Billy Idol’s dad was a helluva salesman. He worked hard all of his life, and he never really seemed to have time for Billy’s music as his son shot up the charts in the early ’80s.
In 2014, Billy was working on Kings & Queens of the Underground, his eighth studio album, and he took a mix over to his parents to get their feedback. To Billy’s delight, his dad was not only very interested in the album, but he liked the songs quite well.
Soon after, Billy’s dad passed away at the age of 90. In his bed at the time, he was listening to Billy’s “Ghosts in My Guitar,” a song that Billy performed with considerable emotion at the Pearl Theatre at Palms Resort Casino recently.
Billy relayed the story on March 13 at about the one-third mark during a show in his Billy Idol: Las Vegas 2019 & 2020 residency at the Palms Casino. But don’t get me wrong: The show wasn’t all deep reflection and sharing feelings. It was a proper rock extravaganza! It was exactly the sort of thing you should do in Las Vegas. And Billy Idol, as he is known to do, rocked the house all night long with material from his career, starting with breakout punk band Generation X to hits including “Rebel Yell” and “White Wedding.”
Stream Kings & Queens of the Underground by Billy Idol on Spotify:
At 64, Billy remains lean and fit, his youthful visage still capable of delivering the full impact of his trademark sneer. But he also smiled, laughed, and sang his way through a mind-blowing evening of 17 tunes, opening with a cover of “Viva Las Vegas” by Elvis Presley, for which the packed house squealed in approval.
Clad in leather and lace, the largely Gen X audience (which did include a lot of younger folks as well) continued to dance or bang their heads through Billy’s signature mix of punk and hard rock. That mix of course wouldn’t be the same without famed guitarist Steve Stevens, who stood to Billy’s right, whipping his instrument into the air and moving with incredible dexterity. Steve took center stage alone several times, particularly to enrapture the audience with instrumental interludes that gave the rest of the band a break or Billy the opportunity to make a costume change.
And everyone there was just as pleased to see Steve’s mid-set guitar solo, which sampled Led Zeppelin and the Beatles, among others, as well as Steve’s “Top Gun Anthem” at about two-thirds through the set. But did he need a break as well? Hell, no! He was Steve Stevens, dammit.
The look of satisfaction on Billy Idol’s face was a joy to behold when he would return to the stage, and make a loop around to sing next to the other individuals in his band — Stephen McGrath on bass, Billy Morrison on rhythm guitar, Erik Eldenius on drums, and Paul Trudeau on keyboards. But the bond between Billy and Steve was palpable, sincere, and earnest. The two old friends knew all of the ingredients to the recipes that made their show so delicious. After all, Steve was there with Billy for “Eyes Without a Face” from 1983’s Rebel Yell, and he delivered once again that amazing guitar solo early in the show, and of course the “Rebel Yell” title track, which closed the main set.
Stream Rebel Yell by Billy Idol on Spotify:
I personally also thoroughly enjoyed the Generation X songs, tunes that I never thought I would see live. Early, Billy broke into “Dancing With Myself,” of course, but later he also played “Your Generation” and “Ready Steady Go,” the first Generation X single.
Billy Idol is a living legend, and he’s still as vital and powerful in concert as you would hope. And Billy and Las Vegas proved a perfect match. Whoever developed the idea of putting Billy in the lovely, glossy Pearl Theater, which was built to look like a fancier entry into The Fillmore chain, deserves a raise.
Here are some pictures of Billy Idol performing at the Pearl Theater at Palms Casino Result on March 13, 2020. All photos by Mickey McCarter.