Live Gig Review by Francijn Suermondt
Pictures: Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media
The bubbling of whisperings on the underground and the excited chatter from the staff at my hotel was a demonstration of just how big a deal it was that the Hollywood Vampires were coming to town. With Johnny Depp being the obvious draw to those less au fait with the details of the other rock royalty in the band, namely Alice Cooper and Joe Perry, it seemed that everyone, young or old, was heading to the SSE Arena on June 20th.
In the summer heat, at the bar outside the arena, concertgoers swigged their ale of choice whilst listening to a very good selection of classic rock numbers and the chaos at the press and guest list entrance, although unnerving, almost added to the excitement and cemented the feeling that something big was happening.
Press Pass (at last) in my fevered paw, I climbed the stairs in anticipation of the entertainment which was to be laid before me.
Of the two support bands, The Damned was the one I least expected to enjoy, having only dabbled in punk in my youth, these chaps were not my go-to listening treat, as I was heavily into The Cramps and Crass at the time. But boy was I in for a surprise! With the strains of Holst and ‘Mars’ (The Bringer of War) from ‘The Planets’ whipping us into a frenzy, The Damned bounded on to the stage like it was still 1976. They treated us deliciously to all the old favourites (including ‘Eloise’….which totally tore the place down by the way) and introduced us to the new in ‘Standing on the Edge of Tomorrow’. Ending with ‘Smash It Up’….the boys did what it says on the tin, they SMASHED it! More rock than punk nowadays, especially live ….I can’t wait to see them again!
The Darkness I came more prepared for, however, what I was not ready for was the exceptional interaction with Justin and the crowd. What a fine, fine frontman he is, funny and energetic. The Darkness delivered with a brilliantly uplifting performance, from screaming guitars and vocals, to upside leg clapping (how clever is that I must give it a go!!) to discussions about Roger Moore and his safari suits …. Hilarious! Beginning with ‘Solid Gold’, this gig, I knew was going to be goody. The bassist Frankie Poullain, definitely knows how to inject the funk into rock. Finishing up this dose of good time rock n roll, it had to be ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’ and the crowd just LOVED it ….happy days.
You could feel the atmosphere change with the fevered anticipation of the crowd (especially the females) waiting for the Hollywood Vampires to grace us with their presence. When partying in LA, when I lived there in the early 90’s, I used to practically live in The Rainbow Bar & Grill, especially the tiny disco room upstairs. I always wondered why there were all the names scribe on the small door leading up to it and now I know!
To a ROAR from the whole arena, Alice, Johnny, Joe, and crew swooped in with ‘I Want My Now’ and the Vampires are certainly getting theirs, to say that there was a feeling of total adoration from those around me didn’t even come close. Alice Cooper was the ringmaster for sure and at times it actually just felt like another Alice Cooper concert, I was hoping to get more of a feel of some influence from Joe Perry (who I was the most excited about seeing). Of course, Joe’s playing was exceptional as always and the rendition of ‘Sweet Emotion’ was spine tingling. Through the covers of ‘The Jack’ by ACDC to Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Stop Messin Around’ the hits just kept coming and delivered with aplomb. However, ‘The Ace Spades’ did leave me a little cold for some reason, I guess no one can scream this out like Lemmy after all. But I could forgive the Vamps this if only for their superbly covered ‘7 and 7 is’ which is one of my all-time favourite Alice Cooper tracks from the album ‘Special Forces’.
Johnny Depp I feel should be given a break, a number of people have said that his contribution musically had been very limited. At the end of the day, he is an actor first and foremost, so, to be honest, I was not expecting too much from him, and he played the right notes in the right order (not like Eric Morecombe!). I think all can be forgiven, as his vocals on ‘Heroes’ almost brought me to tears….stunning.
A Hollywood Vampires gig maybe just a glorified, rock royalty, karaoke session….but at the end of the day who cares. I night filled with glamour, danger and rock classics…what’s not to like?