In a recent interview with CBS, Idol said he is “soberish” these days. At the age of 58, he smokes pot and drinks occasionally — a far cry from his crazy touring days in the '80s, fueled by sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. Over 20 years later, he’s still making a passionate rebel yell for his fans on his Kings & Queens of the Underground tour. This latest album reflects some of the themes from his 2014 autobiography, in particular the ways he is “hopelessly divided between the dark and the good, the rebel and the saint.”
So to commemorate those wilder days, I started off my evening at the Hard Rock Live in Hollywood, FL by dedicating a shot of tequila to Billy Idol.
As I walked into the stadium, I took in a good mix of people—the young and the old, many with spiked hair as an ode to the famed rocker. Eventually, the lights dimmed to darkness and the crowds started to cheer as the sound of a synthesizer echoed throughout the space. Already I felt like I was being taken back in time to 1981, when Idol’s first hit, “Dancing With Myself,” began growing into a movement.
Idol and his crew of raw talent including, Steve Stevens, Billy Morrison, Stephen McGrath, Erik Eldenius, and Paul Trudeau, opened the night with two songs from his newest album, "Postcards from the Past" and “Bitter Pill," then followed with “Cradle of Love” and, of course, “Dancing With Myself," which got everyone on their feet dancing.
The powerful guitar riffs and Idol’s classic shrieks were sweet reminders of just how much better music sounds live. And, for a girl like me from a younger generation who's only heard Idol’s music on the radio, online, or at '80s parties, seeing and hearing him in person was a completely gratifying experience. We weren't too far along into the show when my boyfriend turned to me and affirmed what we had both been hoping: “He’s still really cool.” And he is. Idol is almost 60 and still emanates the same passion and confidence on stage as a punk rocker in his 20s.
About midway through the show, Idol turned his back to the audience and began slowly stripping off the layers of his outfit—pulling off his jacket, then his undershirt, finally revealing a bare chest to a screaming audience. I admit I was also pretty impressed by the seasoned rocker's slim physique.
Idol also connected with his South Florida audience by singing “Sweet Sixteen," which was inspired by the Coral Castle in Homestead, Florida. It tells the tale of a man named Ed who was jilted at the alter by a young woman of 16. He built the castle out of coral as a symbol of his lost love. It was a precious moment of the evening, not only because the song has its roots in our hometown, but because it revealed a softer side of Idol—another reminder of his split personality, “the sex maniac and the monk, the poet and the priest.”
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Idol and his band continued to play a mix of songs from his new album and his most famous hits. He prefaced his performance of “Rebel Yell” by telling us, “You only need to know two words for this song!"
Between performances, Steve Stevens played some solo guitar pieces, including songs by Led Zeppelin. He even wailed on a white guitar for their hit, “White Wedding."
It was hard to pick a favorite song from the evening, but "White Wedding" stood out to me because Stevens and Idol started it off acoustically, just the two of them. Idol sang the lyrics softly, while Stevens strummed real close to his side, a cigarette hanging from his mouth. It was a tender reflection of the pair's close partnership and friendship of over 30 years.
After hitting the bridge, Idol jumped up onto the speakers and screamed, “Start again," jumping back down into full punk-rock mode. Idol ended the show with “Mony Mony,” and a lot of gratitude for his fans. He shouted out to the crowd, “Hollywood, Florida, thank you for making my life so fucking great!”
The show ended at a tame 10:30. I left the Hard Rock Live in awe of Idol’s authenticity, dedication, and passion for his music and fans. The only problem was that, in the midnight hour, I was yelling “More! More! More!” for Billy Idol.