Billy Idol @ O2 Academy Brixton

23rd June 2018
Review by Bob Davidson
Photography by Ryan Whitwell / Shotison

Coming out of Brixton tube, it was pretty obvious who the audience were; a wonderful array of punk types ageing gracefully and disgracefully alike. This was a sell-out gig and had the queue to match. Ryan and I got to go through the stage door, whereupon I was whisked off to the VIP Lounge and Ryan joined the other photographers.

Billy Idol at Brixton Academy Billy Idol at Brixton Academy

There wasn’t too long to wait before the warm-up act came on – The Professionals. This hadn’t been publicised, not to my knowledge anyway, so it was a nice surprise.

The Professionals at Brixton Academy The Professionals at Brixton Academy

They played with a warmth and enthusiasm of people half their age, and they were lapped up by everyone there.

The Professionals at Brixton Academy The Professionals at Brixton Academy

I have to confess to not being massively acquainted with their back catalogue, and certainly a good few of their numbers were new, but ‘Join The Professionals’ was a massive crowd pleaser when it came on. They were incredibly modest, even giving a countdown of how many songs they had left before Billy Idol was on.

The Professionals at Brixton Academy The Professionals at Brixton Academy

This would have been a good enough gig on its own, and given their pedigree it should come as no surprise that they did their job perfectly and got the crowd well and truly warmed up.

The Professionals at Brixton Academy The Professionals

The Professionals at Brixton Academy The Professionals

Whilst on the subject of warming up, O2 Academy needs to sort out their air conditioning. It was horrendous and put a downer on the crowd as everyone around me was complaining about it. You expect to come out of a gig a bit sweaty, but when you’ve got what is essentially a steam room composed of sexagenarian BO you really need to rethink your cooling systems.

The Professionals at Brixton Academy The Professionals at Brixton Academy

The Professionals’ setlist:

1. Payola
2. Good Man Down
3. Join the Professionals
4. Going Going Gone
5. Just Another Dream
6. Rewind
7. Hats Off
8. Let Go
9. Silly Thing

Luckily there wasn’t a massive wait in between acts, which was cool, and Billy Idol certainly made an entrance. The stage set was a load of industrial-sized fans, which looked a little odd, but definitely worked, especially when I found out they were loaded with lights.

Billy Idol at Brixton Academy Billy Idol at Brixton Academy

Big, blinding strobes flashed from them and the band came on. Steve Stevens was wearing a black, PVC suit, of which I am more than a little envious. ‘Shock to the System’ was the opener and it definitely hit the mark. Given how rammed in it was and how precariously a few of the senior members of the audience were dancing, I’m amazed someone didn’t lose a hip.

Billy Idol at Brixton Academy Billy Idol at Brixton Academy

Billy Idol controls the stage and crowd to a level you’d expect of such a seasoned icon. However, the real joy/surprise for me was seeing Steve Stevens. I’d never seen him live before – it was absolutely astonishing.

Billy Idol at Brixton Academy Billy Idol at Brixton Academy

Billy Idol at Brixton Academy Billy Idol at Brixton Academy

He did a five-minute solo incorporating all sorts of styles, with a real flamenco flavour. Clearly, he doesn’t need any praise from me, but seeing him like that, for me at least, cemented him as being one of the all-time greats.

Billy Idol at Brixton Academy Billy Idol at Brixton Academy

Other highlights included splicing in the James Bond theme into ‘Don’t Need A Gun’, chucking out what looked like Frisbees and a wicked instrumental that just made me think full-blown Spinal Tap.

Billy Idol at Brixton Academy Billy Idol at Brixton Academy

Amusingly, towards the end, he did thank the crowd for “making his life so fucking great”. No worries bud!

Billy Idol at Brixton Academy Billy Idol at Brixton Academy

As probably should have been predicted, the final numbers and encores were his three biggest tunes, which is fair enough as I think we’d all have been a bit disappointed not to hear them.

Billy Idol at Brixton Academy Billy Idol fans at Brixton Academy

They performed solidly for nearly two hours, but it went past very quickly indeed. Quite how he can have partied that hard, for that long and still have a body and energy I can only dream of, I don’t know (unrelated trivia, I found out today that he was going to be the original T-1000 in Terminator 2 but had to cancel due to a motorbike accident).

Billy Idol at Brixton Academy Billy Idol at Brixton Academy

A couple of people I chatted with afterwards reckoned that he seemed a little subdued on this occasion. I’ve nothing to compare it to, but subdued is not a word that immediately sprung to mind.

Billy Idol at Brixton Academy Billy Idol at Brixton Academy

Billy Idol at Brixton Academy Billy Idol at Brixton Academy

I’m really glad I got to see this gig, it was an awful lot of fun. Apart from the people involved, I supposed there was nothing utterly unique about it, but there doesn’t need to be.

Billy Idol at Brixton Academy Billy Idol at Brixton Academy

Gimmicks are all very well, but for people of this stature, they’re simply not necessary. I came out with a massive grin as did everyone around me, and realistically, isn’t that all that matters?

Billy Idol at Brixton Academy Billy Idol at Brixton Academy

 

Bily Idol’s setlist:

1. Shock to the System
2. Dancing With Myself
3. Pumping on Steel
4. Can’t Break Me Down
5. Cradle of Love
6. Scream
7. Prodigal Blues
8. Eyes Without a Face
9. Guitar Solo
10.Don’t Need a Gun
11.King Rocker
12.Blue Highway
13.Instrumental Jam
14.Rebel Yell

Encore:
15.White Wedding
16.Mony Mony

 

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