Hollywood Vampires – Gig Review

Hollywood Vampires + The Darkness + The Damned

Sunday 17th June 2017

Manchester Arena

It was a rare, but welcome night out for Mrs Platinum Al and myself in good old Manchester.  Tickets were booked and we were off to see the big rock show.  It promised to be an exciting evening, but I was unsure whether our expectations would be met.

First off the bat, our old chums The Damned!  This was a real bonus for me, though the handbrake is also a fan after all these years of putting up with me playing their records.  However I was a tad nervous, wondering how these esteemed gentlemen would go down with what appeared to be a more traditional rock crowd.  And in such a huge venue.

Now I know I’m biased, but we were both impressed by The Damned’s performance.  The band didn’t shy away from the large stage; they actually looked quite comfortable up there.  I was quite a way away, mind – I think our seats were in Stockport.

Opener “Street of Dreams” was a moody yet raucous number that’s become a bit of a live favourite of mine over the years.  Follow that with classic “Neat Neat Neat” and you’re off to a hell blazing start.  Just as the stars align and every single person in the huge arena is going “Oooh, they’re quite good, aren’t they?” we get a minor mishap with Captain Sensible’s guitar packing in and the moment seems lost…

Not to worry, before you can say “is he the bloke  who sang Shaddup You Face?” the band, old troopers that they are, are back in the game.  Dave Vanian steers the ship over stormy waters and is in fine, confident voice all through.

The icing on the cake – for me, at least – is the return of Paul Gray, a sight I’ve not witnessed since Sheffield, 1991!  Paul’s bass rumbles and sounds triumphant, particularly in the “Love Song” intro.  Fantastic.  There’s just a drop in volume during “Ignite”, other than that, Paul is a ninja master.

Pinch’s drums are perfect, you can hear Monty (and see him bouncing about); so other than a couple of technical issues The Damned performed superbly.  The set is far too short of course, but I was relieved that they seemed to go down well.  From where I was sat, the arena seemed mostly full, so they didn’t suffer from support-band-empty-hall syndrome either.

I felt like I was watching my child in the school play; happily no-one forgot  their lines and The Damned get a gold star.

You can certainly say that I got value for money for this gig, what with three bands on.  However I was feeling a little short changed after The Darkness performed.  Admittedly, I am biased in favour of The Damned.  Yet I’ve seen The Darkness before, at Download festival a couple of years ago, and was much more impressed.

Not that the Hawkins boys don’t give it a fair shot; a short tight set is delivered in inimitable style with splurges of Justin’s trademark wit and swagger.  Perhaps it’s just that the set is lacking some bigger numbers in the first half; following “Growing On Me” with “Love is Only a Feeling” as the third song is too much of a comedown so early on.

The crowd don’t seem to mind though, it all goes down very well.  Let’s be honest, most of ’em are happy because they’ve heard of The Darkness and haven’t got a clue who The Damned are.  Or, shock horror, don’t like punk rock.  For me, with no “Black Shuck” in the set, and a mediocre version of “Barbarians”, it’s good but not great from the Darkness.

I still can’t bring myself to dislike ’em, regardless.  At least The Darkness tried to bring loud, exuberant British guitar rock into the 21st century, and aren’t a wanky indie band.

There followed some musical chairs for Mrs Platinum Al and me, as we secured seats much nearer the front.  This pleased the other half immensely, she would now have a much better view of the headliners (or one of them, at any rate).

And so the Hollywood Vampires took the stage, and the Big Rock Show was in it’s final phase.  The air of tense expectation was only mildly subdued by the band’s arrival, as the audience were keen to experience what they could serve up.  Would this be a vanity project for ageing rock stars and their pirate actor buddy?  Or could they deliver something tangibly worth their collective prowess?

Led by the preposterously cool Mr Alice Cooper, the Vamps rattle through a few of their own original numbers at first, as if to prove a point.  Yes, they can play – and they can write, too.  It’s super confident and great fun – every song gets a chance to shine on it’s own merits.

The bulk of the set is a succession of expertly reproduced cover songs, each dedicated with respect to a fallen rock comrade.  Songs range from The Doors, to Motorhead, to AC/DC – with my favourite being a great version of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley”.

Joe Perry delivers a spine tingling “Sweet Emotion” complete with the extended intro that builds magnificently.  It’s a master class in rock star awesomeness, though Joe seems very much enjoying himself in a humble manner.

Despite the attention thrust upon him by a vast number of fans in attendance, Johnny Depp manages to not only look the embodiment of cool, but actually performs brilliantly.  He appears very much in his element as part of this massive spectacle, indeed his rendition of Bowie’s “Heroes” is one of the highlights of the night.

It’s one of several moments that manages to evoke the ghosts of heroes past, as  accompanying images are shown on the screen onstage.  It’s not altogether subtle, but rock’n’roll rarely is.  Instead the audience cheer their appreciation and nod sagely as our heroes are exhumed for us to behold.

Finally, Alice declares “School’s Out” yet again, as the whole show reaches it’s climax.  Cooper is an absolute delight, the demented circus master and ring leader of this crazy gang.  He is unbelievably cool and amazing at what he does: a true legend.

In the end, despite any doubts, it’s been a hell of a ride.  Despite whatever misgivings anyone may have had regarding authenticity, the Hollywood Vampires delivered an excellent, well performed show that was pure fun.  It was so much more than just athe world’s biggest covers band.  Abandon your cynicism, this was rock’n’roll for the sheer joy of it.  Which is what it’s all about, right?

The Halloween Horror Fest Bride

OK, time is running out and there’s quite a few films to be covered.  Let’s go!

The Wicker Man (1973)

British horror classic, starring Edward Woodward as the policeman who travels to the remote Scottish island of Summerisle to search for a missing girl.  His investigations are fraught and the locals unhelpful.  Soon it becomes clear that the islanders are pagans, and totally at odds with the devout investigators beliefs. wicker

There is an air of sinister dread that pervades this film, and builds slowly to the shocking, yet inevitable climax.  Though there are no shocks, blood and gore, The Wicker Man creates a believably strange and foreboding world.

Excellent performances from Woodward and Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle make the whole experience all the richer.  A film that gets better with every viewing.

9/10

The Corpse Bride (2005)

Beautiful animated wonder from Tim Burton, with the voice talents of many of the usual suspects, make this film a success on every level. cb

A marriage of convenience for Victor (Johnny Depp) and Victoria (Emily Watson) turns out to be a perfect match, until it all goes wrong and Victor finds himself married to Emily, the Corpse Bride (Helena Bonham Carter).  The tangled situation is complicated by trickery and treachery, as our hero tries to escape his situation and make wrongs right.

A superb voice cast and fabulous music enhance the spellbinding visuals, and not a moment is missed to dazzle the viewer.  In particular the scenes in the underworld are vibrant and thrilling, especially compared with the dull land of the living.

The Corpse Bride is great fun for Halloween and a film to enjoy again and again.

9/10.

Halloween Horror Fest Hollow

Halloween is over, but as ever, I’m behind with reviewing the films I’ve watched this October.  So here we go…

Bigfoot Wars (2014)

Now I’m a big fan of Bigfoot movies.  The Legend of Boggy Creek is, in my book, a total classic.  So I was intrigued by Bigfoot Wars and definitely wasn’t put off by the obvious low budget, straight to video fest that I was letting myself in for. bigfoot

The story, in a nutshell, is this: a small town (named Boggy Creek, interestingly enough) has a problem with marauding Bigfoot abducting the local females.

Unfortunately it is all a bit cheap, at least as far as the script goes.  The sasquatch look pretty scary and manage to introduce a good dose of tension to the proceedings.  However the story is fairly lame and obvious, with rather poor acting and dialogue.  Some guy called C Thomas Howell is the token ex-big name slumming it; but his performance is unintelligible.

As a fan of Bigfoot movies, there was enough here for me to enjoy.  However I couldn’t really recommend Bigfoot Wars to anyone else.

5/10

Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Tim Burton directed this version of the Washington Irving story, and it really is superb.  The design and cinematography are spell binding; the story rattles along at a great pace, and the cast is rammed with an unbelievable level of talent. Sleepy

Our old mate Johnny Depp plays Ichabod Crane, who in this version is a detective, sent to the remote town of Sleepy Hollow to investigate some hideous murders.  It appears that the locals are being decapitated by a  Headless Horseman, though why is a mystery.  Crane must use his rational, scientific sensibilities to put a stop to the carnage – though it appears that the events may be of supernatural origin after all…

Apparently this film is Tim Burton’s tribute to Hammer horror; it’s easy to see why with the scenes of stage coaches rolling through gloomy forests.  A cameo from the late, great Christopher Lee further exaggerates the point.  Lashings of blood also help to underscore the tribute to sixties horror.

Sleep Hollow is exceptionally well made – it looks incredible and the story is riveting.  Whilst the motivations are a little convoluted, it all comes together in the end.  Highly recommended for some blood thirsty thrills, and worthy of repeated viewings.

9/10

Halloween Horror Fest Circus

Vampire Circus (1972)

Yes it’s Hammer time at the Virtual Hot Tub, with this macabre classic from the legendary British studio!

A remote village, quarantined due to a strange plague, becomes the host to a travelling circus.  The circus entertain the villagers and distract them from their everyday woes; though they hide another motive.  That secret agenda involves a vanquished vampire count, and a despicable plot for revenge!

There’s no Cushing or Lee in this early seventies curiosity, yet Hammer are able to create a new spin on their Gothic tales with this unusual and striking film.  The boobs and gore identify the seventies vintage of this film, yet there’s plenty of atmosphere to embellish the tale.  Vampire Circus is a novel idea, and proves what the studio could do even without relying on the big names (stars or monsters).

Sadly this isn’t a feat that Hammer would replicate often in their twilight years.  Never the less, Vampire Circus is much more hit than miss.  The viewer will witness some real spectacle, some real frights – and the dark atmosphere of Hammer horror at it’s best.  Recommended.

8/10 vampire circus

From Hell (2001)

The crimes of Jack the Ripper are given a fictionalised re-telling in this 2001 Hughes brothers film.  It’s based – very loosely – on the Alan Moore graphic novel; relying heavily on conspiracy theory, a dash of clairvoyance and Johnny Depp as Inspector Abberline. from hell

The conspiracy at the heart of the story is, of course, absolute nonsense, but then the original source novel didn’t set out to identify the culprit.  Rather, From Hell was a dense tome covering the mythology and occult roots of London and it’s citizens.

The film version goes for a more straightforward dramatic approach, as we follow the case and slowly unravel the mystery of the killer’s identity.  If you can suspend disbelief, forget the ridiculousness of it all and enjoy the ride, it’s a great film.  Fantastic sets give From Hell a very genuine feel, along with some decent performances (though not all) and enough shadows and murder to make it an effective thriller.

Go and read the book – it’s an incredible work.  But I’ll happily state that despite the clichés and the total fudging of fact and fiction – let alone disregard for the source material – the film From Hell is definitely worth a watch.

8/10

Dark Shadows Playlist

Dark Shadows Soundtrack – Playlist

Recently I posted my Hallowe’en Horror Fest mini-review of the film Dark Shadows.  It’s a great film from Tim Burton, in my opinion.  One of the best things about that movie is the soundtrack.

The film is set in 1972, so the soundtrack consists of songs from that era.  Contrasting heavy rock, pop and a bit of soul, there are a few cuts that fit the Gothic mood; and others that are just cool.

I put together this playlist – utilising songs from my collection – meaning I didn’t need to buy the soundtrack album…

1. The Moody Blues – “Nights in White Satin”

This classic soundtracks the opening of Dark Shadows, chronicling Victoria’s journey to Collinwood Manor.  Sets up a moody(!) atmosphere.

2. Iggy Pop & The Stooges – “I’m Sick Of You”

I love it when Iggy gets some respect.  Cool tune, as heard in Carolyn’s room.

3. Donovan – “Season of the Witch”

Carolyn Stoddard plays this on vinyl.  Wish I had this on wax.  A Hallowe’en necessity.

4. Deep Purple – “Highway Star”

I can’t remember where this song appears in the movie.  It’s in there though, apparently.  One of the must-have Deep Purple tracks, find it on “Machine Head”.  Or any “Best of”, for that matter.

5. Curtis Mayfield – “Superfly”

Barnabas takes a walk through Collinsport, soundtracked with this mighty slab of Mayfield funk.  Not an obvious vampire tune, but so right for the era.

6. The Carpenters – “Top of the World”

“Reveal yourself, tiny songstress!”

7. Elton John – “Crocodile Rock”

Off to the pub we go, we might bump into Christopher Lee…

8. Black Sabbath – “Paranoid”

It’s the early 70’s.  It’s a dark film.  It needs, no – demands – Sabbath.  Timeless genius from the originators of all that is dark and heavy.  On “Paranoid”, of course.

9. Barry White – “You’re the First, the Last, My Everything”

The Love Machine’s tune is an apt choice for the scene it appears in.  What a song!

10. T.Rex – “Get It On”

So evocative of the time, a welcome airing for this track in the movie.

11. Alice Cooper – “No More Mr Nice Guy”

12. Alice Cooper – “The Ballad of Dwight Fry”

A special mention here for Alice Cooper, who has a cameo role as himself in 1972.  Two classic Coop songs are on this soundtrack.  “The Ballad of Dwight Fry” is possibly my favourite song ever from Alice, so it was great to hear it in the movie.

There you go, twelve songs and 54 minutes of music.  If Tim Burton chose these songs, he has great taste.  Except for that awful Killers song on the end credits.

I guess I’m a bit obsessed with this this film…

You can read my review here.

Hallowe’en Horror Fest Shadows

Dark Shadows (2012)

Tim Burton and – who else? – Johnny Depp bring us Dark Shadows, based on the cult late ’60’s TV show of the same name.  It’s a mix of horror, comedy and drama that is happy to lurk in Gothic darkness, but also offers a campy humour. dark

Barnabas Collins (Depp), heir to the wealthy Collins clan fortune, makes the mistake of spurning the love of Angelique (Eva Green).  Angelique happens to be a witch who curses Barnabas to become a vampire.  After being imprisoned for 200 years, Collins is awoken and finds himself in the year 1972.  A man – or vampire – considerably out of his time, Barnabas returns to the family home with the intention of restoring the Collins family to both wealth and harmony.  Aided by matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), Barnabas faces Angelique once more; whilst also attempting to help his family and win the love of his life.

Does that sound like fun to you?  It did to me.  Which is why I’m surprised that some people didn’t dig this retro gem.  The mixing of genres may have confused some audiences, but to me Dark Shadows is a delightfully ghoulish confection in the spirit of the Addams Family and The Munsters.

I enjoyed the comedy elements, and there’s enough blood to tick the horror box.  Most of all though, I love the 1970’s setting – obviously inspired (again) by Hammer, there are cool cars and an exceptional soundtrack.  Alice Cooper even has a cameo as himself, for goodness sake – playing two classic Coop tracks!

Great cast, cool atmosphere – it all adds up to a winner in my book.

9/10

Hallowe’en Horror Fest Must Be Destroyed

Ed Wood (1994)

OK – so Ed Wood doesn’t have any shocks or frights.  Nor does it contain anything remotely supernatural.  Yet it does have Bela Lugosi, Vampira, a Hallowe’en scene and references to some of the worst horror B-movies of all time.

This film charts the career lows (and more lows) of Ed Wood, a man whose movies are largely considered absolute disasters.  Played by Johnny Depp, Wood and his band of misfits blunder from one production to another, with far more enthusiasm than talent.  Thus we see a dramatised version of Wood’s life behind the scenes of such turkeys as Bride of the Monster and Plan 9 From Outer Spaceed_wood_ver2

Bela Lugosi is played fantastically by Martin Landau, in a role that elicits great sympathy from the audience.  The film also stars Sarah Jessica Parker, the legendary Bill Murray, Patricia Arquette and Lisa Marie as the aforementioned Vampira.  Depp, too, does a riveting job, making Wood likeable – a failed hero the audience can root for.

Directed by Tim Burton, this is a film that I can watch again and again.  You don’t have to be familiar with the works of Wood, but it does add another dimension if you are.  It’s a wonderful film that has, at it’s core, a story of succeeding against the odds.  Sort of.

Not a horror film then, as such, but the fact that Ed Wood features such icons of early horror makes this film an unmissable Hallowe’en treat.

10/10

Day of the Dead (1985)

So it’s post apocalypse and there are zombies everywhere.  There are these survivors holed up in an underground mine/storage facility.  Tensions mount between the survivors –  some being scientists and some military – as they each have their own agendas.  Eventually everything goes belly up and it’s zombie attack time.

I don’t think that gives away too many spoilers – you weren’t expecting anything else, were you?

Director George A Romero was also responsible for the completely thrilling Night of the Living Dead.  He also made Dawn of the Dead, a very fine sequel.  However, for me, Day of the Dead doesn’t quite reach the heights of the two earlier films.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to get your teeth into here, and there are a few genuinely innovative moments.  It’s just harder to relate to people stuck in an underground cavern than it is a shopping mall.

I won’t mention the zombie Bub, a character that I definitely thought was too much.  But check it out, certainly if you’ve seen the other Dead films.

7/10