By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa
Live Review: Billy Idol with Kelsy Karter & the Heroines- Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, FL – April 21, 2023
What can I say? Billy Idol is a legend and exemplifies the 80s era known for Valley Girls, pogo dancing, and spiky or teased hair. The first time I heard Billy Idol was in a disco in Caracas in 1980 (there was no actual drinking age down there and it was a private club). I heard “Dancing With Myself” and asked, “Who is that?” It was the perfect, fun, frolicking dance song with a nod to the 50s…oh…oh.. oh…oh. At the time, Billy Idol was with Generation X, and I never heard the song again until a couple of years later when it hit the U.S.
By the mid-80s, Idol dominated MTV and the airwaves with songs like “White Wedding,” “Rebel Yell,” and “Eyes Without a Face,” to name a few. He became known for his “bad boy” punk punk persona–spiky bleached hair, shirtless chest, and leather pants. The remake of Tommy James and the Shondells’ single “Mony Mony.” transformed into the new party anthem at nightclubs and wedding receptions.
By the time the 1990s arrived with a darker era of grunge and post-punk—Billy Idol had faded from memory. The generation of bright colors, Izod shirts, and moussed hair had ripened into just another episode on VH1 Storytellers. Nevertheless, he released two albums in the Millennium: Devil’s Playground (2005) and Kings and Queens of the Underground (2014). In addition, Bank of America featured him in a set of hilarious commercials in 2015, giving the organization a much-needed edgy, cool factor.
During COVID, I began watching his videos on Instagram, chronicling his ascension into grandfatherhood as he danced with granddaughter Poppy Rebel. He later released two EPs The Roadside (2021) and The Cage (2022). In January of this year, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Billy Idol arrived at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, Florida, on Friday, April 21st to a sold-out concert. He is touring Florida and numerous other states between April and May before taking a summer break. He will do a Las Vegas residency in October if you miss one of his engagements.
The evening began at 7:30 p.m. with Kelsy Karter and the Heroines. Karter was on Rock At Night’s radar in 2018 when we reviewed the single “God Knows I’ve Tried.” Her self-described “mythical lovechild between Angelina Jolie and Mick Jagger” appeared to be true as she belted out songs, squatted on the floor near the stage, and showed great emotion during the 30-minute set, which was well-received by the audience.
Now, Billy Idol came out dressed in leather with his signature spiky blond hair and plenty of Elvis sneers. Mr. Bad Boy himself was looking as fit as ever, even at age 67. He may not have danced as aggressively as before, but he still has that savoir- faire coolness and attitude. Idol was accompanied by long-time collaborator and multi-talented guitarist Steve Stevens. He looked 1980s with black teased hair and plenty of eyeliner. Two additional guitarists, including Billy Morrison, a keyboard player, and a drummer, rounded out the band.
The party was launched from the get-go as Idol performed “Dancing With Myself”
And, he did, because by the third song, “Flesh for Fantasy,” Idol removed his jacket for a quick change.
A couple of new songs, “Cage” and “Bitter Taste,” were performed before fan favorite “Eyes Without A Face.” When this familiar hit was played, the audience rose to their feet to dance and tape with their cell phones held high.
The guitar god himself Steve Stevens entertained the audience with his virtuosity, giving Idol a break before revving the audience up with “Mony Mony.” Then, of course, the audience chanted the familiar “get laid, get fucked” every few lines, as they’ve done since the 80s. Nobody knows the origin exactly, but the chant is aligned with the song. It is now part of our culture, a shown in the video below:
Idol then introduced the next song, which centered on drug addiction. He told a story of a friend dying of a drug overdose before singing a newer release, “Running From the Ghost.”
Idol said, “We get to do a Generation X song now.” Without as much sneering as in his youth, he launched into “One Hundred Punks.” He still has the deep, raspy voice that lends itself well to rock and punk. After performing “Rebel Yell,” which had everybody on their feet and raising their fists, he walked offstage. We could see him ripping off his top clothes and changing into a jacket.
For the encore, the audience was treated to “Hot in the City” before the wildly popular “White Wedding, “ which had the audience mentally time-traveling to 1982. Whether you think the song is about a “shotgun wedding” or a euphemism for cocaine, it resonates with all who lived in the 80s.
I recommend catching Billy Idol on tour or in Vegas. It is one big 80s party, and the music is timeless. He proves why he is Billy “Fucking” Idol.
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