Show Review: An Evening With Billy Idol at The Fillmore, 8/17/10

by Dakin Hardwick on August 18, 2010

An example of a "rebel yell"

While waiting in line to see Billy Idol last night at the Fillmore, I was talking to a friend on the phone that was rather disappointed to learn that his show was sold out, and the asking price on the streets was about $160. We were talking about Idol’s history, and I was informed that Idol was once a member of Siouxsie & The Banshees, but left the band because he felt that they weren’t taking music seriously enough. My immediate response was, of course, to chuckle, but I thought about Idol’s place in our society and realized that there is nobody else out there quite like him. He is part of the new wave era, the punk era, and the hair metal era, and managed to escape all of those trends with dignity & credibility. There is a reason that he is still able to sell out The Fillmore on a Tuesday night 30 years after his first record.

The crowd he brought out was one of the most diverse crowds I have ever been in. The age range was around 15-50 years old, and they were of every ethnicity. The only bit of demographic sameness in the crowd was the fact that the female to male ratio was about 5 to 1. (I would suggest to any single man looking to meet an attractive woman to head over to look over Billy Idol’s tour schedule immediately, and book tickets posthaste)

They started out in a proper, epic rock fashion, with Idol’s back up band taking the darkened stage, while Idol was backstage with his wireless microphone working as his own hype man. (For those taking note, his band consisted of Stephen McGrath on bass, Camp Freddy’s Jeremy Colson on drums, ex-Cult member Billy Morrison on rhythm guitar, ex-Dream Theater member Derek Sherinian on keyboards, and the immortal Steve Stevens is on lead guitar) They then dove head first in to a pair of classic Generation X songs, “Ready, Steady, Go” and “Dancing With Myself.” The band was full of energy, and the audience was giving it back tenfold. Two songs in, and I already know that this was going to be a killer show.

The setlist consisted primarily of classic material and very recent material, including a few un-released songs that were more than impressive. The third song, a piece called “Love Is Strange,” had a touch of the cold, mechanical sound of 1993’s Cyberpunk, but added just enough classic rock warmth to make the song fit in well with the classic material.

Billy himself was in proper form. He still retains that bratty, tough guy attitude that his stage persona has always been. He kept his fists pumping, and his facial expressions generally moved between goofy grin, scream, and that tough-pout that only Idol can do. His voice was also in fine form, if maybe slightly deeper than his younger days, but he can still alternate between his smooth croon and his high pitched scream in a moment’s notice.

The other big star of the show is, of course, Steve Stevens, Idol’s lead guitarist from his hitmaking years. The man can work that instrument quite well, often time opting to play acoustically instead of electrically, but made his acoustic guitar have enough heavy metal thunder to make you forget that he was plucking these notes on an acoustic.

In fact, after a rather silly cover of The Doors’ “LA Woman,” recast as “SF Woman,” Stevens was given opportunity to show of his skills alone, and pulled of about 7 or 8 minutes of pure flamenco guitar!! The audience ate it up, and he was certainly loving the chance to play this kind of music in front of this kind of crowd.

The main set closed with the fist pumping classic, “Rebel Yell,” which, as expected, got the crowd pumping their fists in unison, and his extremely skilled band managed to flesh the song out by an extra 2-3 minutes, but without sounding like a jam band. They were merely feeding the audience’s desire for the song to never end.

Of course, this time of show could not exist without an encore. And since Idol is a genius at writing a setlist, he knew what belonged here. Idol and Stevens came back out by themselves, and Stevens was armed with his acoustic guitar, again. They then played to version of “White Wedding” that rock musicians should be forced to write a paper on before taking the stage. We all know the song, and many people are familiar with the acoustic duo version of the piece from Idol’s VH-1 Storytellers performance. After a verse and a chorus of this version of the song, Idol took the last note of the chorus and held it out while the entire stage went black, and with all eyes on Idol’s never ending scream, the rest of the band quickly came out, grabbed their electric instruments, and finished the song in it’s original thunderous glory. It was an epic rock & roll moment, the kind that reminds you why live music is so great. They closed the show with an fun take on Idol’s second big single, “Mony Mony,” and the crowd remained dancing, and despite eager pleas for a second encore, we were left merely with the joy of experiencing an evening with one of the greatest performers in musical history. And we will all need to come back next time because, well, he didn’t play “Cradle Of Love,” and that’s just plain wrong.


Special Thanks To Alan Ralph for his assistance with this piece.

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