Billy Idol / The Professionals Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     August 11, 2018    
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Billy Idol / The Professionals - O2 Academy, Birmingham (UK) - 21 June 2018

Firstly, thanks to the ever-wonderful Sharon Chevin for sorting out passes for the gig – she truly was a God-send. Secondly, no thanks to the unhelpful O2 staff for being so useless and unhelpful. Why? Disabled seating is ridiculously limited at the O2 and the staff couldn't sort anything. Two disabled seats needed? Not a hope. Once again though, Sharon took no prisoners and we were soon in place and comfortable.
It was a Billy Idol gig, so every clone and wannabe was out and wanted to be noticed, as were many over-made-up and artificially enhanced women – who were presumably hoping to be noticed by their Idol... geddit? Oh dear.

One of the great ironies here was that Idol was not the biggest star here, that would be the man leading the support band – The Professionals – from behind his drumkit. I give you Paul Cook – ex-Sex Pistol! Fronted by ex-Lurker guitarist Tom Spencer and powered along by ex-Wildhearts guitarist Chris McCormack and ex-Subway Sect bass guitarist Paul Myers, the band were mega tight from the off. It took three songs for the bass-heavy sound to be sorted, so 'Payola' and 'Good Man Down' sounded a little muffled. However, as soon as the band tore into Silly Thing' (the old Pistols gem for the uninformed!), the sound became crisp, the band rocked out like bastards and the entire audience was won over with ease. New song 'Going Going Gone' was treated like an old favourite by the rowdy crowd, while 'Rewind' and the wonderful (and now forty years old) 'Just Another Dream' nearly raised the roof. 'Hats Off To You', a song dedicated to homeless people everywhere, was an anthemic classic, a blistering salute to the fallen and all too often forgotten that garnered a huge sing-along, and the band signed off with the riff-tastic 'Let's Go!' which left the now totally won over baying for more. Sadly, it was not to be... as there was so much more to come.

I'd love to tell you that things were peaceful between bands – but it wasn't. On the staircase from the hall to the balcony, a fight broke out between an extremely inebriated middle-aged couple and, surprise surprise, the security proved to be useless. Georgia (my partner) was nearly caught up as they brawled! It was loud, ugly and was allowed to go on far too long – what a sad state of affairs.

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Now, to the main event... the one and only Billy Idol. As the intro tape rolled, the Academy was rammed to the rafters and the atmosphere was absolutely electric! The band erupted onto the stage and tore into 'Shock To The System' with real power. The band were ridiculously tight, Steve Stevens was (of course) the shining star in its ranks, he simply seems to get better and better with age, his beautiful and exquisite playing leaving ninety-nine percent of other guitarists drooling in his wake; alongside Billy Gibbons, he is quite simply the best. Ex-Cult man Billy Morrison is a fabulous rhythm player, he and Stevens make for a wonderful pairing. Paul Trudeau is an excellent keyboardist and occasional rhythm guitarist, he's much underrated and is a real gem within the band. The rhythm section of Stephen McGrath (bass) and Erik Eldenius (drums) are rock solid, and they laid down a sinuous yet thunderous backdrop, this really was an exceptional line-up.

Idol is somehow timeless yet dances perilously close to the edge of becoming a parody, though never falling into the abyss... he truly is a star. He preened and strutted with pure panache, and appeared to be a Peter Pan of sorts. However, if you looked closely, his many surgeries on face and body were all too clear. That being said, he looked in fine shape and (for the most part) his voice was as strong as ever. 'Dancing With Myself' had the place jumping while the brilliant 'Flesh For Fantasy' was (as ever) pure class. However, things took a serious "dive" during 'You Can't Bring Me Down' where, frankly, Idol's voice was all over the place; it was almost painful. A cover of The Doors' 'LA Woman' was a bit better, but why bother? Where was 'Super Overdrive'? Where was 'To Be A Lover'? You could have coloured me frustrated!

'Scream' improved matters immeasurably, with Idol in raucous form, and it got better, 'Hole In The Wall' was inspired and genuinely brilliant! Just when you thought it couldn't get any better... it did! 'Eyes Without A Face' was sheer sublime perfection and it featured a stunning Flamenco guitar solo by Stevens; it was both dazzling and awe-inspiring, and you could practically hear jaws drop across the venue! The blistering 'Whisky And Pills' was up next, and the band seemed to find another "gear" or so to speak – it was a brilliant version. You knew things were building to a climax as 'Blue Highway' blasted out of the speakers, it featured another Stevens solo, this time part of the it (Georgia reliably informed me) was the theme from 'Top Gun', not having seen the film, I had no idea, but she insisted she's right! The main set closed with the inimitable 'Rebel Yell', and by now, it was a pure party. The band returned with a great take on 'White Wedding', and for me, that was enough, we headed for the exit smiling happily. I do know the show ended with 'Mony Mony', a cover I've always loathed, but from the roars I could still hear outside, everyone else must have loved it. It was a great show, not perfect, but colossally entertaining. Would I go again? In a heartbeat!

Chris O'Connor

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