Billy Idol is money at the Chumash

October 28, 2011


If there was anyone born to be a rock star, it’s gotta be Billy Idol. I mean this guy’s DNA from persona to attitude to music spells it out completely.

But the lifestyle can be a bit rocky and Idol has had his share of ups and downs, including a horrific motorcycle accident in 1990 which kept him from the villainous cyborg role in “Terminator 2 — Judgment Day.” That’s OK, he landed the part of a Jim Morrison drinking buddy in Oliver Stone’s “the Doors.”

So aging rockers don’t really fade away as long as there are well-heeled fans willing to fork out several bills at fairs and casinos throughout the state.

But anyone eschewing his recent Chumash engagement as just another rote, mail-it-in nostalgia gig turned out to be dead wrong. Idol, guitarist Steve Stevens and four veteran musicians put on a power-house,110-minute performance that sent the near-capacity crowd into a frenzy from the get-go.

After the little-known but catchy “Ready, Steady, Go” from his late 1970s Generation X days opened the festivities, Idol launched into the mesmerizing “Dancing With Myself,” which helped launch his stardom in 1981. People forget that the lip-snarling Brit was a punk rocker long before punk was cool.

Anyway, that song got the audience off their butts and the night was on.

Idol and his band did a nice job pacing and spreading the show with classic hits like “Flesh for Fantasy,” “Sweet Sixteen” with strong, new tunes like “Too Far to Fall” and “Kings and Queens of the Underground,” which is a bittersweet reminiscence of his crazy career. They even threw in a rousing version of “LA Woman,” which the singer kept referring to as “Chumash Woman.” She must have been waiting for him back at the hotel room.

But as much as Idol is the man everyone wanted to see, he’s able to shine because of his close partner-ship with underrated lead guitarist Stevens. Looking like the twin brother of Cure frontman Robert Smith, the Brooklyn-native showed off his prodigious six-string talents on stage. He co-wrote most of Idol’s big hits and his musical chops made them a serious rock n’ roll band. Stevens even serenaded concertgoers halfway through the show with classical stylings on a souped-up acoustic guitar.

Peppy keyboards and solid rhythm guitar from stand-out session man Billy Morrison also stood out. Mix in a long-haired bassist who looked like he belonged in Skynyrd and a tatted-up drummer who played a thankfully short solo and you had a stellar sound complementing Idol’s somewhat screamy vocals.

For the most part, Stevens and the band were content to engineer the vehicle while Idol drove. And drive it he did with audience banter, fist-pumping and costume changes that of course included taking off his well-worn T-shirt. Even the dudes cheered that move.

After a short trip through his Gen X period, the show climaxed with “Rebel Yell,’ a sort of spotty “White Wedding” and the giddy “Mony, Mony.” By then, fans young and old, male and female had completely caught Idol’s infectious mojo.

He may not be what he once was but hey, none of us are.