Billy Idol @ Hammerstein Ballroom (8/26/2008)

Logo - Billy Idol

Artist: Billy Idol
Venue: Hammerstein Ballroom (New York, NY)
Opener: None
Date: 8/26/2008
Label: Capitol Records

No matter what Rock musical genre you find as your favorite nowadays there is little doubt in my mind that somewhere over the course of your life that you loved no less than three or four Billy Idol tracks. Don’t deny it, because the material was that catchy and good and has managed to stay fresh even amidst the ever shifting sands of the music scene. It is without a doubt that Billy Idol is one of those cool musical legends and someone who is always known to deliver the goods when he is in concert so with this being the case I had to get to his only NYC appearance for the year as he came to the Big Apple to support his latest release, a Greatest Hits package entitled “Idolize Yourself: The Very Best Of Billy Idol”. He would do this show at the Manhattan Center’s venue known as The Hammerstein Ballroom, and if you have ever witnessed a show here you know that it’s a great room and very spacious. I was interested also because this would be my very first time seeing Idol in concert and this surprised me for while I leaned to the Metal side, there was just something hard edged about Idol that made it ok for my circle to attend. The place was pretty full by the time I got in the doors and I was surprised to find that no opening act would be on the bill this evening. I admit that this was a little disappointing because sometimes the opening act is superb and worth looking into more in the future. Despite this minor reservation of mine it was clear that everyone was ready to rock and the room went berserk when Idol’s voice came across the PA system asking them if they were ready…….it was safe to say from the response this got that we totally were.

Idol opened with “Cradle Of Love” which according to a friend who had seen him a few times over the years is his standard opener and while I like the tune for me it’s a little slower than I like a kick off tune to be. I might just be used to those acts that waste no time getting you into it as opposed to the smooth suave that Idol was arriving to. Joining Idol was of course Steve Stevens on guitar and he has been by Billy’s side for many, many years. He is one of the better Rock guitarists out there and sadly the material with Idol doesn’t always let him rip out the insane riffs as much as axe fans would like, but he still really does an amazing job at this role. On bass and drums we would find Stephen McGrath and Brian Tichy who seemed locked into place for the backbone of the night and on keyboards I was surprised to see Derek Sherinian. Yes, he had worked with Idol in the past, but I first came to hear about him from Dream Theater and then followed the incredible solo stuff he delivered. With Billy’s material he is adding the necessary flair when the time calls for it, but as the night progressed he was not always seen on the keyboard rig.

Billy would offer up a chock full of hits set tonight and I was glad that this tour was supporting a career encompassing release because that was almost a guarantee of every song being a good one tonight. The singer was in good form and while he doesn’t run around like he used to in his youth he was still pretty active and smiling and sneering all throughout the gig. I was surprised to “Dancing With Myself” being done so early but was ok with it since it caused the entire place to start moving a little more. “Flesh For Fantasy” was the number that had a lot of fists in the air along with Idol’s as he growled the chorus and he would follow this with an acoustically begun “White Wedding”. He scared me for a moment there and I feared he would do the whole track unplugged. Of course I am sure it works well in that fashion but tonight I wanted him to pull out all the stops. As these three tracks played out I was watching my fellow audience members around me who were all singing along. His music has been programmed in our brains at this stage of the game and I will take that over any of the drivel that mainstream media is considering Rock nowadays. Idol was definitely proving the strength that still lies in his back catalog this evening but there might have been some folks who wondered just how good or bad his new material could be and they got their answer as he pumped out “John Wayne” and “New Future Weapon”. The two tracks appear on the new best of and they are fantastic tunes. The first being a more eerie, almost Gothic number while the second is more of that Punk meets New Wave vibe that made him win so many listeners over years ago. I felt both tracks were strong enough to fit well on the Best Of and this was a good thing since often we find throwaway tracks offered up when an artist delivers such a release.

The night would continue rocking and we would eventually get a Steve Stevens guitar solo. He did touches of Led Zeppelin in it, and while I enjoyed hearing him do his thing, I felt that it kind of seems out of place doing solos during a gig like Idol’s. I know the pair have worked together for a long time, but lately I have been more about the music delivery than the individual showboating. Should I see Stevens during a solo appearance then I expect nothing less than these types of display. “World Comin’ Down” would be one of the most energetic tunes of the night and this would lead into the slower “Eyes Without A Face” and oddly enough also my least favorite Idol number of them all. He would win me over again quickly by doing “Blue Highway” because I loved this number and was mad that it didn’t make the grade for inclusion on the new CD, but it’s truly a better song heard live than in the studio anyway. Idol would call upon the ghost of Jim Morrison for his version of “L.A. Woman”, and unlike some of my friends I never had an issue about his doing this one. Now Judas Priest doing “Johnny B. Goode”, well that’s another story for another review. He upped the ante a little more by going way back into the Generation X years by delivering “Ready, Steady, Go” and this one had the people dancing all the way up into the balconies of the Hammerstein. Be careful folks, that’s some fall if you slip but lucky for everyone this would not happen tonight. “Rebel Yell” had the place exploding and singing along with fists in the air and the occasional horns of Metal (which is always a welcome sight at a show for me) and I was sure that this would be the final number but thankfully it was not. He would come out after a couple of minutes and do a very long version of “Hot In The City”. He was singing “Hot In NYC” at points and this just made everyone a little more excited. “Speak” led us into the closing number of “Mony, Mony” and while this tune had everyone in the place moving to the point of fainting I had a few issues with it. It was awesome to see Idol bring out everyone in his band on guitar but the song went on and on and on, for almost 20 minutes. Knowing that he easily could have done a couple of more classics during this time made me resent that he had opted to do that. Yes he walked off stage while the musicians soloed endlessly, and eventually he returned and hit the cymbals and toms on the drums, but there was something else that ruined this song for me. Many years ago, I noticed the people yelling “get laid, get f**ked” during the chorus and usually this was the crazy drunks or sub par cover bands who had to employ this trick to get proper audience participation. Tonight Idol would add that to the tune himself and for me this seemed like something he didn’t actually need to do. It was beneath him in my critical eye and I had to say that it made me only want the song to end. Other than that it was a kick ass rock and roll time.

I would definitely check him out in concert again and hope that the next time he finds the idea of a solid opener kicking off the night to be a good thing. As a performed at this stage of his career, Billy Idol most certainly has the ability to do so much for the new bands that deserve a chance at the big time. I know that sometimes the opener just makes me more into the headliners appearance and can just imagine how a decent opener would lead into a smoking Idol performance if the right band was selected. Bands like Madina Lake or Tickle Me Pink would work within this material very well and possibly be something that his hard to please fans would enjoy as well. The economic climate of today might find this a good angle to help justify the almost $50 ticket price since we are finding that people are making choices that sometimes have them sacrificing their concert attendance for a show that has a little more involved in it. Billy will continue touring for the new album and I believe he will be delivering more new material somewhere during the next year. Make sure you pick up the special edition version of “Idolize Yourself” because it comes with a DVD that features all of the videos that once ruled the screens of MTV.

Set List:
1. Cradle of Love
2. Dancing with Myself
3. Flesh For Fantasy
4. White Wedding
5. John Wayne
6. New Future Weapon
7. To Be A Lover
8. Sweet Sixteen
9. Dementia (Stevens Guitar Solo)
10. World Comin Down – most energetic tune
11. Eyes Without A Face
12. Blue Highway
13. L.A. Woman
14. Ready, Steady, Go
14. Rebel Yell
15. Hot in the City
16. Speak
17. Mony, Mony

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