Review: Billy Idol delivers a very different kind of concert

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Anybody been dreaming of hearing an acoustic “Rebel Yell”?

No?

Me neither. And it’s a pretty safe bet that hasn’t been high on too many fans’ wish lists either.

Yet, New Wave/post-punk icon Billy Idol still decided to hit the road with longtime guitarist Steve Stevens for an acoustic tour — dubbed the Turned On, Tuned In and Unplugged Trek — which touched down for a two-night stand at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre in San Francisco on March 7.

The result was a fairly interesting evening, showcasing Idol in a very different fashion than most have seen before, yet the concert wasn’t nearly as exciting or fulfilling as Idol’s usual plugged-in affair.

The problem wasn’t so much the performance, which was solid enough, though clearly lacking some of the electricity — figuratively as well as, of course, literally — of a regular Idol show. The bigger issue was the concert was a too messy and jumbled, as Idol tried, but failed, to really execute any type of concise or coherent game plan for the night.

It was organized storyteller style, with Idol taking the time to talk, often at length, about the songs he was playing. Some of the anecdotes were interesting and one — addressing his late father — was quite moving. But, overall, it just felt like there were too many narrative threads going on and Idol never really managed to tie them together in a satisfying way.

But Idol did pick a good starting point, opening the show with “Dancing With Myself,” a song that he originally recorded with the U.K. punk outfit Generation X (later Gen X).

The song flopped in Britain and Idol would eventually leave the band, and cross the Pond, to try his luck in America. But he wasn’t sure what the Americans would think of his punk-rock look, sound and attitude.

“It was like REO Speedwagon and poodle hair,” Idol said of the U.S. at the time. “They didn’t even wear leather — they wore denim.”

He thought he might have to change in order to get accepted. But then “Dancing With Myself” took off in the U.S. — with a re-recorded version eventually becoming Idol’s first solo hit — and one thing become clear to the singer.

“II suddenly realized — (expletive) I don’t have to change a (expletive) thing,” he recalled.

We’d get another Generation X song a bit later, with “Kiss Me Deadly,” but, as expected, it was the hits — like “Eyes Without a Face” — that connected the strongest with the roughly 1,000 fans that filled the theater to capacity. But there was too much time spent talking that should have been used to play even more longtime fan favorites.

Yet, even some of the hits didn’t stand up all that well on this night, at least not in comparison to a fully plugged-in Idol show. Some of the songs suffered in the acoustic format, which tends to spotlight the lyrics. And that’s not always a good thing to do when you’re dealing with the Idol songbook. It’s much better to have the fans focus instead on the energy, charisma and pure rock ‘n’ roll power that Idol usually brings to the table.

Not coincidentally, one of the very best songs of this acoustic outing was “I’m Not Like Everybody Else.” But that’s a cover of a KInks tune, written by the great lyricist Ray Davies.

Idol and his talented guitarist ended the main set with “Rebel Yell,” which had fans calling for “more, more, more.” And they’d give it to them with an encore that included the MTV classic “White Wedding.”

 

Source: mercurynews
Review: Billy Idol delivers a very different kind of concert