Review by John Jeffrey, Photos – Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
Niagara Falls, NY – Saturday night’s concert at the outdoor venue (set up in the parking lot) of the Seneca Niagara Casino was one of the most unique concert experiences I’ve endured in quite some time. After what seemed like a torrential down-pour, the Hollywood Vampires (whose name derives from The Hollywood Vampires celebrity drinking club, formed by Alice Cooper in the 1970s, whose members included Ringo Starr of The Beatles and Keith Moon of The Who), wowed the crowd with an electrifying set of covers and two originals, most which are featured on the supergroup’s 2015 studio album.
With the rain pushing the start time of the show back about an hour, the group took the stage around 9pm and wrapped things up close to 11 o’clock. The amount of fun the current lineup of the Hollywood Vampires (featuring Alice Cooper – lead vocals, Johnny Depp – rhythm/lead guitar, backing vocals, Joe Perry – lead guitar, Tommy Henriksen – rhythm guitar, backing vocals, Matt Sorum – drums, backing vocals, Robert DeLeo – bass, backing vocals, Bruce Witkin – keyboards, guitar, backing vocals) were having was simply contagious, as the crowd seemed to forget how miserably drenched they were by the rain, and the audience and the band seemed to merge into one rock and roll entity, together, honoring the music being played, originally written and performed by the rock stars who died from excess and other ailments.
The musical foundation of the band was quite impressive, as everything was built on a rock-solid rhythm section. Starting with drummer Matt Sorum, if not being involved in the Guns ‘n Roses “reunion” was any kind of let down, getting this gig – wow – talk about a consolation prize!! Sorum is onstage, playing with legends, and is playing his heart out. Not only is he pounding away on the skins, but his background vocals and harmonies on songs like, “Sweet Emotion” and “Ace of Spades” and “Whole Lotta Love” were just spot on. Adding Robert DeLeo (STP) into the mix, what you may lose in name recognition (original bassist Duff McKagan had to bow out of the tour due to his role in the aforementioned GNR tour), the Hollywood Vampires certainly gained a heavier bottom end to the sound that just kicks you right in the chest.
In the guitar department, you have the rock legend from Aerosmith, Joe Perry, on one side, and on the other, you have the Hollywood ‘bad boy’ Johnny Depp. Although Perry handled most of the lead work, Depp had his opportunities to shine in the spotlight, as he really seemed to get off when he was playing some slide guitar work and efficiently handled the opening lead part to the Cooper classic, “I’m 18.” Considering both Perry and Depp have the tendency to go rogue, and go off script, and solo in places that weren’t originally intended, each lead player had their own back-up rhythm guitarist holding it down. For Perry, he had the criminally under-rated Tommy Henriksen (from the Alice Cooper band), who by far, was the most technically proficient guitar player onstage, and Depp had the part-time guitarist/part-time keyboardist, Bruce Witkin rounding out the sound.
Of course, you can never say enough good things about front man, Alice Cooper. His vintage voice doesn’t sound any older than he did in 1974, and although he wasn’t performing any of his normal stage theatrics, Alice actually did a little bit of stage banter in between songs, which he almost never does during an “Alice Cooper” show.
Probably the biggest question of the night was whether “Mr. Hollywood,” Johnny Depp is a ‘real deal’ rock and roller or not. It takes a little bit more than a couple of drawn on vampire bite marks to convince me, but let me tell ya, Johnny pulled it off. He played every note and every chord without hesitation, and even if he ever got lost in a song, it never looked like it. He was confident, yet humble and showed his heartfelt gratitude to the crowd, every time he left stage. On this night, Johnny Depp was rock and roll personified.
As I’m writing this review, we just got word that at the following night’s performance, in Coney Island (NYC), Joe Perry collapsed mid way through the show, due to cardiac arrest, leaving many questions to be answered, as far as Perry’s future with the tour, with the Vampires altogether, and perhaps the remainder his professional touring career – depending on the severity of his condition. Pondering the thought of whether or not this could be the last full show Perry performs for now, or in the future, puts this entire show in a different perspective for me. Joe Perry is a rock legend, who leaves it all out on the stage, let’s hope this isn’t the last the stage has seen of Joe Perry. God Bless!!
Hollywood Vampires setlist 07-09-2016
Raise the Dead
I Got a Line on You
Five to One / Break On Through (to the Other Side)
As Bad As I Am
20th Century Boy
Bang a Gong (Get It On)
7 and 7 Is
Whole Lotta Love
My Dead Drunk Friends
Stop Messin’ Around
Ace of Spades
Train Kept A-Rollin’