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?

Songs of the Week 03.07.216

Presenting a new feature at the Virtual Hot Tub, my Songs of the Week.  Each week, I will pick five songs that I’ve enjoyed listening to over the last seven days, and share them here for your enjoyment.

Now I listen to probably hundreds of songs in any one week, so choosing just five won’t be easy.  Each track will have stood out for some reason or other – perhaps it was poignant, perhaps relating to something going on in my life.  Most likely it will just be a proper banging tune that I’ve loved.

This is intended to be a regular weekly feature, but we’ll see how that goes.  It’s not easy running this Virtual Hot Tub, you know.

Here’s the five for week ending 03/07/2016:

  1. Devo – Gut Feeling
  2. The Donnas – It’s On The Rocks
  3. The Doors – You’re Lost Little Girl
  4. Alice Cooper – Generation Landslide
  5. Cypress Hill – Can’t Get the Best of Me

There you go – five killer tracks.  No explanations necessary.  Unless the multitudes of readers want to know why songs are chosen, then I’ll reconsider.

For now – keep rockin’.

Florence: the Jukebox

IMG_6327Forget using your super smart, internet enabled portable phone as a means of playing music.  And forget iPods, too – sadly the swines at Apple have decided to sacrifice their master product, in order to concentrate on their vile mutant phone.  My mate Greeny has a much better music playing machine than any of those.

Greeny has a jukebox.

The jukebox is named Florence.  After Florence and the Machine, as she’s a machine, obviously.  Florence stands proudly in the corner of the lounge, neither dominating the room or sitting back like a wall flower.  But Florence has presence: when the lights are on and the tunes are spinning, you will be drawn magnetically to this wondrous device.

He’s been collecting 7 inch singles since he were a lad, has Greeny.  Now Florence is a treasure trove packed full of delightful vinyl gems.  There’s a wild variety of musical genres in Florence, spanning the decades.  She’s regularly re-stocked and/or has the records switched out and replaced with others, keeping the music selection fresh and entrancing.IMG_6330

Florence holds around 84 records.  Don’t forget that there’s a song on side A and B, so that’s a generous amount of music to enjoy.

It’s a lot of fun gathering around the jukebox in Greeny’s front room, with a few beers and spinning some records.  I would love one of my own, one day – though they cost a few hundred quid, so it’s unlikely.  I’m collecting a few cool 7 inch singles just in case, though…

Here’s a list of the records that are currently stocked inside Florence.  Remember Greeny has to rotate the records, as he has far more than this!  Which songs would you choose to play?

And if you’re interested, this jukebox is a Rowe AMI RI-3.

The tracks:

  • AC/DC – a. Dirt Deeds Done Dirt Cheap/Big Balls b. The Jack
  • Billy Paul – a. Me & Mrs Jones b. Your Song
  • Blind Melon – a. No Rain b. No Bidness/I Wonder
  • Blondie – a. Rapture b. Walk Like Me
  • Blue Swede – a. Hooked On a Feeling b. Never My Love
  • Bob Dylan – a. Subterranean Homesick Blues b. She Belongs To Me
  • Bruce Springsteen – a. 57 Channels (And Nothin’ On) b. Part Man, Part Monkey
  • Catatonia – a. Road Rage b. I’m Cured
  • Chris Isaak – a. Wicked Game b. Cool Cat Walk
  • Crash Test Dummies – a. Afternoons & Coffeespoons b. In the Days of the Caveman (Live)
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival – a. Bad Moon Rising b. Lodi
  • DNA feat. Suzanne Vega – a. Tom’s Diner b. Acapella
  • Duran Duran – a. The Wild Boys b. (I’m Looking For) Cracks in the Pavement (1984)
  • Echo & The Bunnymen – a. The Killing Moon b. Do It Clean
  • Elton John – a. Tiny Dancer b. Daniel
  • Elvis Presley – a. Suspicious Minds b. You’ll Think of Me
  • Everything Everything – a. Cough Cough b. A.D.
  • Faith No More – a. I’m Easy b. Be Aggressive
  • Fleetwood Mac – a. Oh Well (Part 1) b. Oh Well (Part 2)
  • Florence & The Machine – a. Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) b. Are You Hurting
  • Franz Ferdinand – a. Take Me Out b. Truck Stop
  • Glen Campbell – a. Wichita Lineman b. Back in the Race
  • Guns’n’Roses – a. Patience b. Rocket Queen
  • Huey Lewis & The News – a. The Power of Love b. Do You Believe in Love?
  • Ian Dury & The Blockheads – a. Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick b. There Ain’t Half Been
  • Iggy Pop – a. Lust For Life b. Home
  • Jimi Hendrix – a. Purple Haze b. Foxy Lady
  • Joan Jett – a. I Love Rock’n’Roll b. The French Song
  • Johnny Cash – a. A Boy Named Sue b. Folsom Prison Blues
  • Journey – a. Don’t Stop Believin’ b. Natural Thing
  • Julee Cruise – a. Falling b. Twin Peaks Theme
  • Kate Bush – a. Running Up That Hill b. Under The Ivy
  • Katrina & The Waves – a. Walking On Sunshine b. Going Down to Liverpool
  • Kiss – a. God Gave Rock’n’Roll To You II b. Junior’s Gone WIld
  • Led Zeppelin – a. Rock and Roll b. Four Sticks
  • Lemonheads – a. Mrs. Robinson b. Being Around
  • Lenny Kravitz – a. Always On The Run b. Instrumental
  • Live – a. I Alone b. Pain Lies On The Riverbed
  • Lou Reed – a. Walk On The Wild Side b. Perfect Day
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd – a. Freebird b. Sweet Home Alabama/Double Trouble
  • Magazine – a. Shot By Both Sides b. My Mind Ain’t So Open
  • Neil Young – a. My My, Hey Hey b. Hey Hey, My My
  • Nena – a. 99 Red Balloons b. Ich Bleib Im Bett
  • New Order – a. Blue Monday b. Beach Buggy
  • Norman Greenbaum – a. Spirit in the Sky b. Milk Cow
  • Otis Redding – a. (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay b. Respect/Mr. Pitiful
  • Paul Simon – a. You Can Call Me Al b. Gumboots
  • Powder – a. Afrodisiac b. Shave Me
  • Prince – a. When Doves Cry b. 17 Days
  • Propaganda – a. Duel b. Jewel
  • Queen – a. Don’t Stop Me Now b. In Only Seven Days
  • R.E.M. – a. Crush With Eyeliner b. Instrumental
  • Regina Spektor – a. Fidelity b. Music Box
  • Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock – a. It Takes Two b. Instrumental
  • Rolling Stones – a. Gimme Shelter b. Sympathy for the Devil
  • Roxy Music – a. Virginia Plain b. The Numberer
  • Spitting Image – a. The Chicken Song b. (I’ve Never Met) A Nice South African
  • Stealers Wheel – a. Stuck in the Middle b. Jose
  • Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel – a. Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) b. Another Journey
  • Stevie Wonder – a. Superstition b. You’ve Got It Bad Girl
  • Stone Temple Pilots – a. Plush b. Sin
  • Super Furry Animals – a. Northern Lites b. Rabid Dog
  • Supergrass – a. Richard III b. Nothing More’s Gonna Get In My Way
  • Talk Talk – a. It’s My Life b. Does Caroline Know
  • The Babys – a. Isn’t It Time b. Give Me Your Love
  • The Beatles – a. Hey Jude b. Revolution
  • The Breeders – a. Cannonball b. Divine Hammer
  • The Buggles – a. Video Killed the Radio Star b. Kid Dynamo
  • The Doors – a. Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar) c. Take It As It Comes
  • The Housemartins – a. Happy Hour b. The Mighty Ship
  • The Kinks – a. You Really Got Me b. All Day and All of the Night
  • The Knack – a. My Sharona b. Let Me Out
  • The Mamas & The Papas – a. California Dreamin’ b. Somebody Groovy
  • The Smiths – a. How Soon is Now? b. Well I Wonder
  • The Trashmen – a. Surfin’ Bird b. Liar Liar
  • The Undertones – a. Teenage Kicks b. Emergency Cases
  • The Who – a. Who Are You b. Had Enough
  • Tori Amos – a. Cornflake Girl b. Sister Janet
  • T-Rex – a. Jeepster b. Life’s a Gas
  • U2 – a. Stay (Far Away, So Close) b. I’ve Got You Under My Skin
  • Van Halen – a. Why Can’t This Be Love b. Get Up
  • Vic Reeves & Wonderstuff – a. Dizzy b. Oh Mr. Hairdresser
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs – a. Maps b. Countdown/Miles Away

IMG_6325

Classic Albums

The first in an ongoing series, where I will be discussing some of the best records ever made.  These are the “classics” of my record collection, that no-one should be without.

1. The Cult – “Love”

Released in 1985, The Cult’s album Love still sounds fantastic to this day.  It’s a potent cocktail of resurrected blues-rock riffs, screaming psychedelia and murky atmosphere that transcended music of the time.  Listening to it now, it seems unbelievable that the record was created in the mid eighties.  And yet it has enough power – and melodic charm – to still sound great.

In late 1988 I had become obsessed with Electric, the full-on rock monster that the Cult had released a year earlier.  A friend lent me a copy of Love, promising that the songs contained therein were the best the band had recorded.  cult-love

At this point I had explored some rock, metal and punk.  Love was to be a bridge between these genres in many ways.  Happily it was (what would become) “alternative” rock – though it worshipped at the altar of Hendrix, The Doors and Led Zeppelin, it was birthed from the fire of punk rock.

Opening track “Nirvana” kicks things off in blazing style.  It has a fast pace and contains a euphoric instrumental section.  Both “Big Neon Glitter” and the title track “Love” offer up the Big Zep riffs and allow guitarist Billy Duffy to add a psychedelic shimmer.  Then “Brother Wolf, Sister Moon” provides a quieter moment.  If the earlier tracks were ideal for blasting out the windows of a 1970 Dodge Challenger, this track is more singer Ian Astbury sitting on a pony surveying the prairie.  As the song ends, rumbling clouds herald the next track: “Rain”.  One of the best songs the Cult have ever recorded, “Rain” has a truly classic riff that is instantly recognisable and never forgotten.

Side Two (!) opens with “Phoenix”.  This track, unashamedly adorned with Hendrix inspired acid rock guitar, hints at the heavier sounds to come in later chapters of the bands story.  “Hollow Man” provides more driving bass (Jamie Stewart) and a simpler, melodic lead guitar.  Astbury has the chance to really shine on ballad “Revolution”, with a calmer moment that harks back to the bands Goth post-punk phase.

Next we have the mother of all Cult songs – “She Sells Sanctuary”.  A vaguely Eastern sounding intro leads into a stomping rhythm as the song grabs the listener and drags them along for the sheer hell of it.  This song became an instant favourite and still has an impact all these years later.  Final track, “Black Angel”, is a sombre Velvet Underground do Spaghetti Western affair that again adds some darkness to the proceedings.

The band received a lot of criticism for having a somewhat “hippie-ish” element to their sound, and look, on this album.  There are a few moments where the “peace and love” vibe wear a bit thin (see “Revolution”), however the overall sound of the record retains a dark edge to it – more decadent than naive.

The Cult would go on to fully embrace their heavy rock interests with Electric.  But for a kid who had never heard Zeppelin or Hendrix, Love was a monumental discovery.  Put it on and listen to it now, this record has a magic that is of it’s time and yet speaks of the past and future.

The Cult – Love

  1. Nirvana
  2. Big Neon Glitter
  3. Love
  4. Brother Wolf, Sister Moon
  5. Rain
  6. Phoenix
  7. Hollow Man
  8. Revolution
  9. She Sells Sanctuary
  10. Black Angel

Best tracks: Rain, She Sells Sanctuary, Nirvana, Brother Wolf, Sister Moon

Other cool points: great cover!

Buy this Classic Album here.