Hollywood has had a love affair with vampires since 1931, when Universal Studios released the first Dracula film starring Bela Lugosi. Since that time, vampires have repeatedly been in and out of fashion, both in entertainment and pop culture. Almost 50 years ago, another group of vampires began congregating somewhat anonymously and notoriously, in the wee hours of the night at a Hollywood haunt named The Rainbow Bar and Grill. This clutch, a veritable who’s who of rock n’ roll had no official membership requirements, other than being a musician and possessing a voracious appetite for alcohol instead of blood. At the center of these conventions was one of the most successful and recognizable performers of the 1970’s, Alice Cooper. In 2015, Cooper and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, along with mutual friend, actor Johnny Depp decided the spirit of the original conclave should live on. Thus, the Hollywood Vampires were born as a means of artists to hang out, play and just enjoy each others’ company–minus the drinking.
On Saturday, May 11th, in the hills just above Tinseltown, the Hollywood Vampires play show number two of a brief, seven date tour of the western United States. In advance of their second full length album, Rise, Cooper and company entranced a nearly capacity crowd at The Greek Theater, with a 90 minute set of original and cover songs, almost all of which are aimed at paying tribute to fallen compadres. The set, which will feature a few special guests, begins with three original arrangements. I Want My Now is the first tune of the evening. Cooper prowls the stage, poses, waves and points with his riding crop and gestures sneeringly at the audience, to their great pleasure. As second number, Raise the Dead begins, Perry assumes his signature slump and sets about his role as one-third of the crunchy wall of guitar sound. Depp holds down the left of the stage, producing grand strums on his low-slung guitar as the band finishes up the third number, As Bad As I Am.
The third part of the guitar sound is rock veteran Tommy Henriksen who holds his own next to the legendary Perry. Fellow veteran player bassist Chris Wyse provides the bottom for their sound. Rounding out the non-percussive instrumentalists is Buck Johnson who plays keyboards and acoustic guitar on the intro to a stirring rendition of The Who’s Baba O’Reilly. This tune features drummer Glen Sobel, who in the interlude between the main portion of the song and the end, delivers a very interesting drum solo. His solo is highlighted by his rapid cymbal crashes, to which he does a tandem stick twirl in between each. Depp takes lead vocal duties on David Bowie’s Heroes as well as a Jim Carroll Band cover, People Who Died, as photos of now gone music icons are projected on the screen behind the stage.
Nearing the end of the main set, the first of two special guests on the evening will make his appearance. During Cooper’s I’m Eighteen, Marilyn Manson saunters in from the left side of the stage, wearing what appears to be a light blue suit. He joins in with Cooper to help with the final few choruses. The finale is Train Kept A-Rollin’, which although not being written by, was definitely most popularized by
Aerosmith, whose legendary singer Steven Tyler joins the band on stage to provide the lead vocals, while Cooper provides harmonica for the bridges. The crowd is on its feet throughout the duration of the finale and clamors for more until the Vampires return for a two song encore. We Gotta Rise is the first of the two which is definitely punctuated by a version of Cooper’s classic School’s Out. The ultimate song is accompanied by stage hands kicking giant balloons into the audience, one of which Cooper waits to descend to stage level and unceremoniously pops with his riding crop. With no opening act, the show is over by 9:40 p.m. releasing the Hollywood Vampires to pursue their other nocturnal activities. What exactly those would be is anybody’s guess. You’d probably have to gain membership to know for sure.
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