Orlando, FL • April 26, 2005
When you go to see an ’80s icon like Billy Idol you expect to hear the big hits you grew up singing along to. You expect nostalgia and maybe a slightly bloated version of the former Punk Rock Pop Star. What you don’t expect is a Billy Idol with the body of a 25-year-old playing new songs that sound just as good as the classics he loads his set with. Every bit as confident and flirtatious as he was at the height of his career, when the 21st Century Idol seduces the packed House with his characteristic fist pumps and lip curls, it’s 1985 all over again.
The scene begins outside in the cue line where 2,000+ fans from all walks of life gather, in the rain, for a night billed as “An evening with Billy Idol.” The last time Billy Idol came to Orlando was in the early ’90s on the Charmed Life tour, and that was at the basketball arena. So the chance to get up close and personal with the singer is a rare, irresistible opportunity for many. Dozens of would-be concert-goers hovered around the will-call window, begging for tickets that few people are willing to part with.
With the doors opening 30 minutes late and the opening act-less show starting promptly at 8:30pm, many fans still stood outside during the opening songs of the two-hour set. The show got off to a powerful start as he and his band, which included original guitarist Steve Stevens, burst into the opening track off of his comeback album Devil’s Playground, “Super Overdrive.” Idol, in the first of several costume changes, wore leather pants and matching jacket, and a tank top which he quickly removed over the course of the next few songs (“Dancing with Myself,” “Flesh for Fantasy,” and “White Wedding”) to show off his ridiculously muscular build. You would never know that this guy is 49 years old!
His voice is confident and textured with age (in a good way), as he sprinkles the classics amongst the new material. He plays “Rebel Yell,” “Eyes Without a Face,” “Hot in the City,” and “Mony Mony.” The latter song resultied in the crowd chant ” Hey Motherfuckers, get laid, get fucked!” Digging way back into the ’70s he introduces one song, “I used to be in this punk bank called Generation X… Ready steady Who? Ready steady Stones? Ready steady Beatles?.. Ready Steady Go!”
The old songs obviously worked their magic on the audience, but impressively one of the highpoints of the night came from the performance of “World Comin’ Down” — a throwback to his punk past off his latest release. The crowd did not discriminate their applause , giving love to the old and the new. It seemed that he can do no wrong. Even when he ended the evening with a final encore of Van Halen’s “Jump!” the crowd never faltered in their affection. “I love to see your faces when we play this song,” he says before Stevens plays the opening riff.
Drenched in sweat from the moment he hits the stage ( I know, because being in the photographer’s pit means that I was splashed with it from time to time), Idol holds nothing back. He refuses the audience nothing — reaching out to extended hands, singing to the women in the front row, and signing every piece of paper/cloth that is passed up to him onstage. The autographs in the middle of songs, though sweet, got a little tiresome — except to those lucky fans who were the recipients of those pieces of memorabilia. This generosity was just another way to tease the already-eager audience into thinking they can get even closer to the artist onstage. Idol knows how to work a crowd, and time has proven that — no matter how much it might piss off the Punks he grew up with — he knows how to write timeless Pop songs!
Billy Idol: www.billyidol.com