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Billy Idol steals the show at Jack FM bash
Review: Devo struggled, but Blondie and REO Speedwagon turned in solid sets at Irvine fest.
The Orange County Register

"When I first heard the lineup, I wondered exactly where we fit in," said REO Speedwagon singer Kevin Cronin during the group's spirited set Saturday night at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine. "Then I realized we've got a lot in common – we all came to party."

Diverse lineups are common among radio-sponsored concert festivals, yet for some reason – the economy? trends? – such events have decreased lately. During the early 2000s, concert-goers could witness at least a half-dozen annually. Nowadays, only a few remain.

Fortunately, Jack FM (KCBS/93.1) has tried to fill the gap. The station with the motto "playing what we want" launched three years ago with a random mix of classic and alternative rock plus pop hits and has been moderately successful.

And on Saturday Jack's Third Show featured nine hours of music, if you tack on two tribute acts on the second stage and the main-stage addition of the Low Riders Band, including members of War). The performances ran on schedule and only hit a few snags.

Devo headlined, but most of the Irvine crowd came to pump their fists alongside Billy Idol. His tour T-shirts were prevalent and his music whipped the entire audience into a frenzy (REO and Twisted Sister each came a close second, popularity-wise). Fans left in droves once Idol finished.

Sporting a dark hairdo (!), the onetime British punk was in decent vocal form, yet seemed tired from a long summer tour. He turned in an energetic set, though, bookended by a strong "Cradle of Love" and an extended "Rebel Yell." There was plenty of call and response action throughout, especially during a naughty "Mony Mony."

Longtime Idol foil Steve Stevens continually displayed his guitar prowess (playing it behind his back during "Dancing with Myself") and finesse (elegant lines on "Eyes without a Face," though Idol forgot the words). The highlight was "L.A. Woman," where keyboardist Derek Sherinian stretched out musically and brought the tune closer to the Doors' original.

Devo, clad in trademark yellow outfits and flower-pot hats, battled nagging sound problems. The quintet's robotic new wave was as frantic and mesmerizing as ever, particularly on "Peek-a-Boo!," the herky-jerky "Girl U Want," a fierce "Whip It" (dispatched early) and deadpan covers of "Satisfaction" and "Secret Agent Man."

REO were all about soaring harmonies and full-on camaraderie. They fired on all cylinders from the beginning. Cronin, a genial frontman, had no problem hitting the high notes on several "High Infidelity" selections and some new ones from last year's solid studio release, "Find Your Own Way Home." Dave Amato is definitely an underrated guitarist.

Blondie can be hit-and-miss live. On this evening, the group was mostly in the former category, invigorated by a recent tour and a reissue celebrating the 30th anniversary of its classic album "Parallel Lines." The set concentrated on that work; rare airings of "Will Anything Happen" and "I'm Gonna Love You Too" really shook up the standard show doldrums. Deborah Harry, decked out in a designer outfit, was engaging and mischievous; at one point, she chewed petals from flowers and spat them out.

Earlier in the day, Twisted Sister vocalist/motormouth Dee Snider's wicked, non-PC humor was on full display. A regular presence on radio and TV, he was in full shock-rock regalia and growled at every turn. The loud and colorful band barreled through such faves as "We're Not Gonna Take It," "I Wanna Rock" and the power ballad "The Price" with force.

Psychedelic Furs, who play O.C. so often you'd think they lived here, stuck to the same set they served up with Yaz at Pacific Amphitheatre last July, minus a Love Spit Love tune. Having sax man Mars Williams back in the fold added a welcome new spark.