Billy Idol with Steve Stevens
With Little Man and Tropical Depression
Turf Club, St. Paul
January 19, 2015
One show on the Current's 10-day long 10th anniversary celebration garnered more attention and scrutiny than any other: Billy Idol. Would the celebrated '80s MTV darling and one-time punk icon doing an acoustic set at the Turf Club work?
Other radio stations still play Idol's snarling anthems ad nauseum, but the Current has worked his new single ("Can't Break Me Down") into the rotation as of late, along with a few of his classic hits. Anticipation built for the 59-year-old U.K. arena-rock stalwart's smallest Twin Cities show in his illustrious history, which sold out in a flash.
Idol flew in from Vegas on a private jet mere hours before showtime with longtime guitarist Steve Stevens for the all-too-brief acoustic set.
"We're going to try and play some rock music for you," Idol announced as they took to the stage to a cacophony of shrieks and screams. When stripped of all the sonic bombast, Idol's songs revealed a soulful vulnerability, with "White Wedding" taking on a bluesy swagger. The 1978 Generation X classic "Kiss Me Deadly" had a wistful yearning for madcap punk days gone by in London's Piccadilly and Bishops End.
"That's a Generation X song," Idol announced after they finished. "It's on our first album." He delivered those lines with a smirking laugh, knowing just how much time and distance has passed from those days, and how far removed he is now (private jet) from that punk spirit. For the Whiplash Smile hit "Sweet Sixteen," Idol removed his black leather biker jacket, revealing a Shellac OMO T-shirt that surely must have pleased Todd Trainer, who was up near the stage for the show.
During "Eyes Without a Face," Idol took on some of the percussion duties himself, delivering a stuttering, beat-box like rhythm while pantomiming shaking some dirty dice in Vegas. During his recent acoustic shows -- which also were short like this set, but with a couple extra songs -- Idol has offered up reworked versions of "Dancing With Myself," "Flesh for Fantasy," "Mony Mony," Gen X's "Ready, Steady, Go," and his new single, "Can't Break Me Down." But Idol chose subpar singles "Sweet Sixteen" and "To Be a Lover" instead, which both sounded thin when tackled acoustically.[page]
"This acoustic shit is a lot of work," Idol announced mockingly, considering his night was just about done. "Are you ready for two words, all the way in the back?" And with that, Idol and Stevens launched into a feisty version of "Rebel Yell" that turned into a singalong in the packed club. The show would end on that high note, as Idol exclaimed how nice it was to play St. Paul once again, and was quickly off. As the ovation continued on with no encore in sight, the night's host, Mary Lucia, came to the stage to wittily announce that the show was over, "Billy has a plane to catch. I know you wanted more, more, more."
Idol won't return to a room the size of the Turf no matter how long he continues to tour -- but it just didn't last long enough to live up to the mountain of hype surrounding the gig. Hope you didn't miss your flight, Billy.
Personal Bias: Like any warmblooded kid with MTV in the '80s, I was well aware of Billy Idol's hits. His songs drew me in on a surface level back in the day, and remain pleasant enough background music at dive bars -- this brief show won't change any of that.
The Crowd: Full of quick-on-the-draw Current members and longtime Idol fans who did whatever it took to get into the show.
Overheard in the Crowd: "He can still snarl with the best of 'em!"
Random Notebook Dump: Since the headliners were playing acoustic, you had to leave it to the openers to deliver the electrified rock 'n' roll. And local acts Little Man and Tropical Depression both brought it, big time. Little Man singer/guitarist Chris Perricelli bought new white boots for the occasion, and he and his band seemed inspired by the large crowd and the opportunity to open for Billy Idol. They tore through their well-paced, riff-heavy set with abandon, and got the club amped for the headliner. Tropical Depression's set was full of textured, rhythm-heavy numbers that sounded massive in the small club. Erik Appelwick's shimmering, moody material soared as the room started to fill, causing more than one new fan to excitedly ask, "Who are these guys?"
Kiss Me Deadly
Eyes Without a Face
To Be a Lover
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