A very eclectic mixed three band tour rolled into Manchester Arena. Headliners the Hollywood Vampires – with a couple of rock stars and a film star – would be supported by rockers The Darkness, and also punk rock legends The Damned. I was very keen to particularly witness The Damned for my debut viewing. Featuring main longstanding members Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible, backed by a solid lineup that already seemed to generate a lot of fans early taking their seats to witness their set.
The Damned actually impressed me, particularly Captain Sensible’s guitar playing. He’s developed into quite a solid and technically gifted player. A few old-school punk fans ignored the venues seated rules and rushed to the front to “Smash It Up”. Old classics like “New Rose” blended seamlessly with the newer numbers. A particularly animated keyboard player added to the on-stage visuals which delivered entertainment. They definitely impressed this particular old school rocker who enjoyed the band’s transition from old school simply played basic punk rock songs to a quite decent sounding rock band.
Next up are The Darkness who I will openly admit to not liking. I felt that their period in the fame spotlight has long since lapsed. My main bone of discontent is the vocal stylings of singer Justin Hawkins. They seemed to have a 50/50 split in the audience between support and apathy. While I and many others shut off completely, I have to admit that for others they seemed to enjoy the show. The rest of the band are a competent group of players and while Justin was not warbling at ear screeching pitch they sounded quite decent.
Coming on to a brief introduction the band hit the stage at full speed. Joe Perry showing a much looser on-stage presence and a far greater ability than what I have previously witnessed during many Aerosmith live shows over the years. Cooper seems to be the band’s ringleader on stage as much as he is off it. Depp is there as a part of the band and a notable visual presence, although I couldn’t initially pick up what his sonic contribution was to the band. The set tonight is a mix of a few original numbers and a large amount of cover versions which mostly pay homage to dead musicians and former friends of the main Vampires from their Viper Room drinking days.
I particularly enjoyed Perry’s delivered version of Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion”. Depp provided a solid vocal also on a version of Bowie’s “Heroes”. Approaching the concert, I admit to being a tad cynical in watching a band of a few noted musicians and a movie star play a set of mostly cover versions, however, the sold-out arena and the widespread enthusiasm that the show generated was a testament to its success. Entertainment is the name of the game and in terms of pure escapism from the mundanity of everyday life, it served its purpose. An unusual fusion of rock and screen royalty delivering a set of quality played rock standards and classics. Stage effects apart from a projected band logo backdrop and pictures of former musical legends that have passed on kept it minimalistic and didn’t detract from the music played. A great, if unusual, night’s performance. The Vampires certainly took many new victims tonight in Manchester with not a single drop of blood being spilled.
All photos © Christopher James Ryan