Billy Idol @ Resorts World Arena, Birmingham – 23 October 2022

Packing in a triple bill of 80’s post-punk nostalgia, Billy Idol returns to Birmingham on ‘The Roadside Tour’ with fellow long-time high-flyers, Killing Joke and Toyah Wilcox.

It’s only 7pm when the inextinguishable flame, Toyah gets proceedings underway. Her set includes ‘Thunder In The Mountains’, ‘Good Morning Universe’ and the simplistic belter ‘It’s A Mystery’. Talking about being a “Birmingham girl” and delivering a glorious cover of Martha and the Muffins ‘Echo Beach’, Toyah has retained her timeless energy and characteristic vocal. It’s a truly captivating performance, with ‘Space Dance’, dedicated to husband and King Crimson legend Robert Fripp, and the classic ‘I Want To Be Free’, transporting many of us back over 40 years, while remaining relevant today.

Killing Joke’s ‘Honour The Fire’ tour only took place six months ago. So, as special guests after Television were forced to withdrawal, Jaz Coleman & Co. simply bring an edited version of their headlining show to the arena environment. The haunting masterpiece ‘Unspeakable’ gets us underway before Jaz exclaims: “They’re preparing us for war!” and ‘War Dance’ hits us with full force. Perhaps a bit of a shock for some unexpecting audience members, the thundering, industrial, gothic ritual then continues with the likes of ‘Requiem’, ‘Eighties’, ‘Change’, ‘Pssyche’ and ‘Pandemonium’. For those of us in the know, it’s nothing short of a marvellous treat.

Eventually, the time arrives for everybody’s favourite rebel, out for his first UK appearances since 2018 with long-time lead guitarist and collaborator Steve Stevens. Opening with the Generation X classic ‘Dancing With Myself’, the barely aged rocker still possesses his trademark curled lip, leather jacket, spiked hair and yeah, general coolness! The reaction he gets is unsurprising, taking very little encouragement from the 66 year old to get the Birmingham crowd up and dancing, and to fuel the fire of this global megastar.

As Billy swaggers through ‘Cradle Of Love’, his band quickly prove to be a sharp and powerful ensemble. Lead by the extraordinary virtuosic Steve Stevens, there’s an intimate connection between them all, which against the neon cityscape, supplies the eager audience with an arena package to savour. The adoration is ramped up further when from back of stage, and with his back to audience, Billy strips down to an open shirt. It’s the perfect introduction for the 1983 single ‘Flesh For Fantasy’.

Billy spent lockdown writing new music with ‘The Cage’ EP released last month, and ‘The Roadside’ EP, lending its name to this tour, released 12 months previously. Both contain songs of reflection which meld well into the performance. ‘Cage’ is a track Billy describes as a “lockdown anthem”, and ‘Bitter Taste’ looks back on his near-fatal 1990 motorcycle accident. For me, there’s no doubt, that even if you only attend a Billy Idol show for the “classics”, you can’t ignore the kick-ass power and quality of the new material.

We are continually and quite rightly reminded of Stevens’ incredible skills throughout the set, and he fires up on several occasions. His extended solo after ‘Eyes Without a Face’ is superb, and the return of Billy for ‘Mony Mony’ brings an enthusiastic, target demographic singalong. Beyond the obvious highlights yet to come, another new track ‘Runnin’ From the Ghost’ is a high point of the show. Billy’s intro is a talk about his lifelong struggle with drug addiction, before the song itself – is a heavy offering and lyrically deep hitting affair.

A return to some classy, late 70s punk with a version of Generation X ‘s ‘One Hundred Punks’, is followed by a switch to the pure 80s driver ‘Blue Highway’. All of this before the massive ‘Rebel Yell’. Believe me, everything about this song performed live in 2022 is exactly as you remember hearing it in 1983. As fresh now as it was then, it’s timeless perfection, and there’s not a soul in the house unable to resist bellowing out that chorus, and wanting “more, more, more!”

There‚Äôs a short break before the band come back for the newbie ‘Rebel Like You’, and a great cover of The Heartbreakers ‘Born To Lose’. In fairness, it’s only the slumber before the final, predictable storm that is ‘White Wedding’. Perhaps without the same kick and punch as ‘Rebel Yell’, it still has the masses going barmy in the aisles until the end. Let’s be honest, not many people thought Billy Idol would survive the 80s, never mind still be performing 40 years on. But after a show like that, you have to be thankful that he did, and that he does.

Review & Photography: Steve Johnston

Billy Idol