HOLLYWOOD VAMPIRES RAISE THE DEAD
Story & Photographs by Diane Fleischman
There’s a musical vibe that takes over the Lehigh Valley during the summer months, concerts and performances are abound with every turn of the head. The Hollywood Vampires raised the summer fever Friday night at The Sands Event Center in Bethlehem, as they performed to a sold out crowd.
Most notably, this was their kick off to a full summer tour of North America. The Hollywood Vampires did not disappoint as the band unleashed their high energy and pounding metal beats throughout an eighteen song set with an additional three songs in the encore.Story & Photographs by Diane Fleischman
Founding members Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp, and Joe Perry formed the band in 2015 with the mission of paying tribute to the rock legends, members of an exclusive club back in the early 70’s called The Hollywood Vampires. As the story goes, the only way into this club was to out drink the other members. “They’re all gone now”, Cooper told the crowd, “I’m the only one left.”
Later that year came the studio release of their self-titled album of cover songs with two original tunes. The band spared no expense as they included contributing artists paying their homage on these tracks with the likes of Sir Paul McCartney, David Grohl, Perry Farrell, Robbie Krieger, Joe Walsh, Slash, Kip Winger, Zak Starkey, and several more.
As the concert began on the big screen, we were introduced to the members of the original Hollywood Vampires, then the band took the stage, and opened with “Raise The Dead”, appropriate to get the party started, followed by “I’ve Got a Line on You” (Spirit), and “Manic Depression” (Jimi Hendrix).
Alice Cooper, or Count Cooper as he appeared, took center stage, donned in traditional vampire attire of an intricate designed waist length black jacket, a white shirt with a frilly collar and sleeves, tight black trousers, blacked out eyes, and a visible set of vampire bite marks placed on the right side of his neck. This was a clear distinction this was not the typical shock rock Alice Cooper show. At 68, he commands the stage, his vocals remain incredibly strong, which says a lot considering he’s been on tour himself sandwiched in between the Vampire shows.
“We’re going to play a little blues…Boston style”, Joe Perry smoothly stated as he introduced “Stop Messin’ Around” (Fleetwood Mac), and sang lead vocals. The audience roared as Cooper added the harmonica solo, and Perry, with his famous single white streak in his hair, which peaked out slightly under his oversized hat. He dressed in classic style, with a long flowing purple jacket. He flung his guitar over his head and played on. Perry, a strong anchor to this band, remains as one of the most expressive guitarists of our time.
Cooper began to tell the story of the next song. “Johnny (Depp) told me about his step father. He was a bit of a criminal. They would sit around and he would toast, ‘As Good As You Are, As Bad As I Am’”, their single from the album. This song also premiered on this year’s Grammy awards show. The song was composed by Depp along with fellow Vampires, Tommy Hendriksen and Bruce Witkin, and definitely pumps a fresh, fast paced, almost thrashing heavy rock sound added into the fold. For those love struck devotees who expected Depp to show his international A-listed actor stature, that didn’t happen. Depp was downright friendly, he smiled often, he bopped, swayed, strutted, and threw in his own swagger as he covered both sides of the stage. He played with great intensity, and also moments of ease and confidence. With his guitar strapped around his back, this is where we witnessed Depp’s finest work.
Also included in the set were two songs celebrated from Marc Bolan, “20th Century Boy”, and “Bang a Gong (Get it On)”, “Cold Turkey” (Plastic Ono Band), “Whole Lotta Love” (Led Zeppelin), “Rebel Rebel” and “Suffragette City” (David Bowie), “5 to 1” and “Break on Through” (The Doors).
During the performance of “My Generation” (The Who), Perry played in true Pete Townsend style as he smashed his guitar at the end of the song. He added one solid kick to the splintered remains before he was handed a new guitar.
The set closed with an Alice Cooper anthem, “I’m 18”, in which, the crowd screamed wildly. For a moment they caught their breath as “Sweet Emotion” (Aerosmith) began with Cooper shaking several maracas.
The encore kicked off with “Train Kept a Rollin’” (Tiny Bradshaw), followed by the crowd favorite of the night, “Schools Out” (Alice Cooper), and created a snippet as “Another Brick in the Wall, part 2, (Pink Floyd) was added.
“Does anyone want more?” Cooper questioned the audience. Closing the evening was “Ace of Spades”, (Motorhead), as Matt Sorum (The Cult, Guns & Roses) sang lead vocals from his drum kit. There aren’t many drummers who can pull off singing and drumming simultaneously, and with a few smiles here and there, Sorum’s performance was flawless.
The concert was a celebration of music from days gone by, and a celebration of the formation of this very unique band. For this summer, this is one of the season’s hottest shows, and what an honor it was as we saw it first in the Lehigh Valley.