The man who provided a now legendary performance at a rugby league grand final by being heard by no one – which was infinitely better than Meat Loaf being heard by everyone - has had to endure a lot of name calling over the years. Some of it quite justified: Billy Idol is a cartoon punk, a daytime tv Elvis, a facsimile of a parody.
So news of an Australian tour in 2020 – where in keeping with his sporting “connection” he will play a concert at the Australian Open. Yes, the tennis, I shit you not - is a cue for mockery. Being this dumb? At his age? In those clothes?
But wait, says Wind Back Wednesday. What if something this dumb was actually this much fun? What if, as this review from a 2015 Sydney show suggests, you might have to pack your sneer into your faux leather pants and dance with yourself?
BILLY IDOL AND CHEAP TRICK
Qantas Credit Union Arena, March 19
Where exactly to look?
At Billy Idol’s impressively sculpted body displayed under an open jacket or later an open shirt (gee, thanks for making the rest of us middle aged men look pathetic even if we don’t have inappropriately bleached blonde hair sir)?
At the audience fist pumping with furious commitment and no evident hipster irony (nice mullet young man behind me: that’s dedication to a cause predating you by a couple of decades)?
At Steve Stevens, a man who hasn’t met a rock guitarist pose he doesn’t love (soloing on his knees; behind his back; with his teeth); a rock cliche he hasn’t plumbed (a “sensitive” solo moment which asked, no, begged, to be Spinal Tap-titled, Lick My Love Pump, then later a Spanish guitar-style solo with bonus Led Zeppelin references); or an ‘80s birds’ nest/reach for the sky hairstyle that he won’t teeter under (according to a tweeted response from Mrs Stevens later that evening “I assure you it’s all real”)?
Maybe at the floor with a bit of embarrassment as Billy …
… bellows “we’re going to keep things rocking in Sydney tonight” as if declaiming William Wallace’s battle cry speech in Braveheart. To which the audience, naturally, roared as if about to fling up a kilt and moon yon Englishmen.
… sings of his intention to "rock the cradle of love". Wha? Best not to ask.
… relates the story of the Latvian named Ed whose broken heart inspired Sweet Sixteen. “We’re going to bring it down for a second,” he said huskily in introducing it.
…and thanks us for “making my life so fucking great”. And probably meaning it?
Or at your own stupidly grinning face, revelling in the dumb-dumb-but-fun fun?
Earlier Cheap Trick had confirmed they were appropriately the support act tonight. A more substantial career, more “credibility” and the still impressive voice of Robin Zander nonetheless faltered on too many make-weight songs and that oater of an ‘80s power ballad they didn’t even write, The Flame, when their pop rock brilliance - the trio of I Want You To Want Me, Dream Police and Surrender - was kept from us til the end.
Billy Idol by contrast had nothing to lose but his shirt. And even that went early.
Leaving us pop-punk in the bounce of Dancing With Myself and its very close cousin, Ready Steady Go.
Pop-operatic melodrama in the zombie apocalypse love song, Eyes Without A Face, and its distant relative, Flesh For Fantasy.
And spirited shouty-pop stupidity in the paternal twins Rebel Yell and White Wedding.
Look, over there. Is it brilliant parody? Is it unaware mockery? Is it rubbish? No. Or yes. Or ... who cares? In the words of William Idol, “come on! .... start again.”
Billy Idol will play the Australian Open AO Live Stage, Melbourne, January 29; Riverstage, Brisbane, January 31; Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, February 1.Tickets on sale August 16.