“Part of what makes you feel like you are watching something truly special is the idea that The Hollywood Vampires show shouldn’t really work. There is not one song they play that absolutely everyone in the room seems to know simultaneously … but it does work, and what an absolutely storming concert this was!”
Thank Christ you can queue in the relative shade of the trees outside the Zenith because it must have been hitting about 33 degrees Celsius in Paris in the couple of hours before showtime, which may be fine for you, but not us. Thankfully of course the queuing didn’t last too long, not too long to hold out before we reached the shaded paradise of the interior, and the obligatory 10-euros-per-pint beers. Ahh … happy days.
Given the crowds demographics the main hall of the Zenith was busy but not full for support act, The Last Temptation, who for reasons we could only guess at hit the stage minus their guitar player and band leader Peter Scheithauer. The first song and a half was performed by new vocalist, Loup Malevil, drummer Fabio Alessandrini (ex-Annihilator) and touring regular Franz OA Wise on bass only, which could have sounded worse. It was weird though, but no matter, the appearance of Scheithauer with a technician working around him quickly explained that story away, and then finally the four-piece were off into their short set, rocking out to an enthusiastic response.
Support acts, openers, are often referred to as warm-up acts, but that’s the thing with a gig such as this: the excitement and anticipation for the Hollywood Vampires was so intense as to seem almost tangible, and the crowd didn’t need warming up – they were just waiting for the main show. With that being said, The Last Temptation did more than a decent job, and got the best response they could probably have hoped for.
It felt like an eternity before The Hollywood Vampires finally hit the stage, and when they finally did they kicked things off with their “classics” I Want My Now and Raise The Dead which were immediately followed by what was, even at this early stage, a highlight of the night, the Cooper classic, Eighteen.
Now, we here at K-RPM are huge Alice Cooper fans, and would the Hollywood Vampires with another frontman be of the same appeal to us? Well, it’s a moot point considering the point of the band is that Alice was a member of the original Hollywood Vampires drinking club. We can’t imagine this band with anyone else centre stage, this band is Alice Cooper and Friends, no matter how famous or talented, no matter how etched into the history of rock or film his bandmates happen to be. But that doesn’t mean we weren’t almost passing out at the sight of Joe Perry performing Aerosmith‘s Bright Light Fright, or, more to the point, not being able to take our eyes from him for the entirety of Walk This Way (except to be impressed with both Alice and Tommy Henriksen‘s vocal performance on that one.)
Part of the appeal, part of what makes you feel like you are watching something truly special, is the idea that The Hollywood Vampires show shouldn’t really work … there is not one song they play that absolutely everyone in the room seems to know simultaneously, excluding perhaps Heros, (the older end of the crowd getting teary eyed hearing the Bowie classic, the younger end aware of the Vampires’, Depp-fronted single). There is a total hotchpotch of people in the crowd that you would never normally see at the same gig – not that there’s anything wrong with this. It was just a little bizarre at times, because let’s face facts, there was a large amount of people there purely to see Johnny Depp, and the change in the sound of the crowd, from roars to higher-pitched screams whenever he took the mike was something to hear! It’s all part of it …
But let’s get to the real meaning of it all – what an absolutely storming concert this was. We haven’t seen them on any other stops on this tour, so we can only assume that tonight was, as they say, one hell of a show. They were on fire.
They are a tight, hard rocking’ machine these days. The recently released Live In Rio (2015) album, while definitely a four out of five offering, has nothing on what we’re hearing tonight – the rhythm section of the incredible Glen Soble (Alice’s regular touring drummer) and the seriously accomplished Chris Wise (bassist with The Cult these days) gives a studio level of solidity to the sound but with no amount of energy spared. They’ve also got Buck Johnson of Aerosmith on keyboards filling the sound and giving us the acoustic guitar intro for an inspired reworking of The Who classic, Baba O’Riley.
It also doesn’t take long to see why Tommy Henriksen is now an “official” Hollywood Vampire – his contribution to the show is invaluable: his stage presence, his playing, his signing. If there is someone who looks like they are enjoying the night even more than anyone else, it’s Tommy.
One of the more sobering highlights of the night came when Depp took the mic for a full-band rendition of The Jim Carroll Band‘s grim tale, People Who Died – the giant video wall behind the stage filling with images of rock stars both long, and recently departed: Kurt Cobain, Keith Moon and John Entwistle, John Lennon and George Harrrison, Bon Scott, Zappa, Bowie, Janice Joplin, Hendrix and Jim Morrison among others, the crowd cheering each icon with varying levels of respect, the loudest shouts from the crowd arriving with the images of Lemmy Kilmister.
Throughout the show a white, Fender Stratocaster rested on a guitar stand just to the front and side of the drum kit, illuminated by a single beam of light. It had already occurred to us who this guitar belonged to, but it wasn’t until we were over three-quarters of the way through the show that Depp again took the mic to talk to us about Jeff Beck, and to introduce us to “Jeff’s best friend”. It was however Joe Perry who took the guitar as the band led us into an instrumental medley of Link Wray‘s Rumble (which Depp and Beck had been performing live together only seven months ago), and Beck’s Bolero.
The show wound up with a tear-the-roof-off-the-place trio of Walk This Way, Train Kept A Rollin’ and School’s Out, the temperature in the room hitting boiling point by this stage, finally the entire audience shouting in unison to the most classic of classic Alice Cooper tracks.
The Hollywood Vampires in Paris. What a show …