Hollywood Vampires performing at The Utilita Arena Birmingham on Tuesday 11th July 2023.

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

American supergroup Hollywood Vampires hit the Utilita Arena in Birmingham on Thursday night for the fourth night of their UK tour. Having been forced to cancel their planned 2020 tour due to the pandemic, they were keen to return to the UK as soon as possible, and they were well worth waiting for.

Just after 8pm, the lights go down and an enthusiastic cheer echoes around the Arena which signalled the arrival of the San Francisco punk rock band, The Tubes. Led by front man and showman Fee Waybill, The Tubes current line up still includes original member’s drummer Prairie Prince, guitarist Roger Steen, bassist Atom Ellis and keyboardist David Medd.

And whilst their big selling point used to be live performances that were so over the top that they proved financially unviable even at the height of their success, on Thursday night the theatrics were unsurprisingly scaled down, allowing the crowd to focus more on their music.

The only nod to their past performances was that Steen was dressed in a bright orange suit, Ellis attired in a red suit, whilst Prince was all in pink behind the drums. The only group member who has played it down is Waybill himself who makes his stage entrance wearing a grey mac.

They started off with Mr Hate on which it immediately became evident that Waybill’s voice is sadly not what it used to be and at times he struggled. But this appreciative crowd were very forgiving as they continued with their big hit, Talk To Ya Later which saw Waybill remove his coat and fling his arms wide open. What Do You Want From Life was followed by She’s A Beauty before they launched into one of their best known songs, White Punks On Dope from their 1975 self titled album.

Throughout the short set, Steen’s guitar playing was spectacular and Ellis on bass was a joy to watch. Prince knows his drum kit well and rarely missed his mark. Medd on his keyboards had been the perfect accompanist, providing the atmosphere and all of the fillings that the songs required.

Finishing with a fast and furious version of The Beatles’ I Saw Her Standing There, The Tubes had been entertaining from the off even if they had been odd bed fellows for the Hollywood Vampires.

Since 2012 the unlikely trio of Johnny Depp, Alice Cooper and Aerosmith’s Joe Perry have been touring as the Hollywood Vampires. This assembly was formed and spearheaded by metal veteran Cooper, who had a Los Angeles drinking club. Legend has it that the group would meet upstairs in the bar on Sunset Strip and drink until nobody could stand up and that the patrons included iconic figures such as Ringo Starr, Micky Dolenz, Keith Moon and Harry Nilsson with the occasional honorary presence of John Lennon and Keith Emerson. Thankfully Cooper swapped vodka shots for golf years ago and has not looked back.

Joining the Vampires on stage is Warlock’s Tommy Henrikson on guitar and vocals as well as touring members Glen Sobel on drums, Chris Wyse on bass and Buck Johnson on keyboards, who along with the Vampires produced a set that had the crowd on their feet. Playing a selection of the Vampires originals and some slick covers, they played with an infectious love for the departed rock heroes.

Cooper, now aged 75, entered the stage clad in leather with flowing coat and twirling cane, wearing his trademark black eye makeup, he took centre stage for Vampires songs I Want My Now and Raise The Dead.

With the heavily tattooed Depp wearing a beanie hat and Perry still sporting his trademark white streak of hair, they announced that they play songs for their dead drunk friends as Cooper welds his cane theatrically at the crowd before launching into the opening stomp of The Doors Five To One.

Amid the musical ruckus, the covers undeniably ignited the greatest fervour among the crowd. The air crackled as the band unleashed the heart pumping intensity of AC/DC’s The Jack while the rendition of The Who’s Baba O’Riley saw Cooper’s vocals matching the power of his prime as he breathed life into the words once sung by Roger Daltrey.

A real star is Depp who throws nonchalant waves and pats his chest in between guitar riffs. One of the last stars of a bygone Hollywood era, the actor smiles throughout the set, joking and laughing with the band as he leads a tribute to the late Jeff Beck who he performed with at the Symphony Hall Birmingham just last year and takes vocals on the emotional Heroes that saw him look towards a sea of glistening eyes.

Joe Perry took a turn in the limelight for Bright Light Fright proving his versatility on both guitar and vocals; stepping up to centre stage and playing his guitar behind his head for Walk This Way in true rock and roll style.

In the first encore there is only one song but that is all that is needed because what better way to signpost the conclusion of a love letter to living and dead legends than with Cooper’s Schools Out with a snippet of Brick In The Wall Part II that had everyone in the crowd pumping their arms and singing along.

But of course there was another encore and this was a very special one. Birmingham is of course known as the home of metal. So when no other than Tony Iommi took a surprise turn on the stage for Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, the crowd simply went wild.

Hollywood Vampires are a band meant to be experienced live and this Birmingham crowd were rewarded not just with a momentary thrill but a rekindling connection with songs that were once cherished by the late greats and you have the Hollywood Vampires to thank for that.