Billy Idol & Cheap Trick – Vector Arena

DSC_23941980’s hit maker Billy Idol rocked a near-capacity crowd at Auckland’s Vector Arena with more than a little help from American power poppers Cheap Trick.

First of all, apologies to fans of Aussie rockers The Angels, much as I tried, I was unable to get to the Vector in time to see their set, although I was assured by friends who did catch them that they were “tight”.

Fortunately I landed in my seat just as the light went down and Cheap Trick took the stage.

I’ve always been a big fan of the band and saw them fairly regularly in the late 1970s when albums like Heaven Tonight and Live At Budokan were staples of American radio.

I was concerned that they might not be able to generate the same excitement they did back in their heyday and that vocalist Robin Zander wouldn’t be able to hit those notes.

I needn’t have worried.

DSC_0356The three original members (Zander, guitarist Rick Nielsen, bass player Tom Petersson) along with Neilsen’s son, Daxx, who replaces Bun E. Carlos had energy to spare as they squeezed 11 songs into their allotted time slot.

It was a hit-heavy set with The Move’s California Man setting the tone with its opening line…”Going to a party!”.

The band read their audience well, throwing in 1980s hits like Tonight It’s You, If You Want My Love and power ballad The Flame.

Guitarist and band leader Rick Nielsen was a little chunkier than in the past but, wearing his trademark baseball cap he covered plenty of ground on stage, showering the front row with handfuls of guitar picks.

Zander, dressed in black leather and some kind of military cap, looked more like a German SS officer than a member of the Dream Police.

The band paid tribute to The Beatles with a rocking version of Magical Mystery Tour and they wrapped up their set with the songs from the 70s I had been waiting for…I Want You To Want Me, Dream Police, Auf Wiedersehen and the exquisite Surrender.

A silver cape was draped over Zander, JB style, during Dream Police and Neilsen showed off his guitar collection with a double neck model, then one cut out in his image and finally an over-the-top five-neck guitar.

It was the most fun I’ve had at a show in some time. Here’s hoping Cheap Trick will return to play their own show…I still need to hear Ain’t That A Shame, Heaven Tonight and Voices.

Headliner Billy Idol showed up just after 9:30 looking just like…Billy Idol.

The 59-year-old looks to be in remarkable shape, especially considering what he’s put his body through over the years. He had no problem performing several songs sans shirt, much to the approval of a gaggle of Tauranga girls I spoke with after the show.

Billy’s got a new (ish) album out that he is obviously proud of, Kings And Queens Of The Underground, and he opened the show with its strongest track, Postcards From The Past. That song almost serves as an overture to past Idol classics as it sounds like it contains elements of hits like White Wedding and Rebel Yell.

Of course those songs would come later in the set, but not before we heard a few more songs from Kings And Queens along with hits like Dancing With Myself and Cradle Of Love.

Long-time guitarist Steve Stevens was in the band and was featured prominently…stepping to the front early and often, striking classic 80s poses and showboating by playing with his teeth during Cradle Of Love and behind his back during Dancing With Myself.

The other band members were more than happy to strike poses while playing as well with rhythm guitarist Billy Morrison more than happy to play up to the crowd.

Mid-set songs Flesh For Fantasy, Save Me Now and Eyes Without A Face dragged a bit for my taste…to be honest I’ve never cared for Eyes Without A Face and I wasn’t convinced tonight.

DSC_2355But when Idol revisited the old Generation X single, Ready Steady Go, an ode to British rock in the 60s, things got much better.

Idol’s cover of The Doors’ LA Woman was serviceable, despite a mic failure mid-song.

That was followed by a Spanish-styled guitar solo by Stevens, accompanied by plenty of stage fog.

Things got back on track with Whiskey And Pills and then Rebel Yell.

The inevitable White Wedding was featured in the encore with Idol and Stevens beginning the song on their own.

“Show them what a hit song sounds like”, Billy commanded, and Stevens responded with that classic riff.

The rest of the band joined in and the place was rocking, with Stevens duckwalking across the stage.

This was followed by a rather pointless, but brief drum solo by Erik Eldenius before the show wrapped with an extended version of Mony Mony, complete with a three-guitar jam.

To be honest, I would have been happier with a shorter, less bloated version of the old Tommy James and the Shondells chestnut, but I guess this was keeping in spirit with the 80s, a decade that was prone to excess and overindulgence.

Excess and overindulgence are things that Billy Idol has been familiar with and his ego was in no short supply either.

After he introduced that band, he proclaimed, “I’m Billy Fucking Idol!” and then thanked his fans “for making my life so fucking great!”

Somewhere Billy Idol is still dancing with himself.

Marty Duda

Click on any image to view a photo gallery featuring plenty of shots of Billy Idol, Cheap Trick and The Angels courtesy of Michael Flynn:

Billy Idol set list:

  1. Postcards From The Past
  2. Cradle Of Love
  3. Can’t Break Me Down
  4. Dancing With Myself
  5. Flesh For Fantasy
  6. Save Me Now
  7. Ready Steady Go
  8. Sweet Sixteen
  9. Eyes Without A Face
  10. LA Woman
  11. Whiskey And Pills
  12. Rebel Yell
  13. White Wedding
  14. Mony Mony

Cheap Trick set list:

  1. Hello There
  2. California Man
  3. Tonight Its You
  4. If You Want My Love
  5. Magical Mystery Tour
  6. The Flame
  7. I Want You To Want Me
  8. Dream Police
  9. Auf Wiedersehen
  10. Goodnight Now