By Nicole Pajer
“Drugs and alcohol — can anybody relate to that?” Alice Cooper asked from the stage of L.A.’s Roxy Theatre on Wednesday night, as the iconic shock rocker joined forces with Joe Perry and Johnny Depp to debut their brand-new supergroup, the Hollywood Vampires. “Half of us died and half of us are still here. So these are the songs for all of our dead, drunk friends tonight, ghosts that still haunt the Sunset Strip.”
The project started as a tribute to the iconic Hollywood Vampires, a 1970s drinking club that often met at a local West Hollywood watering hole called the Rainbow Bar & Grill. So it was only fitting that the band’s debut would take place directly next-door at The Roxy. The show — which sold out in 60 seconds and drew famous fans from Toto co-founder Steve Lukather to Orianthi and Kiss’ Paul Stanley – kicked off shortly after 9 p.m. After the lights dimmed, a crowd of 500 squealed while a curtain lifted to reveal a true menagerie of rock stars. In addition to the band’s founding members, there was Duff McKagan on bass, Matt Sorumbehind the drum kit, Tommy Henriksen on guitar, and Bruce Witkin manning a keyboard.
The Hollywood Vamps kicked things off with “Raise the Dead” from their self-titled debut album before diving into a bluesy rendition of The Who‘s “My Generation.” As expected, Cooper manned the vocals. He pranced around the stage in his typical theatrics, clad head to toe in black, sporting his trademark smudgy eye makeup, which he revealed after pulling off his shades several songs into the set. There was also a black “V” drawn on the center of his forehead. Depp and Perry wore matching white button-ups and black vests, the actor bringing a bit of Captain Jack Sparrow into the night by draping a long bandana, which doubled as a sweatband, across his forehead. The A-lister started off the show with his own little cheering section, but by the end of the evening, he completely blended into the stage, proving himself worthy of jamming with the legends beside him.
The 13-song set included a cover of John Lennon‘s “Cold Turkey” and “Break On Through (To the Other Side)” by The Doors. Five songs in, Tom Morello and Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler hopped on stage for Jimi Hendrix‘s “Manic Depression.” The song had Perry and the Rage Against the Machine guitarist trading off solos. But everyone’s jaws dropped when Morello embarked upon a solo that ended with him playing his guitar with his teeth, a true nod to Hendrix. Kesha shared Cooper’s mic to perform a sultry cover of Led Zeppelin‘s “Whole Lotta Love” and quickly made the chorus her own: “Way down inside…Alice” — he chimed in and cooed out “Kesha” immediately after — “…you need…love.” Perry Farrell also joined the boys onstage while his wife, Etty, hopped beside the keyboard and contributed her backup vocals.
But by far the best part of the evening was when all the special guests joined the Hollywood Vampires for what was arguably one of the best renditions of Cooper’s “School’s Out,” which was artfully mashed up with Pink Floyd‘s “Another Brick in the Wall.” From there, Cooper raised what resembled a full beer glass to the crowd and mimed a sip, only to reveal that it was merely a prop. “Alright, these songs are about all of our dead, drunk friends. Right across the street over there at The Rainbow, we used to drink every night until we couldn’t see anything. And they called us the Hollywood Vampires because we never saw daylight,” he explained. “And we didn’t drink the blood of the veins, we drank the blood of the vine. So this one’s for them.” The tribute was “My Dead Drunk Friends.”
The band was tight, not like some of the classic rockers who jam together as a means of shaking off the dust after their projects have expired. And Cooper’s voice was spot-on. Behind Perry stood a wall of vintage Marshall cabinets, which took the sound back to the good old days of rock ‘n’ roll. There were guitar solos galore, heavy basslines, and thundering drums. If one thing was apparent, it was that the boys were having fun. And though they did their best to play the part of serious rock Gods, the Hollywood Vampires often let down their guard and allowed a beaming smile to show through.
“Raise the Dead”
“I Got a Line on You”
“Cold Turkey 5 to 1″/”Break On”
“One”/”Jump Into the Fire”
“Seven & Seven Is”
“Whole Lotta Love”
“I’m a Boy”
“School’s Out”/”Another Brick in the Wall”
“Dead Drunk”/”Billion Dollar Babies”/”Train Kept A Rollin’”