The Hollywood Vampires are an interesting blending of three seasoned musicians and one actor that are about as far removed from a supergroup as you could get.
These guys play music together purely for fun, choosing covers which have impacted them throughout their life and career and adding that ever-elusive sense of genuine enjoyment to their music.
Made up of Joe Perry (Aerosmith), Alice Cooper, Tommy Henriksen (Warlock) and Johnny Depp (21 Jump Street), the Hollywood Vampires have been strutting their stuff at their own leisure since 2012, releasing their first album in 2015.
That year also saw the band play at Rock In Rio to over 100,000 people, which was recorded and has now been mixed ready for release on June 2.
Live In Rio is the Hollywood Vampires’ first live release and what a way to pop your cherry!
Opening with Raise The Dead, the second song on their debut album that was released only weeks before this show, and an ominous voiceover introducing the devilish delights of the Hollywood Vampires, Coopers distinctive voice rings through the murkiness and the band launch into action.
It is an instantly catchy tune, and you can almost feel the energy of the massive crowd, especially when the cheers ring out as the song draws to a close.
The sets first cover – My Generation by The Who – is up next, and how could you not like a song like this done by Cooper on vocals and Perry on guitar?
It’s an energetic and confident take on a timeless classic, which, when tackled by other true legends of the scene, becomes an entirely new beast altogether.
While Cooper and Perry will undoubtedly get the lion’s share of accolades, Johnny Depp seems to be holding his own quite nicely as second guitarist, which will likely come as a shock to most (myself included).
The third track is another from the debut album, I Got A Line On You, which doesn’t sound out of place following a classic like My Generation.
Which is saying something.
Despite being almost 10 years old this music still sounds fresh and rocks in all the right places. The backing vocals are on point while the guitar play is impressive throughout.
A John Lennon tune, Cold Turkey, is up next, and you can almost feel the band grow in confidence as the set gets under way.
This is more of a blues/rock number which is carried by a tough as fuck guitar riff that toys with Cooper’s vocals in a tit-for-tat battle that sees music as the only winner.
Cooper is in fine form, enjoying something perhaps a little less intense for a live show, with an underlying sense of rock royalty coursing through the music’s veins.
The Doors classic pairing of Five To One and Break On Through is given a working over next and is handled exceptionally well considering the original was more laboured and deliberate.
It shows another side to the musical abilities of the band, moving away from the meat and potatoes rock and into more poetic territory. Much respect.
Jimi Hendrix‘s song Manic Depression is up next and should prove the first real test when it comes to authenticity.
But it doesn’t as the Hollywood Vampires take it in their stride and basically just go about business with their own sprinkling of effort.
Not many people would even dare to cover Jimi Hendrix, especially at such a large gathering, but the fact the Hollywood Vampires not only had the courage to at such an early stage of their career but also nailed the absolute bejeesus out of it is impressive.
Seven and Seven Is rumbles to life next and translates well to the live arena with a fast-paced and precise mashing of guitar notes sending the track lurching to all corners of the room. Although the crowd have been kept low in the mix it still isn’t hard to imagine them moving to the music as one immovable object throughout this entire set.
Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love starts next, with Cooper picking up the harmonica before crooning over the measured musical composition and familiar twangs of the guitar.
This is another brave selection by the band, but when you consider they are fronted by Alice Cooper would you expect anything to the contrary?
While lacking the punch and vitality of the original (but not by much), this is still a damn fine cover, with the harp pieces in particular a standout.
Perry brings his guitar to life effortlessly, coming as close as anyone could ever get to replicating the feel and tone of the legendary Jimmy Page.
Then Cooper breaks into the meaty end of the song and I find myself eating my words somewhat. It doesn’t hurt that Halestorm vocalist Lzzy Hale also features on this song, but her contribution is also in keeping with the feel of the original and is more of a supporting role rather than a lead act, which is perfect for this particular song.
This is an awesome rendition of a timeless track and has to be heard loud to be fully appreciated.
Jeepster from T-Rex takes centre stage, with Cooper rising to the occasion once more as he changes his vocal pitch to emulate the style employed by Marc Bolan while still retaining his own vocal richness.
The swagger of the original version is front and centre here, with the back and forth between Depp and Perry culminating in a wicked solo from the latter that is as mesmerizing as it is humbling.
Another song by The Who, I’m A Boy, is given the Vampires treatment next and doesn’t disappoint.
Cooper is an experienced enough vocalist to know just how much of his own DNA he can sprinkle through a song without negating its authenticity, and he once again finds that balance with perfection here.
Not my favourite song on the album, but still well done.
If Cooper doesn’t nail this next track then the band should get off-stage because that song is one of his own, School’s Out.
He seems to find a renewed vigour playing even his own material with the Vampires, who treat the song with the respect it deserves.
Perry does manage to slip in a few extra notes here and there but never oversteps the mark which is as much a credit to his professionalism as it is his ability.
Cooper slips into Another Brick In The Wall by Pink Floyd towards the back end of the song and the seamless transition from the rest of the band is again impressive.
He encourages the crowd to sing with him before retreating back into School’s Out, finishing with a wash of drums and guitar that would have been epic from the crowd.
Another of Cooper’s own songs in Million Dollar Babies completes the set, with Cooper announcing Andreas Kisser (Sepultura) on guitar.
You can almost feel the collective smiles from the Hollywood Vampires as the song comes to a close. And they deserve every bit of the adulation.
Just the fact a band playing mostly covers was invited to play Rock In Rio is an impressive feat, but the way in which they clearly nailed it was beyond impressive.
Live In Rio has expertly captured a moment in time that until now has been immortalized in only the minds of those fortunate enough to have been there. Live albums are notoriously hit-and-miss, but this release hits every tangible target and then some, and for that much of the credit lies with a band that until now I hadn’t given more than a cursory listen to.
But that’s going to change.
*All reviews in HEAVY are just one person’s opinion of the album. We encourage honesty in reviews but just because our reviewer may or may not like/appreciate an album, that doesn’t mean their opinion is right! We encourage you to have a listen for yourself and make up your own minds!*