A blistering July night and here I am at the Manchester Apollo to see the legendary rock god Billy Idol. Looking around it is clear to see that Idol's music crosses many genres, with the crowd consisting of all ages from teenagers to 50 somethings, from punks, rockers, emos, goths & rockabillys! The rest of the crowd are dressed in the obligatory jeans & black T-shirt / leather jacket. The seats have been taken out of the Apollo stalls, which creates a true rock gig atmosphere.

This is the second to last gig of the European Idolize Yourself Tour, which is to promote the recent 'Idolize Yourself: The Very Best Of' album, his only two UK shows, Manchester and the tour finale in London on the 31st. Surprisingly there is no support band to warm the crowd up, showing Idol's confidence to be good enough on his own.

Guitarist Steve Stevens is first on stage dressed in high heels & a glittery blue jacket & trousers looking every bit the classic rock icon, followed by the rest of the band. Idol walks on to the stage to a huge roar as he shouts "Manchester, all hells coming with me!" Dressed in black jeans, black shirt, long black coat & huge black leather motorcycle boots, Idol looks intent to rock as he launches into 'Rock the Cradle of Love'.

Idol with his trademark short, spiky, blonde hair is looking fit, but the years of rock n roll excess do show in the thick wrinkle lined face & whilst the cameras are in the pit, he keeps to the back of the stage area.

Idol cruises with ease through 'Dancing With Myself', constantly posing, fist raised high, punching the air, whilst Stevens walks towards the edge of the stage & goes through all manner of guitar poses, playing behind his head & even playing with his teeth!

'Flesh for Fantasy' is played with a huge booming drum sound which rocks the Apollo's foundation, I am sure I could feel the building shake!!!

Idol tells us a story "This story is about a Norwegian guy called Ed who moved to New York. In his apartment he built a chair, which was shaped like the moon! I said 'What the fuck did you build that for???' Ed said 'I built it for my sweet sixteen'." Idol strums the acoustic guitar as he plays a mellowed out 'Sweet Sixteen' which gives the crowd a chance to cool off in the sweaty Apollo.

Idol changes the tone as he bursts into a rockabilly version of an 'Ode to John Wayne'.

The hall falls into darkness as Idol leaves the stage and smoke fills the left hand stage where Stevens has been. Long Gaelic keyboard sounds are played as Stevens appears through the smoke & makes some strange sounds on his Theremin. He then changes direction picks up the guitar & plucks into the tune from 'Top Gun' which is played when the jet planes land in the movie, the keyboards fade as Stevens sets about his show stealing moment with some awesome guitar work, playing in a flamenco / Spanish style on electric guitar, Stevens' fingers whizz up and down the fret board whilst his strumming hand is just a blur of finger movements, occasionally dropping into all out rock & then returning back to the soft Spanish sound. Stevens uses all the guitar cliché poses, whether on his knees, feet on monitors or just bent down real low.

Idol returns the to the stage having changed shirt, unbuttoned, to reveal a perfect washboard stomach, it is difficult to realise this is a man aged 52, topped off with a tartan jacket looking like Sex Pistol, John Lydon. Stevens is now sat towards the rear of the stage in front of his huge stack of Marshall amps, whilst Idol performs 'Eyes Without A Face', the lights change into a very fine array of yellow which moves from the back of the stage to the front & over the crowd, which from the balcony looks like imaginary rain falling.

Idol even reverts back to his Generation X punk past by playing 'Ready Steady Go' which gets the punks in the crowd jumping around. Idol finally gets around to some good old fashioned audience participation for 'Rebel Yell!' Chanting "...Do you feel alright??..." the fans shout back "...I fell alright!..." even the fans in the balcony have finally stood up to jump around. 'Hot in the City' is changed for tonight to 'Hot in Manchester', which is performed in a slow acoustic style, rather than the original rocked up New York recording.

Finally we reach the shows finale with a stomping 'Mony Mony'. A strange thing happens at the back of the stage, this huge guy appears & walks over to the drummer, with one drumstick in hand he appears to be helping out the drummer, he then slowly moves into the drummer's seat, taking over drumming duties. The original drummer then appears with a guitar.

Idol then also moves to the drum area & also helps out on drum duties. Stevens moves towards the middle of the stage where he is met by the former drummer, a mock guitar shoot out then takes place a la Deliverance. Whilst both playing intently, they start to play each other's fret boards in an amazing piece of guitar showmanship. They are then joined by the keyboard player who is also now sporting a guitar.

A roadie appears on stage with a guitar, towel & bottle of water. Idol places his hands in front of him to receive the water & towel, but the roadie actually washes Idol's hands, dries them & then places the guitar on him in true rock god style. The stage now adorned with five guitarists finish of Mony Mony in a mass guitar frenzy, which shouldn't really work, but is actually very entertaining. Idol finally introduces his band and then he & the band walk off, the Apollo hall lights are switched back on.

Idol's performance tonight was full of rock clichés, fist clenching & snarling facial expressions, but it is testimony to his thirty years in the business that he can still pull it off with relative ease. I hope I don't have to wait as long for his next tour. Idol certainly put the cool back into a very hot Manchester tonight.



 

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