So, how does a supergroup minus one member function during a live show? Also, just how good of a guitar player is Johnny Depp? And, what, exactly is a Hollywood Vampire?
All of these simple questions were put to the test and answered during Tuesday night’s performance at Fraze Pavilion, outside of Dayton, Ohio. The Hollywood Vampires, a “supergroup” consisting of Aerosmith’s Joe Perry (who, tragically couldn’t be there due to a cardiac arrest he suffered while onstage in Coney Island Sunday night. But he is getting better and expected to return to the tour very soon), frightful frontman Alice Cooper, and pirate Johnny Depp lit up the southwestern Ohio night with a few originals and a ton of covers. The band, whose origins lie in a celebrity drinking club that Cooper founded in the late 1960s to toast their musician friends who had passed before their time due to an “excessive lifestyle,” played songs in homage to their “drunk, dead friends.”
A few Bowie tunes made the setlist (“Rebel, Rebel” and “Suffragette City”) as well as some Zeppelin and Doors tunes. Boiling it down to its essence, this is a cover band that specializes in ditties by dead guys.
And that’s perfectly okay.
Of the handful of original songs, the best was “Raise the Dead,” a delightful anthem and raison d’être for the little gathering in Kettering.
Perhaps the biggest question of the night: How adept was Depp on the axe? Pretty damn good. He’s no Hendrix, but then again Hendrix wasn’t Captain Jack Sparrow either, was he? He shined in a few solos and kept pace with the other members of the band.
Matt Sorum, a former drummer with Guns ‘N’ Roses, hit the skins with the normal aplomb. Alice’s vocals were as concise as ever. Perry’s absence wasn’t too notable; the backup band members were all pros who have been attached to several high-profile acts over the years. Tommy Henrickson, who has played with Cooper for years, played backup guitar. Robert DeLeo, of Stone Temple Pilots, strummed the bass, while Perry confidante Bruce Witkin handled the duties behind the keyboards.
It was a bloody good time. Even for Dayton, Ohio.