My musical relationship with English musician Billy Idol goes back to when I first heard Generation X through my job at A&B Sound. To make things clear I’m a kid of the 90’s, however, I had the advantage of learning about music from my elders during my retail experience. This was during a time when downloading and streaming didn’t exist yet, a pre-Napster time.
It was the personality of
Billy Idol and the unique charismatic nature as a front man that initially drew
me in to Generation X which made me appreciate….wait for it…punk songs that
had melodies. This made sense considering that Billy was a bit older than his
peers, therefore, when he talks about his own experiences with pop music and
his icons I can understand where the melody in the music comes from. A lot of
these sentiments were expressed through his stage banter.
Aside from his musical
influences, Billy wasn’t too shy about talking about other elements of himself
in between songs. Even though these are stories that Billy has told many times
during his shows, that magic in his eyes when reliving these tales were still
present. Often he would smile at himself at his own memories. Hearing another
musician genuinely fan out reminds me that in the end, whether you’re the
performer or part of the audience, that music and memories is what connects us.
The banter made me appreciate him as an artist more than an 80’s popstar who’s
wax his chest before a photo shoot.
I’ve seen Billy Idol 6
times to date. The first 5 times it was a rock show, however, this time it was
a stripped down acoustic show with just himself and his long time
bestie/songwriter, Steve Stevens. These 2 guys, who have spent about 35 years
on stage together, still love playing live and keep their voices/instruments in
tip top shape. Granted the show did have a rough start vocally, however,
improved as the show progressed. At the end of the show both Steve Stevens and
Billy made it an agenda to let the audience know that the show was all live
with no backing tracks. A dig at Kiss which Steve Stevens and other artists
have come forward with their anger toward Kiss these past three months on the
Eddie Trunk show. Being opening night they really wanted to get the media
attention with this dig.
With the acoustic format
and the storytelling between songs the evening reminded me of the VH1
Storytellers that aired a decade ago. Unlike the television special, which had
a few more instruments allowing for a more Blues/Jazz unplugged renditions of
their catalogue, the audience were presented the material on a “as is” basis.
Because this was the
opening night on the tour there were no setlist previews, however, I did have
an idea of what was going to be played that night. I was familiar enough with
his catalogue that I could tell what would work and what would’ve been
obligatory flops. Billy played a few singles, a few album tracks and some rare
songs. He was smart enough to know what worked acoustically that both displayed
the talent of Steve Stevens and the lyrics of the songs that often get taken
for granted against pop sensibilities. There were some singles that he actively
skipped which I was truthfully thankful for as they’re fluff singles meant for
fun. Unfortunately the compositions don’t allow for these specific singles to
translate into an acoustic song. Even if Billy and Steve were to re-write the
compositions for the show they would have to re-arrange the song so much that
it would isolate the fans too much, making it far removed from what fans have
been accustomed to hearing all these years.
The most memorable moment
for me was hearing an acoustic version of Kiss Me Deadly, a
Generation X song. It made me crave a Generation X reunion which has been
talked about but not sure why this hasn’t been green lit.
At first I was a little
sceptical about the choice of venue for the show. The Vogue has always been hit
and miss in terms of sound including acoustic sessions. Surprisingly it sounded
great. Than again Billy can afford to have a good have a good sound crew who
knows how to work within the confines of various venues.
I was disappointed that
there wasn’t a demographic younger than 25 considering that this was an all
ages show. The room was full of fans who have seen him 5 times in the past
decade or so and wouldn’t think twice about seeing him another 5 times over the
I was thankful that the
seat was assigned seating and that for the most part the audience was
respectable about being seated. I am still recovering from a bad foot injury
but thankfully had the support of Peter and Nick who helped lifted me off my
seat to some of the tracks that were memorable to me, especially the Generation
I left the show with a much better appreciation for the songs and Steve
Stevens as a guitarist.