Hot In The City…..
It was at the tail end of 2014 that Billy Idol last played Birmingham, so the anticipation of this gig has been building for a while. The weather is much more favourable this time and the early evening sun beats down on an eclectic mix of fans as they queue around the block to get into the venue. The old and young, the punks and the rockers of both sexes are all well represented in good numbers such is the diversity of his audience. It’s no surprise then that the venue is packed out from the start.
Opening act tonight are The Professionals. Originally formed by the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones & Paul Cook following the demise of that band, Paul Cook resurrected the band a few years ago with original bass guitarist Paul Myers and Tom Spencer filling Jones’ role on guitar and vocals, with Chris McCormack completing the line up. They deliver a short sharp punky set which at 30 minutes fits in a mix of early material (‘Payola’, ‘Just Another Dream’) along with a selection of tracks from last years What In The World with ‘Good Man Down’ and ‘Going Going Gone’ and also leaving room for a Pistol’s cover in ‘Silly Thing’. Spencer is clearly revelling in his role fronting the band and plays with the energy and passion that the songs deserve. A more than worthy warm up.
As Billy Idol hit the stage and the band immediately hit their stride with the punchy ‘Shock To The System’ it’s apparent that Billy is in great shape both physically and vocally. The temperature soars as the tightly packed crowd start getting more active and its not long before the staff are having to deal with people fainting.
The upbeat pace continues as we head straight back to the early 80s with the infectious ‘Dancing With Myself’ which sees some great interplay between guitarists Steve Stevens and Billy Morrison. The natural flamboyance of Stevens also sees him playing the guitar behind his head.
After a hypnotic and moody ‘Flesh For Fantasy’ the mid section throws up some more recent songs taking in ‘Scream’ from Devil’s Playground and ‘Whiskey And Pills’ from 2014’s Kings & Queens of the Underground. There’s also plenty of opportunity for solo spots by all band members with Steve Stevens performing a memorable semi acoustic spot mixing spanish guitar with Zep’s ‘Over The Hills And Far Away’ and ‘Stairway To Heaven’. Later he even throws in a spot of the Top Gun theme (yeah, I’d forgotten that he’d written that).
As the set draws to a close, Idol removes his shirt, and there can’t be many 62 year olds that can do that and still make women scream! He then announces that it’s “time for the part of the show I love” as they proceed to deliver an outstanding ‘Rebel Yell’. It proves to be one of the highlights of the night and one that Billy could quite easily let the O2 choir take over and sing such is the enthusiasm and participation of the crowd.
Back for the encore, Idol instructs Steve Stevens to “Show ’em what a hit single sounds like”, to which Stevens chooses to play the into to ‘White Wedding’ stripped back on an acoustic which sounds enthralling while Idol sings the first verse and chorus ending with a powerful “nice day to start again” which allows just enough time to switch over to electric to drive the song home.
For the second time in the evening Billy tells the crowd of his Birmingham roots and how the city and its people have shaped his life and thanks everyone “for making my life so fucking great!”, which unsurprisingly elicits a huge roar from the crowd and with that it’s down to a rousing ‘Mony Mony’ to close what has been an amazing show. Come back soon Billy – we need more shows like this!
1. Shock to the System
2. Dancing With Myself
3. Flesh for Fantasy
4. Can’t Break Me Down
5. L.A. Woman
7. Hole in the Wall
8. Eyes Without a Face
9. Guitar Solo
10. World’s Forgotten Boy
11. Whiskey and Pills
12. Blue Highway
13. Rebel Yell
14. White Wedding
15. Mony Mony