NIAGARA FALLS – The dearly departed of rock-and-roll serve as inspirations for many. Even for other rock stars.
Take The Hollywood Vampires, a supergroup with a world-famous actor in the mix, who performed outside Seneca Niagara Casino on Saturday night.
A 56-minute rain delay, which scattered the crowds who had little place for shelter, didn’t seem to hamper Alice Cooper, Joe Perry or Johnny Depp from delivering a hard-driven, old-fashioned rock show.
From a Doors medley of “Five to One” and “Break on Through,” to the Beatles’ “Come Together” to some David Bowie and T. Rex, the concert was a trip back in time as much as it was a tribute.
Cooper strutted around the stage in leather pants like he didn’t just turn 68 earlier this year. His face painted white and eyes painted black, the frontman used the breaks between songs to pay homage to the rock-and-rollers no longer with us, whose songs were used to soundtrack the night.
The band took its moniker from the group of rock stars who drank together in the 1970s at a Los Angeles rock club called the Rainbow Bar & Grill. The clan, formed by Cooper, also included Keith Moon, Ringo Starr and John Lennon.
“We are the Hollywood Vampires, paying tribute to all of our dead, drunk friends,” Cooper said just before the band launched into Bowie’s “Rebel, Rebel” and “Suffragette City,” the third and fourth songs of the night.
Perry looked like he could perform a few more decades. To the crowd’s delight, he smashed his ax at the end of The Who’s “My Generation.”
By the time the first half-hour of the show was done, the band was in the middle of their ninth song.
At times, the band laid the guitars on heavy. Four guitars were used on Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression” and later in the night on Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades.”
Throughout, the supergroup was tight. The band used Fleetwood Mac’s “Stop Messin Around” to showcase its members’ musicianship. Perry sang lead vocal. Cooper took a harmonica solo. Depp – who doesn’t appear to be just an actor trying to play a role and fit in as a musician – and the other guitarists also took solos.
About an hour into the show, Cooper was talking about Motorhead’s Lemmy, another of his drinking buddies, who died late last year.
Cooper said that the last thing Lemmy ever told him was he quit drinking whiskey.
“I drink vodka now,” Lemmy said.
In addition to Cooper, Depp and Perry, the musicians on stage Saturday included former Stone Temple Pilots bassist Robert DeLeo, former Guns N’ Roses drummer Matt Sorum, guitarist Tommy Henriksen and multi-instrumentalist Bruce Witkin.
The band released a self-titled album last September, recorded with an array of guest musicians, including Dave Grohl, Robbie Krieger, Perry Farrell and Sir Paul McCartney. With a handful of original songs, most of the tracks are covers, including songs by Harry Nilsson, Small Faces and Love.
Throughout the show, Cooper kept the drinking and vampire imagery going, mentioning an array of deceased rock musicians, many of whom he used to drink with – Jim Morrison, Keith Moon, Marc Bolan of T. Rex.
“And now they’re all gone, except for me,” Cooper said. “I’m the last remaining vampire.”
At least for one night, music fans got to appreciate a couple rock legends who are still here.