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Billy Idol
Hammerstein Ballroom, NYC - Sept. 10, 2003

Events at Hammerstein Ballroom tend to bring out the bridge-and-tunnel crowd. Due largely to its proximity to Penn Station (home of the New Jersey Transit and Long Island Rail Road), Hammerstein shows are often filled with the type of crowd that was rockin' it in full effect at the Idol show -- 30-something ex-big hair and tight stretch jeans chicks and their jock / guido boyfriends. The women all sport long, fake nails, and heavy, nasal accents. And the men -- muscles and beer guts to spare. Their main form of communication seems to be a mix of unintelligible whooping, arm flailing, and grabbing their girlfriend's ass. Just the kind of crowd I love to share a tight space with.

There were very few punks in the house, but hey, it's Billy Idol, and just 'cause he cut his teeth in Generation X doesn't mean I should expect the place to be filled with spikes and mohawks. I mean, that would be discounting the entire decade of the 80's. And you really can't ignore just how much jocks love "White Wedding".

The show was listed as starting at 8, so by NY standards, I figured that meant two lame opening bands and then Billy would probably take the stage around 11-12. Luckily my friend had gone to the show the week before in Boston and gave me a heads up. She said, no opener, Billy hits the stage at 8 and plays for two hours. This was a welcome relief considering that I'm getting sick and fucking tired of waiting around for 3-4 hours before I'm finally "graced" with the presence of a band that I paid to see. Not to go off on a tirade, but I have had it with standing around, being subjected to awful interim music, staring at a stage that has been completely set up for the last hour, with no band in sight. If the opening bands are finished, and the stage is set up, then I have every right to expect that unless the band members are physically incapacitated, they should be on stage PLAYING.

Fortunately, the fab Mr. Idol seems to understand how annoying this is. The show started at 8:30, he played until 10:30, and by 11, I was on the subway home. I'm not one to be in bed early, but it was a Wednesday night and I had work in the morning, so I was happy not to have my time wasted by some awful opening band and a long wait in between sets. On a related note, I went to see Iggy & the Stooges a few weeks ago, and that's exactly what happened. Just because I love the Stooges doesn't mean I should have to be subjected to the horrific lite-rock stylings of Godsmack, of all people. Who the FUCK booked that show? Oh wait, MTV2 did. Those ignorant fucks actually looked surprised when Godsmack was roundly booed. It gives me the serious creeps that when I finally got to see the Stooges live, it was at an MTV-sponsored show.

But back to Billy... The aforementioned crowd did take away from the show quite a bit for me, mostly because there were three girls who had the witty and "wild" idea to sit on their boyfriends shoulders and squeal loudly through most of the set. And completely block my view. I had a strong urge to rip the girls down from their boyfriend's shoulders and patiently explain to them that I did not come to the show to stare at their fat asses while I pummeled them until their faces were an unrecognizable mass of blood, but I decided against it. It seemed like more effort than it was worth.

Otherwise, the show was great. Billy looks as amazing as ever, he's one of those rare rock n' rollers, much like David Bowie, who never seem to really age. You can tell he's getting older by his face, but he still has a great body, and is more than happy to show it off. He changed outfits a couple times during the set, often wearing an open shirt or no shirt at all, showing off his perfectly toned stomach. Billy gets the girls hot and he knows it -- most of his stage repertoire consists of flicking his tongue out at ladies in the front row, singing songs to a particular girl, pursing his lips, and posing with one fist in the air. Total cheese, and he's well aware of it, which is the best part. He works the campiness of his persona to the hilt, striking ridiculous poses, strutting, curling his lipů and every once in awhile he breaks into a big smile. He's laughing at himself, and he's laughing at the crowd, and it's good, cause it's entertaining, and it's fucking funny.

The fact that he doesn't take himself too seriously is also a nudge to the crowd not to take themselves too seriously. And they didn't. Everyone had a great time pumping their fists and shouting along.

Billy and his band played many of the classics: Dancing With Myself, Sweet 16, White Wedding, Cradle of Love, Eyes Without a Face, Mony Mony, Rebel Yell, Hot in the City. I was very happy to hear Ready, Steady, Go, although sadly they didn't play Kiss Me Deadly. But they did close the show with NY Woman (aka. LA Woman), which was cool. The band was tight, and Steve Stevens cranked out some blazing guitar solos. He's an amazing guitarist, and I'd be able to comfortably view him with a lot more respect if it weren't for the fact that his coif is so big, hairsprayed, and spiky, that it gives the bizarre and hilarious impression that his hair is eating his face.

The good news is that Billy's still got it, and the show is worth seeing -- it's definitely not some pre-canned, plastic, 80s nostalgia trip. There's still a lot of energy and entertainment in the man, and it's a lot of fun to see all those songs played live.

  --Margo Tiffen

 

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