Billy Idol humps the stage and Steve Stevens’ guitars rage as the Whiplash Smile tour hits Vancouver

chris cameron photo


By Steve Newton

When Billy Idol kept stalling and stalling the release of his latest LP, Whiplash Smile, there was some real danger that the man’s popularity–which had reached great heights after the release of 1983’s Rebel Yell–was beginning to run its course. When a star with so much emphasis on image is kept out of the spotlight for three years, not only do his fans get anxious, the folks down at the record company start to sweat a bit too.

But if Idol’s fine show at the Pacific Coliseum Saturday (May 16) is any indication, the worrying is over. Unlike the opening track of Whiplash Smile, he’s not (at least not yet) the “World’s Forgotten Boy”.

Idol took to the stage with his trademark dyed-white hair topping an all-black leather outfit with accompanying chains and studs. Lead guitarist, co-writer and constant video companion Steve Stevens contrasted with Billy in all-white with (big) black hair, and the two started off with the good old Generation X tune “Dancing With Myself”. By the time they’d gotten to the sixth song of the set, “White Wedding”, Idol had most of the 13,5000 fans under his spell, and the security men at stage-front had increased their water rationing, dousing the frenzied mass on the floor with bucket after bucketful.

“I spent the last three years trying to play this,” shouted Idol as he picked up a Les Paul Junior to knock out some rhythm guitar, and you could almost see his sneer from up in the press box (you definitely could hear the bass rattling the walls in the media lounge).

In between “Don’t Need a Gun” and “Blue Highway”, Stevens showed just how wild a guitarist he is with a solo that included Townshend-style windmills, Hendrix vibrato tricks, and fiery runs a la Randy Rhoads. The guy is incredible, and though he may spend a lot of time in Idol’s shadow, it’s a sure thing that Billy would not have come this far without him.

When the band swung into the last song of their regular set, “Rebel Yell”, the floor became a sea of flying fists, particularly on the chorus of “mo’ mo’ mo’. I haven’t seen that many arms in the Coliseum since Iron Maiden’s Powerslave tour.

For the encore, “To Be a Lover”, Idol humped the stage, just he does the boxing ring canvas in the tune’s video. This inspired screams of delight from the female contingent, which were drowned out by the din when Stevens ripped into the well-known opening riff of “Shakin’ All Over”. That classic number closed the show on the last of many high notes, not the least of which was an hour-long opening set by the Cult.

Limited to just the front half of the stage, the Cult’s only real prop were its battery of 18 Marshall cabinets, which guitarist Billy Duffy put to good use on the hits “She Sells Sanctuary” and “Love Removal Machine”. Duffy even outshone singer Ian Astbury, who displayed no particular abundance of energy, apart from that required to sing the songs alright. At the Metro after the show, Duffy explained that the band was still seeking rejuvenation after a recent all-night party with Motley Crue.

That’s why he was drinking orange juice.

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