Peroxide spikes. Abs. Devilish sneer. These are Billy Idol’s trademarks, and the man has come to wear them well. Idol brought his 2013 Tour to The Joint inside of Tulsa’s Hard Rock Casino last night, delivering precisely what the crowd wanted – a largely greatest hits sets by one of the most likable personalities of 80s rock.
Thirty-five years after releasing his first album as a member of punk-pop outlet Generation X, Billy Idol has become a sort of time capsule, filled with delicious musical nostalgia and a dependable stage presence. Last night’s live show brought out the best of what Idol has to offer, running through nearly two hours of material while being about as personable as a front man can get.
Kicking off with two Generation X tracks — Ready, Steady, Go and the ultra-bouncy Dancing with Myself, Idol played off the crowd. Pointing and smiling (err… perhaps sneering is more applicable), Idol ran back and forth across the stage giving those in the pit a performance tailored specifically for them. Whether he was crouched down, close enough to kiss the women in the front row, or grabbing the arms of fans so he could suggestively move his hips in their general direction, Idol has perfected being Idol. Who else jerks off a microphone or skullfucks an invisible girl while singing the biggest hits of the 80s? What other 57 year old man causes a rash of cheering to happen by removing his jacket and shirt? No one, that’s who.
He’s a showman through and through, but one who has enough hits to make the show enjoyable even for those who aren’t getting special one-on-one treatment in the first few rows. Idol and longtime guitarist and songwriting partner Steve Stevens brought their discography to life, adding new flavor to the aging material. A flamenco introduction into Eyes Without a Face? Done. A half-acoustic, half-blisteringly electric White Wedding? Check. The band has found a way to keep these phenomenal tracks alive and sounded great doing so. The band even played a new track called Love and Glory that certainly sounded promising.
In my entire life, I’ve yet to run into a person who flat out doesn’t like Billy Idol. And there’s a good reason for that – some of these songs are the epitome of what 80s music was. The aforementioned White Wedding is perfection in song form, easily identifiable as a product of the early 80s while still sounding great today. And the band killed it – kicking off with just Steve Stevens on acoustic guitar and Idol trading off vocal lines with the crowd, the song slowly built up until Stevens ran off stage to grab his electric guitar before coming back out and going right back into the song, now turned up to 11. Flawless.
You could be the biggest hater of the 80s nostalgia-wave that’s been swirling around for the last few years – but there’s no way your face would remain smileless during this show. The performance of Rebel Yell towards the end of the main set proved that Idol’s voice is still in great shape. Perhaps a tad bit less gritty than in his earlier days, his tone and control remained solid and he delivered on the vocal front – and it’s damn near impossible not to sing along.
Eyes Without a Face found Idol channeling his softer side for a few minutes before picking right back up for a rousing cover of The Doors’ LA Woman. Interchanging sections of the lyrics with both “Oklahoma” and “Tulsa” is a bit of a cheap way to gain applause, but considering the applause never really let up for the entirety of the evening, I’ll let it slide. Bonus points to Idol for deciding to include a chant halfway through the cover that went “Hey motherfucker, get laid, get fucked.” Never stop doing you, Billy.
After LA Woman, Steve Stevens stepped out front for a lengthy flamenco (again!) inspired solo. If you could somehow combine Lindsey Buckingham, Robert Smith and C.C. DeVille into one guitar player, you’d have a rough outline of Stevens, both from an appearance and a performance standpoint. He’s definitely a talent on the six stringed beast and had everyone in the crowd captivated during his time in the spotlight.
Mony Mony closed out the evening, inspiring everyone in the crowd to join along as Idol happily pumped his fists in the air. The band played the track in an extended form, partly because they planned to and then partly because Idol’s guitar was malfunctioning, causing them to drag it on a bit too long. Eventually things got situated, the band resumed the track and finally it was time for the end of the gig.
Taking time to introduce the band, Idol addressed both the crowd and Steve Stevens before offering heartfelt thanks for making his life incredible. As he continued introducing the band, he finally got to himself. He said a bit about playing guitar before offering the greatest summation of the both the show and his career in general. Five simple words: “And I’m Billy Fucking Idol.” Damn right you are.
Idol promised he’d be back around next year, hopefully supporting his long-awaited new album. And if he does come back to a city near you – you need to be there. Go, have fun. See this night of tightly refined and perfected nostalgia. Dance your ass off, sing your heart out.
It’s Billy Fucking Idol, after all.
Setlist: Ready Steady Go, Dancing with Myself, Pumping on Steel, Flesh for Fantasy, Love and Glory, Cradle of Love, Sweet Sixteen, Eyes Without a Face, LA Woman, Steve Stevens Solo, King Rocker, Love Like Fire, Blue Highway, Rebel Yell, White Wedding, Mony Mony
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