The word “supergroup” gets thrown around a lot these days, but truly, it doesn’t get much super-er than Hollywood Vampires’ lineup, which features Alice Cooper on vocals, Guns N’ Roses’ Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum on bass and drums, and even Aerosmith’s Joe Perry and A-list actor Johnny Depp on lead and rhythm guitar. The fact that Depp wasn’t even the focal point or main attraction when Hollywood Vampires made their live debut at Los Angeles’s 500-capacity Roxy Club Wednesday night indicates just how much star power was on the stage.
Opening with the Cooper/Depp-penned original song “Raise the Dead” – a dedication to the “ghosts that still haunt the Sunset Strip,” aka the infamous ‘70s-rock-star drinking club that inspired the band’s name – the Vampires then segued into a greatest-hits covers set, paying homage to several of that club’s late members (Marc Bolan, John Lennon, Keith Moon, Jim Morrison, Harry Nilsson).
And then they were joined by even more all-stars. Seriously, the number of rock stars at the Roxy was nearly as ridiculous as the number of stacked-to-the-ceiling Marshall amps crowding the tiny stage.
Zak Starkey, a longtime unofficial member of the current Who lineup and the son of another one of the above-mentioned drinking club’s members, Ringo Starr, joined in for the Who’s “I’m a Boy.” Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler and Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello jammed on Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression.” (Morello played the guitar with his teeth, prompting Joe Perry, shredding by his side, to actually mouth the word “wow.”) And Jane’s Addiction’s Perry Farrell took on lead vocals for Nilsson’s “Jump Into the Fire.”
But this version of Hollywood Vampires wasn’t just a boys’ club. One of the most enjoyable surprises of the night came when Kesha, looking like a total rocker-chick badass in a studded jacket and leather leotard, strutted out to wail with animalistic abandon on Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” while Cooper played harmonica. Later, Kesha, Morello, and Farrell re-emerged for Cooper’s “School’s Out” mashed up with another anti-education anthem, Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall,” while spectators looked on in awe.
A second original homage to Hollywood’s fallen party boys, “My Dead Drunk Friends,” capped the night, as part of an epic medley that included Cooper’s “Billion Dollar Babies,” Aerosmith’s “Train Kept a Rollin’,” and the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar” and “Honky Tonky Women.” With the show clocking in at barely over an hour, with no encore, fans were understandably left wanting more. But they can always catch the Vamps’ second show on Thursday (which may boast a whole different slew of all-stars), or pick up the group’s self-titled album, which also features guest appearances by Paul McCartney, Dave Grohl, Slash, the Doors’ Robby Krieger, and AC/DC’s Brian Johnson.