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Live Review: Billy Idol – 19th March 2015 – Qantas Credit Union Arena, Sydney, Australia

5 min read

Music really does have a lot to answer for these days. While I’ve never been shy from expressing my feelings about the state of the music industry and the unfortunate rise of reality show platforms taking the music world by hostage and pumping out non-stop 15-minute-famers, I have always been able to rely on the artists I grew up listening to as a constant and nostalgic reminder of what was once so great and good about music. Having been born in the early eighties I consider myself fortunate to have many go-to artists that I can turn to for a solid session of reminiscing and bleach-blonde new wave rocker Billy Idol’s catalogue is certainly one that ticks all the right boxes.

Since breaking into the punk-rock scene in the mid-70’s with his former band Generation X where he recorded the massive single Dancing With Myself and heading into the solo world in the early 80’s, Idol become a pin-up for the MTV generation with global hits including White Wedding, Hot In The City, Eyes Without A Face and Sweet Sixteen among the many top selling singles than he can claim as his own.

While the studio records may have been a bit slow and far between for the musician since his hey-day, the rocker has been a regular on the touring circuit, continuing to deliver his career highlights to fans around the world every few years and he is back to doing what he does best with a new tour that is currently stopping at cities throughout Australia. With Sydney’s Qantas Credit Union Arena on his radar tonight, we went along to witness one of the 80’s most successful artists deliver a powerful set-list that proved to be both rich in nostalgic and, despite the rocker on the verge of his 60’s, energetic and effortlessly cool.

Opening with Postcards from the Past, a track from his most recent 2014 studio album Kings and Queens of the Underground, Idol proved he still has what it takes as he manoeuvred the stage with agility and cool as he turned out a stellar opener for the set.

While tracks like Dancing With Myself and Cradle of Love were among the biggest crowd pleasers of the night, it was clear from his performance of various tracks that Idol found strength in performing numbers that utilized his higher vocal register with numbers like the catchy Can’t Break Me Down, Save Me Now putting his vocal ability into a very flattering spotlight as he ran through the numbers with ease, precision and authority. They were also the songs that his band felt the most comfortable delivering with lead guitarist and career-long collaborator Steve Stevens basking under the bright spotlights during the opening and closing of the latter before Idol plunged into the oldest track in the set, Red Steady Go which formed part of his successful repertoire within Generation X in 1976.

With an acoustic guitar being placed over the musician we were then offered a couple of tender slow jams starting with Sweet Sixteen which opened with a back story of the track involving a man who was left at the altar and took to Florida to build a castle for his “sweet sixteen”. The Americana tones filled the arena as couples swayed together in the crowd before one of my personal favourite Idol hits, Eyes Without A Face washed over the crowd and offered the set-list its most pop driven inclusion.

Swapping the lyrics for a cover of The Doors’ LA Woman, to be sung by Idol as ‘Sydney Woman’, the band then left the stage leaving Steve Stevens engulfed in clouds of dry ice that was being pumped onto the stage to churn out a lengthy guitar solo that had he crowding cheering along to the musicians incredible finger picking skills. The rest of the band, with Billy leading the way, re-joined the guitar hero to close the set with the busy, bass heavy Whisky and Pills, easily the most hardcore numbers of the night, Blue Highway, which had the Idol hurling a few dozen branded Frisbees into the audience and one of the musicians signature solo hits, Rebel Yell; easily the biggest moment in the set with the musician removing his shirt and treading the stage with as much angst and grit in his voice as heard in the original recording.

After a brief departure to prepare for his encore, Idol returned to cap the night off with two of his biggest singles. First up was White Wedding which is easily his most successful and widely known hit was offered in two parts; the first as an acoustic rendition with Stevens and then complete with the full band and with a drum solo to break up the two track encore, the up-tempo and pop driven Mony Mony made its grand entrance and had fans rushing to the stage to be close to their idol (pun definitely intended) and to dance out the set in nostalgic fashion.

The latest tour for the 80’s icon is to celebrate the release of his Kings and Queens of the Underground record which was released near the end of 2014 but the fans were of course there principally for the greatest hits and there were plenty of them for the crowd to get their vocal chords around during the 15 song set last night with swift career highlights like Cradle of Love, Mony Mony, Rebel Yell and Generation X hit Dancing With Myself getting the crowd worked up into a frenzy while couples held hands and cuddled as the singer offered pretty spot on renditions of some of his finest ballads including Eyes Without A Face and an acoustically delivered Sweet Sixteen which allowed Idol to catch his breath and bask in the adoration that was flowing from the Sydney fans.

Overall the set list was full of some of the biggest singles the 80’s and from one of that decades most successful and consistent icons of punk-pop. While I didn’t get to hear my favourite Billy Idol number, Hot In The City, an exclusion that was very noticeable given its successful standing in the Idol catalogue, and while his stage presence appeared slightly awkward and stiff at times, he can be forgiven after delivering a truly enjoyable 90 minutes of guitar-fueled punk-pop fun to a crowd that lapped up every single moment. And I have to say, at 59 the musician is still looking pretty fit!

Set list:
Postcards from the Past
Cradle of Love
Can’t Break Me Down
Dancing With Myself (Generation X)
Flesh for Fantasy
Save Me Now
Ready Steady Go (Generation X)
Sweet Sixteen
Eyes Without a Face
L.A. Woman (The Doors cover)
Whiskey and Pills
Blue Highway
Rebel Yell

Encore:
White Wedding
Mony Mony