruff and mumbled.

His stage presence was indisputable, though – and when he took the lead on Bowie’s ‘Heroes’, he captured the Thin White Duke with eerie precision. The neck hairs rose as images of the great chameleon’s various incarnations flashed across a giant screen above the stage.

Also aboard was grizzled but still-handsome Aerosmith axeman, Joe Perry, a Stone Temple Pilot and several highly respected LA session men. Despite the revelry, they ensured a musical gold standard worthy of the idols honoured.

Also mixed in with the timeless short, sharp rockers were Alice and Aerosmith numbers and proceedings crashed to a glorious conclusion with – what else? – ‘School’s Out’, which had the 21,000 congregation on its feet and belting out every word.

The party atmosphere was heightened by the many Jack Sparrow and Alice lookalikes dotted around the arena – not to mention the fab support acts. Opening was the band that created punk, the surprisingly polite and well-spoken The Damned, who were followed by outrageous sham glam rockers, The Darkness.

All that for forty-odd quid. What’s not to like?

By David Gatehouse for Far Out Magazine

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