Billy Idol & Cheap Trick Live In Concerts
(Words - Ian Bell, Photos - Rodney Magazinovic)
The masses have descended on Leconsfield for the latest Day On The Green line-up. Proceedings kick off with The Choirboys (all wearing Cheap Trick t-shirts). Oz rock legends that really feel like a bunch of your mates you haven't seen for a while. Their riff heavy pub rock pulls no punches and they crank through a snappy set of their best known songs Never Gonna Die, Boys Will Be Boys. A blistering cover of AC/DC's Livewire is a highlight as is the ten minute sing-a-long of Run to Paradise. Vocalist mark Gable tells us that they are going backstage to video them having a bath together and put it on You Tube. They are a great choice to kick off todays proceedings.
It's 31 degrees and the skies are blue, there is no shade anywhere and things are about to get even hotter. Australian legends The Angels are up next and they are not interested in taking any prisoners. The Brewster Brothers (John & Rick) are the only remaining original members with Screaming Jets frontman Dave Gleeson bringing his own stamp to these songs so loved by several generations of Oz Rock fans and new material from the bands first new material in 14 years, via the Talk The Talk CD. They open with the title track and then it's all just classics. After the Rain, No Secrets, Take a Long Line, Face The Day. It always amazed me they never quite broke overseas the way Rose Tattoo and AC/DC did. They had everything it should have taken. Great songs, killer live band and one of the great frontmen of all time. The songs of the Angels still stand firm and strong forty years after some of them were recorded. They drop a bluesy version of ZZ Tops La Grange mid set which goes down a treat and primes the crowd for the sprint to the finish. Down On Me is fantastic and Shadow Boxer is still one of the best Aussie Rock songs ever. All around me, progressively more inebriated people are doing pub dancing and boxing shadows in tribute. Mr Damage crunches us towards the finish line, which reach via the bands anthem. Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again, with it's call and response chorus, it still the most Aussie thing you can ever see on a stage and stillmakes me laugh out loud every time I experience it. If you don't know what I am talking about - don't look it up. Especially if you are work.
Let me just put my cards on the table and say that Cheap Trick are one of the best bands that has ever walked on the Planet Earth. From their late 1970's power-pop, through the power ballads of the 80's, and their riff-tastic sounds in the 90's and beyond they are a band that can do little wrong for me. I am absolutely bias when it comes to the Tricksters. Which is why the tepid response from the audience was cutting me like a knife. The band were giving it maximum energy right from their traditional set opener Hello There and into ELO Kiddies and the crackin' Big Eyes. But large parts the audience, who have been drinking for several hours now, are paying little attention talking loudly with each, taking selfies and generally not paying much attention to this great band. I move several times and it's the same everywhere I end up. Guitarist Rick Nielson says 'We are the one and only Cheap Trick' clearly not happy with the underwhelming reaction they were getting. When they start the massive 1982 hit If You Want my Love You Got It, people get interested and start singing along but by the end of the next song The House is Rocking Rick asks the sound guy if he "Can please turn up the audience so I can hear them". It's an uphill struggle for the band for most of the set, through no fault of their own. Neilson is dressed in black pants and jacket and sporting his trademark baseball cap and spends the set stalking the stage and sending out guitar picks into the front rows. Lead singer Robin Zander in contrast spends most of the set in a sparkling white jacket and over-sized policeman's hat. Bass player Tom Petersson gives us a solo on his twelve string bass and takes lead vocals on I Know What I Want and I Know How To Get It Toward the end of their brief one hour set the audience start to get on board with a string of hits I Want You to Want Me, The Dream Police, their rocked up version of Fats Dominos Ain't That a Shame. Released in 1978 Surrender is one of the best teen anthems ever produced. Sung from a teenagers perspective about not understanding their parents generation, it contains the lyric
When I woke up Mom & Dad
Were rolling on the couch
Rolling numbers, Rock and rolling,
Got my Kiss records out.
Twenty seven years on, it is still one of the coolest lyrics ever. They finish up with Goodnight Now, the bookend to their Hello There opener and whilst I doubt this gig will be making Cheap Trick's list of favourite gigs ever, they played a blinder under the circumstances.
There has already been a White Wedding at Leconfield today. A couple has decided to re-new their vows after their original 'shotgun' wedding was a simple affair with no guests or bells and whistles. Today there is 8,000 guests (and all the bridesmaids in wedding dresses) a huge stage and PA and lots of pretty lights.
With the sun going down and the temperature dropping people are ready for the main event (it doesn't stop everybody talking but there you go). The lights come up and Billy's band is on the stage including his long time musical partner, big haired guitarist Steve Stevens and they launch into Postcards from The Past from the new album Kings & Queens of the Underground. Billy Idol busts onto the stage and the first thing you notice is how Billy Idol-ish he looks. He is 59 years old, but he looks exactly the same as he did in the 80s. The spiky hair, the leather pants, the fist punching the air and his snarling top lip. The first big hit of the set is Cradle of Love (from 1990) and people are on their feet singing along. After another track from the new record (Can't Break Me Down) Idol says "..and now I'm going to play all of the new album HAHAHAHA, no I'm not. Some of you are looking worried". Idol knows what people have come for and he delivers in spades. "You'll know this one from the first drumbeat" he promises and when the first drumbeat can be no other song than Dancing With Myself, the audience is finally at full attention, focused on the stage, focused on the song and focused on dancing with themselves. Originally recorded with his band Generation X in 1980 in a rawer punk style it was reworked in 1982 in a more pop/rock version that became a massive hit all over the world.
Billy tells us that he's never been to Adelaide before and that he is excited to finally be here. Steve Stevens also let's us know he is popping his Adelaide cherry. Actually both have been to Adelaide before as part of the ill fated M-One Festival in 2002. The first half of that day being a sea of the dreariest bands imaginable (Goo Goo Dolls, Lifehouse, Nickleback) but things took a turn for the better when Billy, Steve and co exploded proceeding into a hi-octane rock'n'roll show. Still given the terrible numbers and critical fall out of the festival in general maybe not such a bad thing he thinks he hasn't been before.
Flesh For Fantasy is a song that many might have shelved as being past it's used by date, but Idol has such utter conviction in his delivery that we are swept away with it more than we possibly should be. Around now Billy peels off four layers of coats and jackets to remove his t-shirt, then puts the other layers back on. There are a couple of other tracks from the new album (which is really good by the way) but mostly it's all hits from this point out. As exciting as it was for me to hear another Generation X number (Ready Steady Go - was brilliant) it had less impact on the crowd than Sweet Sixteen (which came with an extremely long and bizarre intro story about castles made of coral), Eyes Without a Face, his blistering take on The Doors LA Woman. Throughout the set there are many, many extended guitar solos from Stevens, but mostly people seemed to enjoy them. By the end of the set Idol is shirtless (and in fine form, one might even say he's 'buff' and the band screams into a white hot Rebel Yell which has the audience yelling MORE MORE MORE to the night sky.
Some folk are scrambling round in the dark for the exits when he's back for a perfect and extended White Wedding. What a great song. A great example of the sort of rock/pop/dance cross over records being made in the 80's when genre's were teaming up and morphing in a way that has seldom happened since. The beat is infectious, the guitar riffs white hot, and Idols vocals running from Elvis style crooning to punk screaming as he rides the grooves and the thumping beat of this classic track. Where is there left to go? What hasn't he played yet? His cover of Tommy James Mony Mony is the answer. More driving beats, rumbling base lines and sing-a-long choruses send us out into the pitch black night singing in the car park and in one case off for a first night of renewed wedding vows (and they got to meet Billy Idol after the show).