Billy Idol at Wembley Arena
Punk icon Billy Idol returns to London with his six-day UK tour. Performing hit singles alongside new material, the British-born American rebel, now 66, is energetic on stage, and shows no sign of slowing down.
The 12,500 capacity of Wembley Arena is all seated tonight, but surprisingly not sold-out, the back section curtained off. This plays a big part in the acoustics of the show, proving an issue throughout; the sound is turned up to full volume, coming across screechy even for those sat at the back. It is worth stating that the lighting is phenomenal, and definitely helps create the energy that is, at times, lacking in the audience; having screens would also have improved the experience a lot. Nonetheless, it is clear Idol and his signature growl are on top form.
As the red curtain reveals the singer and his band, the backdrop is incredibly theatrical, with a metropolis and “Idol” in huge dominant letters. Generation X number Dancing with Myself sets things off, the singer overjoyed to be in his hometown. Transporting us to the early 90s, he plays Cradle of Love, from fourth studio album Charmed Life, followed by the hit single and early highlight, Flesh for Fantasy, which is a favourite with the crowd. Guitar virtuoso Steve Stevens shows his amazing skills as he takes the solo, while Idol performs open-shirted, keeping with his rebellious flirtatious attitude.
The MTV star also humbly confides in the audience between tracks, remembering how he sadly could not attend his mother’s funeral during the pandemic – something many can relate to – before playing new single Cage, full of his signature raging energy. Idol has had a long and varied musical career, which is reflected in Speed, from the eponymous Keanu Reeves blockbuster. Taking things down a notch, the icon prefaces Bitter Taste with memories of his motorbike accident, which he describes as being “the most horrible, painful time in my life”. It is his resilience together with his gentleness that makes him truly one of the greats of modern music: he doesn’t have a façade and is relatable. The track is a Country-infused melody simultaneously recalling Johnny Cash and Chris Isaac, and another high point. Incorporating husky harmonies from Stephen McCgrath on backing vocals and an awe-inspiring, show-stopping solo from Stevens, Eyes Without a Face is filled with heartfelt yearning.
Another absolute gem is the Top Gun theme (a welcome surprise), as well as some flamenco-style guitar by Stevens on White Wedding, with Idol dedicating the performance to his sister in the audience – a moving gesture that ends the night on a high.
Photos: Virginie Viche
For further information and future events visit Billy Idol’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Bitter Taste here: