Billy Idol rang in the summer solstice Thursday night with a tight, concise and energetic show befitting one of glam-punk’s most sovereign and feisty pioneers. At 45, His Right and Honorable Rude Dude can still whip crowds into giddy submission, as the 2,000 or so nostalgists and newcomers attending his Kiss the Skull Tour at the Fillmore happily discovered.
With the house lights lowered, an introduction of ambient synth washes conjured visions of deep space nebulae (or any fantasy H.R Giger might dream up), before Idol sauntered out, trademark sneer intact, for the first of a long string of chartbusters: “Cradle of Love.” Faithfully rendered – as were the majority of tunes to follow – Idol stuck to the essentials that launched him to ’80s prominence: sex appeal, attitude and a fearless stage presence. And he seemed content to dance with the hits what brung him there – often to the roar of legions, chanting “Sweat! Sweat! Sweat!”
Guitarist Steve Stevens anchored the hedonistic offerings with the skill of a seasoned vet – setting the tone of classic arena behavior with teeth-wrangling from the book of Jimi Hendrix and full-arm-extension windmills Ã la Pete Townshend. But the blond, spike-haired Idol – still a physical specimen to behold despite a 1990 motorcycle accident and years of rock excess – remained the centerpiece.
“He’s a survivor,” said 34-year-old fan Colleen Trembath, who was seeing Idol for the third time. “There’s something about that lip.”
There’s also something romantic about yesterday’s hero attempting a comeback. In Idol’s case, that seems to be the result of bullheaded love for thrusting his crotch into the spotlight.
There was plenty of thrust to go around Thursday. Idol’s band injected old-school flavor into “Flesh for Fantasy” and a sense of danger into the new “Walking the Monster.” Idol covered the Simple Minds hit “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” as a harmonica-driven anthem. Other showstopping moments included an acoustic “White Wedding” and a stripped-down, unplugged, but still fist-pumping “Rebel Yell.”
With the precision of a flamenco scale-climber, Stevens blazed through “Whiplash Smile,” adding deft, Latin flavorings. “Ready Steady Go” went the other way – “this one’s for Joey Ramone,” Idol said, smiling, as he played one of the best-known songs by Generation X, the punk-pop band that gave him his start in the late ’70s.
Another early Idol song, his cover of Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Mony Mony” served as the first encore. Before Idol started it, a topless woman in the mosh pit offered her black bustier to him. For a second encore, 90 minutes into the show, Idol launched into the Doors’ “L.A. Woman,” re-imagining it as “Denver Woman.”