CADOTT – They came. They rocked. They died.
That is the unofficial motto of The Hollywood Vampires, a super-group headlined by singer Alice Cooper, Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry and actor Johnny Depp. The band is rounded out by members of Stone Temple Pilots and Guns N Roses.
The Hollywood Vampires closed out the first night of Rock Fest on Thursday with an entertaining 20-song, 80-minute set, with the band covering songs by famous musicians who have since died. Cooper weaved a story about how all these famous musicians, from Jimi Hendrix to Jim Morrison to John Lennon used to hang out at a nightclub called the Rainbow in Los Angeles, and that is how the group began.
“We are doing songs of our dead, drunk friends,” Cooper told the crowd. “It started out as a drinking club at the Rainbow. And now they are all gone, except for me.”
Unfortunately, The Hollywood Vampires added to famous musicians to their set list this year, as they covered David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” and Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades” in honor of its deceased lead singer Lemmy.
The crowd roared when the band launched into “Come Together” by the Beatles, and sang along to T. Rex tunes “20th Century Boy” and “Bang a Gong (Get It On).”
But the surreal highlight of the set came near midnight, when Marilyn Manson took the stage and performed a duet with Cooper, on Cooper’s solo song “I’m Eighteen.” It felt like a special moment that could only happen on a televised award show, with these two rock icons from different generations performing together.
The show played out like a huge jam session of seasoned rockers. Cooper, of course, has played at Rock Fest several times, most recently in 2012. They played a few original songs, but almost entirely covers. Depp proved to be solid on the bass. Joe Perry was sadly absent, as he’s been ill. The crowd shouted “Get well Joe!” for him, before Cooper launched into covering Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion.”
For the encore, Cooper performed the relatively obscure “Train Kept-A-Rollin’” by Tiny Bradshaw, before ending with another of his own tunes, “School’s Out,” which included a fun interlude of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.”
A good-sized crowd attended the opening night of the three-day music festival. However, rain started to fall shortly after 3 p.m., and it was persistent but not heavy over the rest of evening; fans were reaching for blue jeans and sweatshirts early.
Manson delivers bizarre show
Marilyn Manson was every bit as bizarre and entertaining as expected in his long-overdue Rock Fest debut. Over his 65-minute set, Manson stalked around the stage, writhed on the floor, and looked absolutely ghostly with his white face paint and sharpened teeth.
The crowd sang loudly as Manson launched into his hit “The Dope Show,” and they cheered when he covered the Eurythmic’s tune “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” with him putting his own Goth spin on the 1980s classic. Manson, 47, walked across the stage on stilts during the song, towering over the crowd below him, in one of the stranger performances at the festival.
Manson saved his biggest hit, “The Beautiful People,” for last, and he high-fived fans as he belted out the tune. Manson proved to be a captivating performer.
For the fourth time since 2010, Christian rockers Skillet took the stage at Rock Fest. Lead singer John Cooper sounded in fine form as he quickly moved through 15 songs over a 70-minute show. Cooper dialed down the Christian message between songs, instead focusing on rushing through all the band’s largest hits, from “Sick of It” to “Awake and Alive” to “Hero.” The band played two songs off their upcoming disc that will be released in three weeks, including the chart-climbing single “Feel Invincible.”
The rockers closed on a high note, partying through “Comatose,” “Monster” and “Rebirthing,” as they continue to show why they are the most successful Christian band to cross over into the mainstream rock scene. Perhaps the only disappointment was they left their full stage show at home – no fireballs exploding up from the stage this year.
Side stages were a hit
With Rock Fest changing to just three nights this year, Chippewa Valley Music Festival organizers opted to put some big-name acts on the smaller “Bud Light What’s Next Stage” at the top of the hill. Australian rockers The Sick Puppies and New Zealand band Like A Storm both excelled on the small stage, as fans rushed between the main stage and the smaller one to see all the bands. Like A Storm performed one of the best covers of the night by remaking Coolio’s rap hit “Gangster’s Paradise” into a full-fledged rock song. Meanwhile, Sick Puppies didn’t miss a beat by switching out lead singers, as the band played an entertaining 12-song set, finishing with their huge hit, “You’re Going Down.”
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