Live Review: Billy Idol – Kings Theatre, Brooklyn, NY 12.09.2023

billy idol, steve stevens and billy morrison in Brooklyn 2023
Steve Stevens, Billy Morrison and Billy Idol at Kings Theatre in Brooklyn, NY September 2023. Photo by Deb Johnsen.

The resurgence of all things Gen X reached a high point last year with “Running Up That Hill” becoming ubiquitous 37 years after its release. It also served as a reminder that the MTV generation wasn’t entirely one-hit, fluorescent wonders and there is a lot of music worth revisiting.

This was also a golden age of guitar players – Van Halen, Satriani, Vai, Stevens – just to name a few. Each with their own style of playing and techniques that are often awe-inspiring.

Billy Idol is an artist who began fronting gritty three-chord UK punk bands in the late 70s, including the aptly named Generation X. His sound was reshaped in the early 80s after partnering with highly-skilled native NYC guitar player and composer, Steve Stevens. They became part an integral part the music video-age’s style and sound and it was on full display on Tuesday night in Brooklyn. 

Idol is a born front man and seems to enjoy every minute of it. He’s highly engaged with the audience from the start and there’s still a mutual excitement, even deep into a decades-long career. He hit the stage with boundless energy as Steve Stevens entered from the left with a glittering red custom Knaggs Les Paul-style guitar playing the familiar riff to “Dancing With Myself”. Both Idol and Stevens have always embraced the showmanship aspect of rock performance and they are just really fun to watch. It’s a show that not many bands can deliver and they’ve spent years honing it. 

The stage was loaded with impressive players. Billy Morrison (The Cult, Royal Machines, etc.) has been with Idol for over a decade and is on rhythm guitar. Drummer Erik Eldenius is a seasoned session player and producer. Idol always seems to surround himself with musicians of a high pedigree and this current touring incarnation is no exception. 

The album that made the Idol/Stevens duo true rock icons  – Rebel Yell got a nod early in the set with “Flesh For Fantasy”. The song’s well-known sultry rhythm and melodic flourishes sent the crowd into a frenzy as it built into the chanting chorus. This was just the first of four songs featured throughout, including “Eyes Without A Face”, “Blue Highway” – with an extended solo including Stevens’ Grammy-Winning Top Gun Anthem and the anthemic “Rebel Yell”. 

Idol released two EPs in the past few years and he drew from this newer material with “Cage”, “Bitter Taste” and “Running from the Ghost”, introduced with a heartbreaking story about a close family friend who succumbed to addiction.

Encores reached back into his self-titled solo album with “Hot in the City” and the classic “White Wedding”.  The show seemed like a great career-spanning warm-up for the band’s Las Vegas residency that begins in October. It’s hard to find another rock show quite like it…

All Photos: Deb Johnsen

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