Danny's Blog
Alice Cooper’s Christmas Pudding rocks with Johnny Depp

Alice Cooper has shared his spotlight with some pretty damn exciting lead guitarists in his day, from original Alice Cooper band guitarist Glen Buxton through Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner to Orianthi Panagaris.

But the guitarist causing all the buzz at this year’s Christmas Pudding show is known more for his acting.

If there had been any doubt as to how big a deal it was when Johnny Depp signed on to play at this year’s Pudding, that was cleared up at the mid-show auction. Two guitars signed by every performer on Saturday’s bill brought in $11,000 each for Cooper’s Solid Rock Foundation, which was great. But an autographed painting of Depp by “world’s fastest painter” Rock Demarco, including a chance to meet the famous actor? That brought $27,000. A guitar the actor signed, which also included a chance to meet him, brought another $20,000.

Anticipation continued to build as Cooper took the stage to lead his touring band through spirited performances of “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and “I’ll Bite Your Face Off” to kick off his headlining set before telling the crowd he’d like to introduce them to another lead guitarist, “Johnny D. from Kentucky.”

But Depp wasn’t there yet. So Cooper threw in “Billion Dollar Babies.” And as consolation prizes go, you would have been hard pressed to top it.

Depp was ready to roll by the time they finished “Billion Dollar Babies.” So Cooper brought him out to join him on a tribute to the drinking buddies he’s lost along the way at the helm of a star-studded cover band. “Break on Through” by the Doors gave way to “Revolution” by the Beatles, which featured a really cool breakdown where it was just vocals and drums. The Jimi Hendrix Experience classic “Foxy Lady” came to a climax with some awe-inspiring Orianthi shredding. And the tribute ended with the Who’s “My Generation,” sent out by Cooper to “Mr. Keith Moon, the best drummer that ever lived.”

The spotlight shifted back to Cooper’s own material from there, with Depp taking one of his better solos of the concert on “Under My Wheels.” After dusting off “Poison,” his late-’80s comeback, Cooper introduced his greatest hit, a raucous “School’s Out” that featured another great solo from Depp and Sheryl Cooper and the Cooperettes on backing vocals. That song morphed into a hard-rock reinvention of another classic education song, Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.”

That left the grand finale, a sloppy but spirited all-star jam on the seasonal “Run, Rudolph, Run,” a song popularized by the great Chuck Berry, as snow confetti showered the stage and a giant monster dressed as Santa Claus wandered through the madness. It was a blast.

Hours earlier, the Pilgrim Rest Mass Choir set the tone for the first Pudding back since the opening of Alice Cooper’s Rock Teen Center (the building of which inspired him to launch these variety shows in 2001) with a roof-raising gospel performance. Other highlights of the first act — or first serving, as they called it — included the comic hosting of John “J. Peterman” O’Hurley and magician Murray SawChuck; the dance performance “Gift of Drums” and guest appearances by Cooper and kids discovered at the Rock Teen Center in a set by CO-OP, led by Cooper’s son Dash.

The second serving got off to a glam-metal start with L.A. Guns, whose singer said “We’re gonna play our hit for you” as a lead-in to their lone Top 40 single “The Ballad of Jayne.”

Michael “Black Jack” Wilson followed, doing impressions of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock and George W. Bush, to name a few. He was pretty hilarious.

Sebastian Bach of Skid Row hit the stage with guys from Cooper’s band and segued straight from Skid Row’s biggest hit, “18 and Life” to Cooper’s breakthrough single, “I’m Eighteen,” which seemed appropriate enough. But when he followed with another Cooper classic, “Be My Lover,” my first thought was, “Well, there’s great two Alice Cooper songs I won’t see Alice Cooper sing tonight.”

Don Felder of the Eagles followed with a set that peaked early with a stunning recreation of the “Hotel California” solo but closed strong with “Take It Easy.” And with that, it was time for the main attraction, Alice Cooper, who may have trouble topping this year’s Pudding (but I’m sure he’ll find a way).

PHOTO BY: Tom Tingle/The Arizona Republic

ARTICLE BY: Ed Masley The Republic | azcentral.com

Reach the reporter at ed.masley@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-4495. Twitter.com/EdMasley