Hollywood Vampires, SSE Arena, review: Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp and Aerosmith's Joe Perry rock Wembley
So legend has it, hidden away in the loft of the notorious Rainbow Bar and Grill on the Sunset Strip, Alice Cooper once ran his own all-night drinking club. John Lennon, Marc Bolan, Harry Nilsson, John Belushi and Keith Moon were among the regulars, included by virtue of their stamina; the bar staff nicknamed them the Hollywood Vampires. In 2015, as one of the few left alive, the now-teetotal Cooper assembled his own supergroup under that banner, drafting in Aerosmith’s guitarist Joe Perry along with, rather strangely, Johnny Depp, to pay tribute to his departed friends and heroes.
Along this theme, on Wednesday night, on the last UK date of their European tour, the band were backed by montages of dead rock and screen stars, as they sang My Dead Drunk Friends, a self-penned shanty with chant-a-long lyrics that appeared in a pirate font on the big screens.
However this track was one of only a few on on the setlist that weren’t cover versions. Hollywood A-lister or not, Hollywood Vampires are essentially a glorified pub karaoke band, borrowing hits from the likes of Love, AC/DC and The Doors. Nevertheless, there was poignancy in some of their choices: bassist Chris Wyse gave a rasping performance of Motorhead’s Ace of Spades as images of Lemmy loomed over him, while Depp’s gentle rendition of David Bowie’s Heroes, one of two numbers on which he took lead vocals, was lit up by a sea of mobile phones capturing the moment.
Despite his Hollywood status, Depp was far from the star attraction here though - principally, he remained side-of stage. He is a competent guitarist, and certainly looks the part: at age 55, wearing a puffy white shirt and black waistcoat, a bandana and chains hanging from his neck and belt-hooks, he is evermore morphing into Keith Richards. But, on stage rather than screen, exuberance and showmanship clearly do not come naturally to him – he never spoke to the Wembley crowd. When Cooper introduced each member of the seven-strong touring band during the show’s final minutes, he had to yank Depp out from his hiding place behind an amp.
However while for Depp, Hollywood Vampires may be a chance to dip his toe into the rockstar dream that he’s held onto since he was a teenager, for Cooper, it is clearly for fun. And this really was his show. Swinging his black cane and snarling, the patriarch of glam rock introduced his 1971 breakout hit I’m Eighteen by declaring himself “a vampire that did not die”. And after watching this septuagenarian closing the show with the bombastic School’s Out, you wonder if he really might just outlast us all.