The original Hollywood Vampires drinking club included the likes of John Lennon and Harry Nilsson. Today, the band of the same name are a curious supergroup fronted by Alice Cooper, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry and, er, Johnny Depp, playing what Cooper describes as “songs for our dead, drunk friends”. Sadly, the opening numbers exhume the corpse of the rather less mourned hair metal, but things improve as the evening settles into a riotous wake.
Now 70, with horror makeup adding a century to his appearance, Cooper is a brilliantly cadaverous showman. With flowing coat and twirling cane, he channels the late Jim Morrison into the Doors’ Five to One (“No one here gets out alive”) and drolly unveils the Vamps’ own manifesto in their own Dead Drunk Friends: “We drink and we fight and we puke and we die.”
However, with most of the set written by the dearly departed, the Vampires gradually become more than a cartoon tribute band as the show acquires an unexpectedly emotional edge. Motörhead’s Ace of Spades – accompanied by images of Lemmy – moistens eyes in the audience before Depp’s surprisingly heartfelt rendition of David Bowie’s “Heroes” triggers a rapturous response from the crowd. By the time Bowie’s old mucker Ian Hunter guests for All the Young Dudes, the show has become a defiant and grateful celebration of those who survived rock madness.
Cooper traded alcohol shots for golf strokes years ago, but it’s hard to begrudge him his moment as he leads a triumphant School’s Out and yells: “Here’s one for a Vampire who didn’t die … me!”