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 next decade.
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 X song. I left the show with a much better appreciation for the songs and Steve Stevens as a guitarist.