The pandemic changed a lot of things in both life and live music, but we’ve come to learn this: Billy Idol is one mainstay who powered through it all.
The rocker brought his dependably fantastic set to the Uptown in Kansas City Thursday night, and it was nothing if but an example of how to stay in this tumultuous business. Billy Idol puts on one of those shows that you just know will never disappoint you, and it’s probably why his concerts consistently sell out immediately here.
Despite the consistent nature of his shows (for example, he almost always opens with “Dancing With Myself”), fans are always in for a few surprises. On this tour, he dug into some rare old favorites, including “One Hundred Punks” from his Generation X days. The show even put Steve Stevens in the spotlight with a medley of guitar solos to show his chops. This medley included the intro to “Stairway to Heaven,” which he abruptly stopped and slapped himself on the wrist while sort of winking at the crowd, half of whom exclaimed “Stairway! Denied!” in reference to Wayne’s World.
But it was one of his newer songs, “Running from the Ghost,” where Idol’s humanity was on full display. These days, if you follow him on Instagram, you’ll know that Papa Billy is gaga for his grandkids. He’s always proudly showing what the babies are up to, everything from their birthdays to their first steps. Two weeks ago, his grandchildren lost their Godfather Russ to a drug overdose. “Running from the Ghost” is an emotional song about struggling with drug addiction. “It’s about putting drug addiction in your rearview mirror,” he told the crowd before dedicating the song to Russ. “Despite hearing this song and understanding it, he’s not with us any longer.” Idol tends to chat every so often between songs, but this was where he spent the most time having a rapport with the crowd. With a loved one’s overdose death fresh in his life, he was convinced to set a genuine tone with this portion of the show. We’ve always known him as a rocker, a punk, a motorcycle crash survivor, and Adam Sandler’s personal bodyguard. Now we can add one more title to his resume: motivational speaker.
This is a testament to Billy Idol’s staying power, his ability to grow with his audience and see what is necessary to keep the show going. The reward is a fanbase who are in it for the long haul. We spent much of the night catching conversations from the crowd about how many shows they’ve seen this year, and how many they plan to see this summer. Mind you, this is a crowd that is mostly 50 and above– and, like Billy Idol, they don’t show any signs of slowing down.
Favorite moments from the night: the high-energy sing-a-long for “Mony Mony” (that song is an absolute BOP, thank you Tommy James and the Shondells) and Billy Idol’s many, many very cool leather jacket changes (one of them had the Misfits logo on the back!).
Kelsy Karter, of New Zealand, opened the show with enough energy to rival any 80’s punk band thanks to her powerhouse vocals and true rock-and-roll nature. Oooooh, this girl has an attitude and we think she’s just fantastic. It’s hard to hold your own as an opener for such a big act, but Karter knew just how to keep that crowd engaged and wrapped around her middle finger.