New York, NY
By Anne Raso
Postcards From The Past | Cradle Of Love | Dancing with Myself (Generation X song) | Flesh for Fantasy | Love and Glory | One Breath Away | Ready Steady Go (Generation X song) | Sweet Sixteen | Whiskey And Pills | Eyes Without a Face | L.A. Woman (The Doors cover done as New York Woman after first verse) | Guitar Solo (by Steve Stevens) | King Rocker (Generation X song)
Love Like Fire (Generation X song) | Blue Highway | Rebel Yell
White Wedding | Mony Mony (Tommy James & the Shondells cover)
Billy Idol still has the famous "it" factor well into the 2000s, even though he is most closely identified with the ‘80s. He looks better than ever thanks to having been off drugs for at least 15 years.
If you'd like to get a glimpse of his former life that was about non-stop, hard drug taking, and womanizing (including in-studio orgies), I strongly suggest you pick up his excellent autobiography Dancing With Myself. It's a wonder he was able to perform live considering how tanked he was back in the day. My NYC friends recalled to me shows where he fell down and fell off the stage at the legendary Ritz nightspot! He also pops up in several LA tell-all books by groupies and call girls. If anyone has lived the ultimate rock and roll lifestyle, it's Billy Idol!
So how was his show at the beautiful and ornate Beacon Theater? He had been suffering from a cold and sore throat the week before this show and had to cancel a few dates. Fortunately, his sore throat only sounded rough on the rare occasion, but most markedly right before the encore when he started talking to the audience about how much he loves New York and his wild-maned axe-man Steve Stevens when he sounded a bit like Jimmy Durante!
Billy's set list has pretty much remained the same since last summer's European tour, although he and the band admittedly like to change the way they play both their hits and deep tracks. Billy's shows go about 1 hour, 45 minutes and he gives band members time to stretch out. As a matter of fact, the music played when the lights of a theater first go down low and the audience anticipates Billy & Company's arrival is the band doing a mid-tempo jam at a sound check that sounds like a bridge that never makes it into "Eyes Without A Face."
Mr. Idol is brave by starting out with a track "Postcards From The Past" off his most recent CD, Kings & Queens Of The Underground. It's a strong track that is both romantic and rocking. Billy's got a signature sound and I would be lying if I didn't say that every one of them has the famous Idol swagger and attitude. His vocals are always fierce not even the most sentimental song like "Sweet Sixteen" comes on as tough, even when he is singing about both love (and fortunes) lost. Every song is sung in the famous Billy Idol legs spread stance--something borrowed from Elvis that makes me think that if he rode the NYC subway, he's be one of those annoying fellows who always sits with his legs wide open and take up a second seat!
Billy's Beacon show flowed well---there was not a lot of between-song banter, except to talk about memories of The Big Apple and introduce band members. The most memorable solo was by Steve Stevens, who is Idol's personal Keith Richards. His five minutes to jam, alone, onstage, is fascinating, because he played some hot flamenco guitar and then pulled up old Hendrix and Zeppelin riffs! At the Beacon there was a little "Purple Haze," "Over The Hills And Far Away" and "Stairway To Heaven" action. Stevens has great showmanship and a lot of flash, but there is talent to back up the "show biz."
What were my favorite moments of the Beacon Theater show, which was sold out (some of the better orchestra seats wound up being sold for about 300 dollars by online ticket agencies, which was almost the price of the VIP seats that included a meet and greet after the show)? I am a sucker for "Cradle Of Love" and "Flesh For Fantasy," which I feel are Idol's true signature songs. He sung them pretty true to the original recordings. "Eyes Without A Face" is a song that I have always felt is a great example of a tune that just builds up so gracefully and never comes back down; I feel that Steve Stevens did his best-ever guitar solo on this track and he does not disappoint playing it live, either.
Billy and his bad-ass band did not spend a lot of time offstage between performing his biggest hit "Rebel Yell" and then coming back out for the encore which featured "White Wedding" and "Mony Mony"; there was also no intermission. During the show, Idol changes his shirt three or four times and then goes shirtless in the last half hour. I had a good laugh when he first took off his shirt, smelled his underarms and made a funny face. It was almost as funny as when a woman in the first row managed to grab his crotch only a few minutes into the show. This gesture honestly did not seem to faze him, even though security ran in his direction.
A lot of the older members in the crowd (50+) appreciated that he had not forgotten his punk roots and that they got plenty of Generation X material. The biggest crowd reaction was to "Ready Steady Go" which dates all the way back to 1976, when Gen X was on the original London punk scene with The Sex Pistols and The Clash.
Billy Idol is a one of a kind and I say kudos to him for putting on such an awesomely rockin' show when he is pushing 60. He looks better than ever, and still has the moves and the voice. He's a vegan rather than a junkie, and he’s got a real tan instead of a studio tan. When he comes back to NYC, I am going to see him again! It's a show where the audience knows most of the words to the songs and no one is afraid to sing, dance or play air guitar (even though everyone is in the age range of 45 to 65)!