Billy Idol - photo by Michael Sherer
When William Broad introduced the members of his band toward the end his great show, he referred to himself as “Billy fuckin’ Idol.” This reminded me, and I assume many of the approximate 2,500 fans present that this is one of the biggest music stars of the ‘80’s. I never saw him live then, but I was impressed with what I experienced now. Idol, 55, is probably less active on stage than he was in his 30’s, but his voice sounded about the same and he gave his all. So did everyone else in his band, which includes his original guitarist and co songwriter Steve Stevens (real last name is Schneider), rhythm guitarist Billy Morrison, bassist Stephen McGrath, drummer Jeremy Colson and keyboardist Derek Sherinian. Stevens, 51, is Idol’s side kick as well as the musical director, and has a strong following of his own. His trademark wild, black hair is still intact, albeit more tamed than its ‘80’s heyday. He played brilliantly and moved around quite a bit. For his solo, he incorporated some excerpts from Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, undoubtedly a big influence of his. When Idol introduced him at the end of the show as being from Far Rockaway, NYC, the crowd roared. This prompted Stevens to bow and give the peace sign.
The stage show is very cool and tasteful. It includes colorful and exciting lighting, an upper level plank type set up above the drums for Idol to stand and move on, and to do his signature fist pumping from. Three large drawings of Idol high above the stage appear intermittently in different sequences, and bright white lights that make up Idol’s face are particularly eye catching as they move in the darkness.
Most of Idol’s biggest hits were played, such as Rebel Yell, Dancing With Myself, Flesh For Fantasy, Eyes Without A Face and, of course, White Wedding. The Doors’ classic LA Woman was covered with much spirit and energy.
Idol is loosely in the punk rock category, although his music has always been very accessible and radio friendly. He was huge on MTV in the early and mid ‘80’s, the glory era for both him and the then new channel that was finding its way.
The band’s summer tour neared its finish when it rolled into NYC, the country’s biggest market and birthplace of the American punk scene when it broke at CBGB’s on The Bowery in the mid ‘70’s. This bloke from Middlesex, England couldn’t have been more welcomed in The Big Apple, where Idol lived during the ‘80’s. His fans at this 98 year old ballroom indeed had a ball as they made it amply clear to him that there’s no place like home.