Andy Howells checks out rock icon, Billy Idol as he brings a Rebel Yell to Cardiff’s International Arena.
Rock Icons don’t come much bigger than Billy Idol and I wasn’t going to miss out on a chance to catch him on his latest UK Tour. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Idol’s music and sound hasn’t really dated, tracks like White Wedding and Rebel Yell still stand up musically 40 years after they first hit the charts (and my record player). As Billy took to the stage of Cardiff International Arena on Monday evening, it even looked like the legend himself was still bathing in the youth and energy of his 80s heyday.
Following crowd pleasing sets from Toyah and Killing Joke, Billy wasted no time greeting the audience with a growling “C’mon Wales! C’mon Cardiff! Let me see you dance!” Billy then launched into his headline set with the favourite, Dancing with Myself, a track which prominently features as much rock as it does roll. This opener had much of the arena floor crowd equally dancing with themselves!
Accompanying Billy on stage were his long-term song writing and music collaborator, lead guitarist Steve Stevens, plus band members Stephen McGrath (bass, backing vocals), Billy Morrison (guitar, backing vocals), Paul Trudeau (keyboards, backing vocals) and drummer Erik Eldenius. It was hard not to appreciate Steve Stevens at varying points of the evening as he demonstrated several variants of guitar styles from flamenco to psych-rock combining first class musicianship with a tight, but playful performance. Certainly, the appreciation Steve and the band got throughout the show was well deserved!
Billy and the band delighted the crowd with a bevy of Idol classics including Flesh for Fantasy (in which he stripped down to his chest for several adoring fans), the beautiful Eyes without a Face, One Hundred Punks (a throwback to Billy’s original band Generation X) and an extra raucous rendition of Tommy James & The Shondells’ 60s classic Mony, Mony.
New material such as Runnin’ from the Ghost and Bitter Taste were as dynamic and accessible as the classic material. Cage was an upbeat response to the restraints Billy experienced during the COVID pandemic, a reaction to how he felt following the death of his mother, of whom he couldn’t visit during her final days, nor attend her funeral due to pandemic restrictions. The track was beautifully dedicated to everyone who felt hemmed in and rightly resonated with many, including myself.
The Cardiff show wrapped up with a blistering 6-minute rendition of Rebel Yell, before a wrap up encore of Rebel Like You, a cover of The Heartbreakers rock n roller Born to Lose and the exciting bass thumping White Wedding brought this “Idol-istic” evening to a close. I’d waited four decades to see Billy Idol live – I wasn’t disappointed!