Hollywood Vampires – Live Review – Scarborough Open Air Theatre

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By Victoria Holdsworth, July 2023

No crypt was left undisturbed tonight as the legendary Hollywood Vampires took to the stage in Scarborough, proving that there is plenty of life left yet in some of those old bones. This supergroup has seen some big names come and go over the years they have been formed, but they have been replaced with talents of epic proportions, all bringing their own magic to stage.

As the ever-theatrical Alice Cooper bounded out to greet their sold out crowd, introducing all his other band mates for the evening, it was deafeningly noticeable that the loudest cheers were for one band member in particular: Mr Johnny Depp, still nursing a busted ankle and foot. I would hazard a guess that a large percentage of the middle-aged women in the crowd had come to catch a glimpse of just him alone, however, this led to quite a few of them being forcefully ejected out by security after coming to jealous blows with each other, which was very sad to see.

Regardless of the hormonal dramas, Hollywood Vampires did not mess about, getting straight into their set and blasting out ‘I Want My Now’, from the 2019 album Rise. This is one hell of an opener, and the marauding guitar work from Joe Perry, Tommy Henriksen, and Depp really gets the blood flowing, setting the scene perfectly for the rest of the night.

‘Raise The Dead’ sees Cooper command his crowd, and his vocals from the offset are pitch perfect, as a giant inflatable set of lips and fangs starts to frame the stage. There’s nothing fancy, no pyrotechnics going off, no elaborate stage sets like a usual Alice Cooper gig, it’s just seven guys on a stage who love playing what they play, and they nail it! Whilst the charismatic Alice is clearly the ringleader of these troubadours, he never puts himself above anyone he shares the stage with – all are equal and he is just the mouthpiece.

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The set list tonight comprises of their own material, with a healthy dose of covers, and some of their own bands’ hits, kick started by an Alice Cooper 70s classic, ‘I’m 18’, which still sounds as good as it ever did then, not missing a beat, we are treated to two Doors covers.

Alice takes vocals on ‘Five to One’, before teasing with an interval of ‘My Drunk Dead Friends’, as the names of every well-known dead rock star flashes across the stages backdrop before weaving its way into ‘Break On Through’, which is lapped up by the crowd. Personally, I am a Doors fanatic, so I get a bit angsty when people do covers, but The Hollywood Vampires do The Doors proud.

There’s some chatting with the audience, and Alice asks if everyone is ready for ‘The Boogieman Surprise’, which is a light-hearted and bouncing tune from Rise. It’s fun, it’s dark and it would even make a goth smile.

‘My Drunk Dead Friends’ is one of the stand out songs tonight. The lyrics are a poignant and poetically crafted shanty, styled to a blues rock ballad, and it’s a musical masterpiece. There are some killer key riffs from Aerosmith’s touring keyboardist Burleigh “Buck” Johnson, all held together by a very dark and menacing bassline from Chris Wyse, one time member of The Cult, and punctuated by some snapping drumsse. The whole performance shows what camaraderie they have with one another.

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Joe Perry steps up to perform another stand out song, ‘You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory’, a Johnny Thunders track, released back in 1978. It’s sublime, and watching Joe Perry play this up close was a joy to behold. Perry almost becomes one with his instrument, and each emotion just bleeds through his strings. Whilst his vocals are on a different musical level to Steven Tyler’s, he has a rich gravel, blues slick voice which draws you in, making you listen to the story he is telling you. The crowd absolutely love it. A truly mesmerising performance.

Alice takes the helm again, and the unmistakable intro of The Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley’ echoes around the sound systems, as he makes a respectful shout out to his old friend, legendary bassist, John Entwistle. The vocals are great, with each of the band members chiming in, one by one, filling in with the sound from the crowd, as they become deafening. It raises the hairs on a few arms, when Alice starts shouting, “You’re all wasted!” I dare say many people around me now are, and they are now ready to party harder.

‘Who’s Laughing Now’ sees a raptorial bass intro from Chris Wyse and is so gutsy you can feel it in your every bone. It is as heavy as hell. This has some musical nods to the likes of The Sisters of Mercy, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the southern licks that Joe Perry throws all over this are staggering.

The atmosphere suddenly shifts, as Alice introduces Johnny to the crowd to perform ‘People Who Died’. The crowd go crazy, as Joe and the rest of the band back him up vocally. This is a display of pure vigour, and I’m completely blown away. The boy really can play and sing! Granted he couldn’t run around too much with his ankle in a cast, but no one cares. As for the naysayers who have told him not to give up his day job, I say you’re wrong. His personality and demeanour is not ‘out there’, and he’s not going to change that just because he has a guitar strapped around him, instead of being in front of a camera.

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Keeping things on a heavier track, they knock AC/DC’s ‘The Jack’ out of left field. Cooper’s voice taking on a delightful sleazy blues tinge, again with Joe Perry executing a fine solo.

‘As Bad As I Am’ from their first album is a ball of expanding energy from start to finish. Punk driven guitar lines and drums to rattle your soul. They just keep getting better with each song played .

Johnny Depp shyly steps forward to the microphone, as Alice straps on a guitar and blends into the background, as the band slowly manifest their musical talents into David Bowie’s classic ‘Heroes’. I’m not the biggest Bowie fan, but I have to admit that I really enjoyed Depp’s rendition of this and was incredibly impressed with his vocal talents. Harmonies from Alice and Perry are phenomenal.

Depp thanks the crowd and tells them that: “Just thinking about what that song means. We too lost one of our heroes from the band, Mr Jeff Beck. I would like to introduce you to his best friend.” and he walks to pick up his white American Stratocaster. Holding the guitar up to the sky he pays tribute to his fallen bandmate and best friend, declaring that there’s only one person who is worthy enough to play it in his absence and that is Mr Joe Perry, who takes it gingerly from his hands and straps it around him, before dedicating some lavish guitar work of some of Beck’s material, as images of his career flash across the screens at the back of stage. It’s a touching moment, and he is clearly missed.

Switching out the guitar, Perry then rips into a lesser-known Aerosmith track, ‘Bright Light Fright’, from Draw The Line, released in 1977. It was ballsy, and bluesy and I didn’t want it to end.

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Depp takes the vocals again for a cracking rendition of Killing Joke‘s ‘The Death and Resurrection Show’. All I can say is wow! You really need to see, hear and feel this live. It is hypnotic.

‘Walk This Way’ sees Alice and Buck Johnson share vocals, with Joe Perry gives his usual all to one of his greatest ever songs. I think I prefer this version, vocally different and with a whole new lease of life.

The last song of the set goes right back to 1951, with a cover of Tiny Bradshaw’s, ‘The Train Kept A-Rollin” and couldn’t have been a more fitting testament to the outstanding musicianship I have just witnessed.

There is of course an encore, after a quick wipe down and swig of beverages, off to the side of the stage, as Alice returns and commands that everybody has to sing along, before they blast ‘School’s Out’ to a raucous reception, and just to add the cherry on the cake, there is his own version on Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick In The Wall’. At the mid-way point of the song, he again thanks and introduces his band members, and without missing a beat, just picks it up where he left off and they rock out to the very last note.

Watching these guys tonight provided a rock mix tape dream come true. Everything that you love you can find with The Hollywood Vampires. Yes, they may be self indulgent, but they have all earnt the right to be, as they are the masters of their crafts, and when brought together produce something spectacular. It was fast-paced, in-your-face rock n roll and it was a joy to see them all embrace each others’ talents and company on stage. They are an experience to behold.

images: Cuffe & Taylor


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