TVD Live Shots: Hollywood Vampires, The Damned, and The Darkness at SSE Arena, 6/20

The history of the Hollywood Vampires originates in the 1970s on the Sunset Strip at the world-famous Rainbow Bar & Grill. The upstairs bar is where the original Vamps formed a drinking club that included legends Keith Moon, John Lennon, Harry Nilsson, and just about any other rock star who found themselves passing through.

While the club would lay dormant for a couple of decades, Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp would breathe new life into the Vampires in 2015. Since then, a band has consisted of the core of Cooper, Depp, and Aerosmith axeman Joe Perry. They’ve played gigs and festivals, released an album, and finally made their way over to the UK for a tour in 2018. This is the first time I would see the band live—and they were spectacular.

I’ve read a few recent reviews that claimed Depp was “staggering” across the stage but I’m not sure what the hell they’re talking about. The Vampires looked and sounded great. And anyone who’s asking the question of whether or not Depp deserves to share the stage with rock ‘n’ roll royalty should listen to what his conspirators have to say.

Joe Perry has praised his actor friend’s musical skill, saying he was as “good as anybody I’ve worked with,” and “I don’t think he’d be up on the stage with Alice and me and the other cats if he wasn’t holding his own as he does.” Cooper’s praise is equally flattering, adding, “He’s really a good player. He’s a musician through and through I don’t think of him as an actor. He’s a guitar player.” If that’s not enough credentials, then move along and find another supergroup to bitch about.

The setlist was a cornucopia of rock ‘n’ roll including classics from Motorhead, The Doors, The Who, and of course plenty of Alice Cooper staples along with a couple of Vampires originals. The two standouts for me were a brilliant version of Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” and a Johnny Depp vocal lead on an inspiring version of David Bowie’s “Heroes.” Who knew this guy could sing as well? Nicely done Mr. Depp.

It’s also worth noting that Alice Cooper’s voice sounds better than ever. I never really thought of him as a stellar vocalist but holy shit, he’s got some range, and the setlist showcased what this legend is truly capable of. He was hitting notes I didn’t think we’re in his vocal arsenal, and it was a pleasant surprise. All in all, brilliant show and I would see it again tomorrow.

Opening the evening was the band that spearheaded the punk movement in the UK, who are headliner worthy legends in their own right. I can’t tell you in words how much I love The Damned outside of saying that it’s ALWAYS, and I mean ALWAYS, a brilliant show. The banter and chemistry between Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible are as entertaining as they’ve ever been, and something I could watch even if the music weren’t involved. But when you add the music, it’s a show for the ages.

Touring in support of Evil Spirits which was released earlier this year, it marks the band’s eleventh album and first in ten years. The setlist was a blistering showcase of classic Damned alongside a new song from Evil Spirits. A nine-song setlist is just a bit too short in my opinion as I would have loved to hear a few more from the new record, but I’m guessing that the band will be back out on their own for a proper headlining gig later this year. Sure we got all the anthems from “Neat Neat Neat,” “Smash it Up,” and of course “New Rose,” but after seeing the band headline the Brixton Academy last year I wanted more.

I was part of the Kickstarter campaign for Evil Spirits and have been listening to it on repeat since its release in April, and it’s an early contender for album of the year for me. The album was recorded in November 2017 in New York City and produced by Tony Visconti (David Bowie). It’s one of their best and needs to be heard by new and old fans equally. How these guys keep up this pace for going on 40 years now is beyond me, and they show zero signs of slowing down.

By the way, I have to make a note that I ran into Dave Vanian last year on the tube while on my way to the O2 to see Blink 182. He was taking his family to see the show, and I wanted to say hello, but I usually keep to myself. I got to the venue to pick up my photo pass for the show, and he was standing right behind me. I said hello and had a quick chat with him, and I have to say that he’s just as cool and down to earth off stage as he is on. He told me a few stories from the last couple of shows along with a quick update on the new record. I was star-struck and did my best to play it cool, but dammit, I didn’t get a photo!



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