Twenty five years ago this week, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released their album, Into the Great Wide Open. The video for the album’s title track starred Johnny Depp as “Eddie,” a hopeful musician who moved to L.A. to become a rock star.
The story bears just a few similarities to Depp’s: he, too, moved to L.A. to pursue his musical dreams. A role in a little show called 21 Jump Street and then in the first Nightmare on Elm Street film took him on a somewhat different career path than “Eddie’s.”
It’s a quarter of a century later, and he’s just kicked off a tour as a member of the Hollywood Vampires, alongside Alice Cooper and Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, two guys he most likely grew up worshiping; last night (July 3), their tour came to Atlantic City, New Jersey’s Borgata.
Ya done good kid!
So, there’s a lot of star power in the Vampires – the touring band also includes drummer Matt Sorum (formerly of Guns N Roses, Velvet Revolver and the Cult), and Stone Temple Pilots bassist Robert DeLeo (replacing Duff McKagan, now out on tour with GNR). The group is rounded out by guitarist Tommy Henriksen (from Alice Cooper’s band) and keyboardist/guitarist Bruce Witkin, who was Depp’s bandmate, pre-movie stardom, in a band called the Kids. On paper, it sounds amazing. But how good are they as a live band? And is Depp really a necessary addition to a band that’s already packed with stars (and guitar players)?
Well, first off, Depp’s guitar playing isn’t just a movie star hobby. Joe Perry has told me in interviews how great Depp is, and Perry isn’t really prone to hyperbole. But it’s one thing to hear about it, it’s another to actually see the guy play, and he is a great player, deserving of his spot in the band. Had he never gone to that Jump Street audition, he surely would have been able to be a musician for life (although he may not have been able to buy an island with his earnings). Also – to his credit – he never calls attention to himself, he lets his playing melt faces. To put it another way, he’s the Brad Whitford of this guitar team.