Last Night: Billy Idol At House Of Blues

Billy Idol House of Blues August 25, 2010

See a slideshow of snarls and sweat from last night's show.

Hot in the city. Tonight.

Billy Idol, that ever-grinning Dorian Gray of rock and roll, didn't really need to yell "Sweat! Sweat! Sweat!" during "Dancing With Myself" at House of Blues Wednesday night. True, it is part of the lyrics, but the sold-out crowd, stuffed into the Houston Pavilions venue like a ripe summer sausage, took care of that on their own.

There wasn't much room for dancing, with yourself or anyone else. It was so packed that at one point Aftermath's phone coverage cut out. Luckily, we were a little bit too preoccupied to be calling or texting anyone.

The set began with a canned introduction adapted from Tombstone echoing the environmental conditions and looming bill of fare: "You tell 'em Billy Idol's coming! And all hell's coming with me!" Idol and his five-piece band - featuring a mohawked drummer who goes by "Groove Machine," a hulking, long-haired bassist Idol introduced as "Evil Jesus" and rooster-haired guitar virtuoso Steve Stevens, who looked and played like Ronnie Wood's little brother - massaged the frayed seams between punk, classic rock and their various alternative stepchildren for nearly two solid hours.

Opener "Ready Steady Go," a holdover from Idol's days in Sex Pistols/Clash peers Generation X, set the evening's pace at a sturdy midtempo Buzzcocks grind, with Idol stalking the stage like the offspring of Elvis and Johnny Rotten who hasn't missed a gym appointment in 25 years. He could show the Jersey Shore crew a thing or two about fist-pumping, that's for sure.

Electro cyber-blues "Love Is Strange" resembled Stabbing Westward with processed guitars, synthesizers and a pounding pulse - ditto for "Scarred for Life" - while "Scream" was a straight-up G 'N' R shotgun boogie for which Idol had obviously broken out his rhyming dictionary (" I can get obscene"). The mellower, acoustic-laced "Flesh for Fantasy," "Sweet Sixteen" and "Eyes Without a Face" brought out Idol's hip-twitching inner Elvis and only amplified the sultry conditions - if the walls were bleeding in Ghostbusters, they were sweating at House of Blues.

One more acoustic tune, Bowie-like Ziggy stardusted jam "Kings & Queens of the Underground" and a labyrinthine cover of the Doors' "L.A. Woman," and the entire band save Stevens left the stage for a long Eddie Van Halen-gone-flamenco interlude that crested with a snippet of Led Zeppelin's "Heartbreaker." It smacked of padding, but at the same time, it was hard to begrudge Idol a breather - especially because Aftermath had just returned from getting some air out front ourselves.

And besides, it must have helped. Idol and the rest of the band re-emerged to dust off a couple more Gen X tunes, jungle-beat hoofer "King Rocker" and pure Detroit Rock City "Running With the Boss Sound," Stevens took a Hendrix "Foxy Lady" turn for "Blue Highway" - pretty much a heavier "What Do I Get?" - and even the cops by the door were rocking out to "Rebel Yell."

By the time Idol and crew came back out for lights-out encore "White Wedding" and "Mony Mony," the only people not having a good time were the Affliction-clad Washington Avenue refugees brawling in front of the box office. It was just a night of driving, bad-ass, high-octane rock and roll, pure and simple.

Idol had nothing to lose and nothing to prove, and it showed.

Personal Bias: Present and accounted for. When Aftermath was about nine, we read Rolling Stone's 1984 cover story on Idol while we were visiting our grandmother at M.D. Anderson. It was our first exposure to this brand of journalism, and we liked it. Especially all the four-letter words.

The Crowd: Punks, rockers, punk rockers and apparently every local TV personality not on assignment or in the studio - we spotted Fox 26 morning weather lady Kristi Powers, Channel 13's Miya Shay and erstwhile "Buzz Lady" Roseann Rogers.

Overheard In the Crowd: "The way I should treat my wife, but I don't. I'm working on it."

Random Notebook Dump: During "Eyes Without a Face," we saw one man near the back bar wearing a Rocks Off T-shirt. It pretty much made our night.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray