If your idea of a great night out is watching rock’s oldest juvenile delinquents pay tribute to their boozy fallen comrades, who are you gonna call? Hollywood Vampires, of course. Making their London debut, the vaudevillian supergroup fronted by the veteran shock-rocker Alice Cooper, the Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry and the Hollywood superstar Johnny Depp played a lively show consisting largely of songs written by their famous dead friends. At times it felt like witnessing an army of Salieris dancing on Mozart’s grave, but the prevailing mood was one of rowdy, good-natured celebration.
Launched in 2015, the Vampires are named after an informal late-night drinking club, formed by Cooper in early 1970s Hollywood, that included such legendary hellraisers as John Lennon, Harry Nilsson, and Keith Moon. This show featured many of the group’s original members in its background video montages and its covers-heavy set list.
As ever, Depp played the role of swashbuckling rock’n’roll pirate with random tufts of hair sprouting from beneath a complicated arrangement of hats and bandannas. He may be typecast in this persona, but he inhabits it convincingly. Depp also threw some plausible guitar-hero poses, although the band’s two professional guitarists appeared to do most of the heavy lifting.
Low on frills or pyrotechnics, this production felt oddly threadbare for an arena-sized touring show fronted by three multimillionaires. Indeed, the whole evening had a slightly amateurish end-of-the-pier mood, and it was like watching the world’s biggest pub-rock band turning their private hobby into a public spectacle. That said, the party-friendly karaoke energy seldom flagged.
Of course, it is hard to go wrong with Motörhead’s gnarly classic Ace of Spades, on which the bass guitarist Chris Wyse took lead vocals in growly tribute to the singer Lemmy. It is far easier to mess up David Bowie’s much-covered and much-desecrated Heroes, but to their credit, the Vampires performed the song with the boisterous, edge-of-mania gusto it requires.
The evening’s handful of original Vampires compositions inevitably sounded lumpen and lacklustre alongside such borrowed treasures, although the band’s signature anthem, My Dead Drunk Friends, was a darkly funny highlight with its cheery Oktoberfest refrain about the dubious joys of drinking and puking. And Cooper remains an impressively tireless showman at 70, still milking his schlocky horror-show shtick for maximum cheesy melodrama. For all its tacky elements, this night of the living dead was ultimately a heartfelt toast to absent friends.
By The Times