Judge Kent Dixon's rebel yell is more of a disgruntled whimper.
"Steve, show them what a hit song sounds like will you?"
Hot on the heels of the punk era, '80s rock was still wild and untamed, with screaming guitars, tight leather and bad boy bands that made teachers cringe and mothers cry. But the '80s had its share of legendary solo artists as well. Michael Jackson. Madonna. George Michael. Billy Idol. There are few names that are as synonymous with '80s popular music as these. Like Elvis before them, they infused their music with a stark and sexy confidence and a commanding presence that quickly turned them into international superstars.
The last time I saw Billy Idol perform was in the early '90s, shortly after the motorcycle accident that nearly cost him a leg. Idol came to town with back-up singers, an arena-sized, neon-lit stage, and a full complement of musicians. Even after a near-fatal accident and sporting a cane, Idol still had that crowd of thousands eating out of the palm of his hand as he grimaced and growled and gyrated his way through more than 90 minutes of material. After a rough patch and an attempted reimagining in the mid-'90s, Idol sank into drugs and all but disappeared from the public eye until a cameo role in the 1998 hit movie The Wedding Singer brought him back into the limelight.
Reuniting with music partner and Grammy-winning guitarist Steve Stevens in the late '90s, the duo discovered their chemistry was as strong as ever. Since then, Idol and Stevens have been collaborating on new material including the release of Devil's Playground in 2001, Idol's first studio album in almost 12 years. In addition to the new material, Idol's songs have been included in both the Guitar Hero and Rock Band video game franchises, clearly demonstrating the staying power of classic Idol tracks like "White Wedding" and "Rebel Yell." And as if that wasn't enough to prove his enduring appeal, Idol and Stevens spent an evening rocking more than 2,000 fans in July 2009 and braving sweltering temperatures at the historical (and not air conditioned!) Congress Theater in Chicago as they hit the stage for Billy Idol: In Super Overdrive Live.
The 70 minute set list includes:
• "Super Overdrive"
Billy Idol: In Super Overdrive Live is a surprisingly intimate concert with a modest stage and light display, allowing the audience to more directly connect with Idol, Stevens and the band. Sure, a few shots of the crowd show the odd 40-something fan, but there are far more audience members that likely fall in the 20 to 30 age bracket, showing that Idol can still draw a crowd after more than 20 years. The video presentation is excellent and aside from some occasional bleeding due to the yellow stage lights, provides a front row seat in glorious 1080i. All of Idol's hits are included in this concert, reproduced masterfully by the DTS-HD Master Audio mix. The sound is crisp and clear with no distortion of any kind (except of course for Mr. Stevens' guitar!), so if you're a long time fan like me, you'll find it hard to keep from turning that volume knob higher and higher.
One caveat about the concert…if you're feeling the urge to share some '80s nostalgia with younger viewers, be prepared that while Billy Idol may be over 50 now, there's still a lot of pretty overtly sexual messages in some of his tunes and the lyrics often don't leave much to the imagination.
Although some of the higher notes have disappeared, Idol still screams,
growls, and exhibits much of the swagger and style that made him an '80s rock
icon. While other 80s pop icons like Axl Rose have become little more than
parodies of themselves, Billy Idol is still a high caliber performer whose tunes
and talents have only gotten better with age.
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