Imagine a spirited group sing-along led by the world’s best cover band, and you might come close to Monday’s Hollywood Vampires concert at the California Mid-State Fair.
The band led by shock rocker Alice Cooper, Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry and actor Johnny Depp wrapped up its tour with an energetic performance in Paso Robles that had all the trappings of a classic arena rock show: flashing lights, fog and a massive banner bearing the image of a vampire bat.
Hollywood Vampires kicked off the show with a cover of Cooper’s “Raise the Dead,” followed by Spirit’s “I Got a Line on You.”
“Tonight we pay tribute to our dead, drunk friends,” Cooper announced in a spectral voice before the band, which takes its name from a celebrity drinking club, launched into a string of songs familiar to anyone with access to an oldies radio station. They included hits by David Bowie (“Rebel Rebel,” “Suffragette City”), Jimi Hendrix (“Manic Depression”), The Doors (“Break on Through (To the Other Side)”), The Beatles (“Come Together”) and The Who (“Pinball Wizard,” “My Generation”).
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The sizable crowd — a combination of hardcore rock fans in full concert finery and less flashy fairgoers — enthusiastically cheered, clapped and sang along as Hollywood Vampires powered through one rock classic after another. Audience members bounced to T-Rex’s “Bang a Gong (Get It On),” grooved to Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” and banged heads to “Ace of Spades” by Motörhead.
They also lit up the night sky above the Chumash Grandstand Arena with cell phones capturing photos and video of the performance.
The only relative lulls in the concert came when Hollywood Vampires traded rock covers for original material: “As Bad As I Am” and “My Dead Drunk Friends.” Although concertgoers didn’t seem as familiar with those songs, the fact failed to dim their enthusiasm.
Cooper served as Hollywood Vampires’ lead singer and de facto ringleader, rallying the crowd and announcing each number with gothic gusto. The 68-year-old rock star, who played the fair last year, seemed to be enjoying himself immensely.
So did his famous bandmates, which included Stone Temple Pilots bassist Robert De Leo and Guns N’ Roses drummer Matt Sorum. (Alice Cooper guitarist Tommy Henriksen filled out the rest of Hollywood Vampires roster along with Depp’s former bandmate from The Kids, Bruce Witkin, who played piano, percussion and guitar.)
In keeping with the vampire theme, Cooper dressed the part of a bloodsucker in skinny black pants paired with a blousy white shirt, black vest, black gloves and a couple of theatrical jackets.
Cooper’s cohorts likewise sported layered looks. Perry started the show in a sparkling black blazer, black vest and purple shirt, which he gradually removed to reveal a tanned, toned torso draped with the merest suggestion of a slashed T-shirt. (His dark denim pants stayed on.) Depp predictably went bohemian chic with a plaid jacket, white vest, black button-up shirt, torn jeans and assorted scarves.
Those colorful neckerchiefs weren’t Depp’s only accessories. He also had a seemingly endless supply of guitar picks that he flung into the crowd at multiple intervals during the concert.
Hollywood Vampires closed its California Mid-State Fair concert with an encore featuring The Clash’s “Train in Vain” and a medley of Cooper’s “School’s Out” and Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.”
Cooper warded off any disappointment in the band’s song selection with a cute caveat.
“We didn’t play your favorite covers because (the musicians aren’t) not dead yet,” he said with a ghoulish smile. But, he promised, those songs would be on the set list soon enough.