The Hollywood Vampires – Gig review

Written by on July 5, 2018

I had been a bit dubious about The Damned recently. I had been a fan of their work for a while but wasn’t so keen on their latest album and what I thought to be a change of sound, almost verging on a change of genre for the band. I was however, as usual in these cases, proved wrong. We had arrived on time and relatively sober to the Wembley arena, which is a rare occurrence, rarer still is the fact that we were there for the opening act, which almost never happens despite the best of intentions, support acts are usually a casualty of our own behaviours and shenanigans.

We took our seats and took in what was to become a master class in the abilities of the best frontmen you could ever wish to see. The crowd engagement from the off was outstanding and any fears I had over the quality of their music was cast aside very quickly. And I was carried off through a selection of the band’s greatest hits. For once, not knowing a lot of the songs was not a handicap to getting involved and the night was kicked off in the best possible way.

The Darkness were a band that I was looking forward to seeing. They had been a band that I had struggled to get into through their records, but I had heard that their live show was amazing. This is often the best way to get into any band, to see them live and then go back to their albums. This is why I love Skindred and Crossfaith so much, especially when they are touring together, but I still find it difficult to get through an entire album in one sitting, they aren’t exactly ‘background noise’.

They did not disappoint with guitar heroics to a level that I had not expected and a performance that was electrifying and at points demanded that you get out of your seat and join in. I do not mean this in any figurative way. At one point Justin halted the show to demand that some members of the crowd who had remained in their seats get up with the rest of the crowd as he was ‘suicidal on a career level and would not hesitate to destroy this show’ if they did not. The offending audience members quickly rose. Justin advised a disabled member of the crowd that they did not have to stand with a grin that would make Russel Brand look coy.

With that the gig took off again and I was left with a feeling that Justin Hawkins had made me a believer in rock stars again. There are undoubtedly some still out there, if not as mainstream as they once were. Id like to believe that there are yet more than he still carrying the flag, but if there are not then at least the last of the breed will going out all guns blazing and not trying with abject resolve to remain relevant, you come to him or fuck off.

The Hollywood Vampires took the stage, took the show to a new level and never let it drop. Alice Cooper is perhaps the greatest showman that rock has ever had. Joe Perry put on a blistering performance from the first note and blew us away. We were unsure of him, having seen him with Aerosmith, as he usually takes a while to get into the swing of the gig, but he was attacking each song hard from the go. Johnny Depp swaggered about the stage, every part the rock star, proving that Pirates of the Caribbean is not so much a performance but rather the director following Depp around on his holidays. The relaxed and graceful ‘drunk pirate’ movements continue on stage, making it very difficult to get a picture of the man. The more experienced rock legends strike a pose with every movement for the photographers to capture them in all of their glory. Depp plays a game of cat and mouse with the camera, which doesn’t seem deliberate, more adding to the enigma.

The tracks blast off with a mixture of originals and covers, the covers being included on the album as well as some well known tracks from Alice Cooper and Aerosmith’s back catalogue respectively. Perry as said before was on a level of guitar madness we had not seen before. As though the tour had re-energised him, or as if he was in direct competition with The Darkness and was determined to leave the arena as the undisputed guitar god of the night. This is not an easy thing to achieve when Jimmy Page is lurking backstage, and yet he managed, Page did not take the stage.

Depp for his part did not put a note wrong, strolling around the stage easily as if he’d been there his whole life. I was more surprised to see him wielding the guitar rather than bass, but it suited him and he handled the duty well.

Cooper managed to hold your attention on a stage filled with stars. He managed to cover songs with a manner that made you think that perhaps he had handed them down to the original artists rather than the other way round. There is a reason why he and his shows are still in such high demand as much now as they ever were. There has not, in my experience, been a front man that has embraced the surreal nature of his shows and the abject absurdity of them, with such resolute conviction. Even the lines and mannerisms that would come across as comical or cheesy in less capable hands, all make sense in terms of the show and you are carried along by the performance, aware that you have just seen something great.

We stepped out into the night, ears ringing, and hoping the bar was still open. The discussion was one of awe for all of the performer that we had just seen and nothing but positivity from everyone there. This is a rare occurrence given the number of gigs that we have been to and the amount of music and performances we have seen. To be awed in such a way never happens and there is often something that can be slowly picked apart in critique.

We nearly didn’t attend this gig due to the already hectic schedule of Uncle Rock’s summer tour. This date being the only one where there was a gap, one that had been earmarked for some well deserved rest. Leaving the arena it was clear to all of us that we had seen something spect

Opening the show in style

Justin Hawkins and co reaffirming faith in Rock

Alice Cooper doing what he does best

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