This week I traveled up to Brooklyn for my friend’s birthday celebration to see Billy Idol at the beautiful historic Kings Theatre. A word about the venue. Built in 1929 as a “movie palace,” its architectural opulence is difficult to capture in words, and the stark contrast in hosting a classic 1980s rock star was eccentric and fun; creepy hidden gold gargoyle faces gleamed in the laser lights as “Eyes Without a Face” boomed from the speakers. Black concert shirts seemed out of place in a majestic two-story velvet-draped lobby that welcomed Diana Ross to the reopening gala event in 2015 after a $95-million restoration was completed; necessary because the NYC treasure stood empty, deteriorating due to weather and vandalism for nearly 40 years.
I didn’t attend any music concerts as a 1980s teenager with no money; I try to play a little catch-up as an adult: seeing Jimmy Buffett (thank goodness), the Eagles (right before Glen Frey died), Def Leppard, Linda Ronstadt, Steve Miller Band, Air Supply and a few other childhood favorites in recent years has been spectacular.
I wasn’t a big Billy Idol fan (it was Billy Squier who hung on my wall) in the 1980s, so as an architectural history nerd, I was bummed not to have more time in the beaux arts theatre, dreaming of going out to the lobby during one of “the new songs” and asking a manager to give me a tour. Also a theatre nerd, I fantasized about seeing the giant chandelier descend during a performance of Phantom of the Opera.
I belatedly became a Billy Idol fan during this show. My favorite song of his was always “Hot in the City” and I loved that he yelled “BROOKLYN” instead during the “New York” part. A hometown visit for lead guitarist Steven Stevens, who's been with the singer since 1981. When Idol opened with “Dancing With Myself” I have to admit to freaking out a little; my inner 80s girl awakened. And you don’t need to be an Idol fan to enjoy a cool performance of “Rebel Yell” and “White Wedding.”
But we ain’t in 1984 anymore. It’s an older crowd. My iPhone played the chimedown lullaby tune at 10:15 while I was taking a concert video, reminding me it was time to get ready for bed. People seemed thankful when Idol wanted to “play one of his new songs,” so they could sit down, sighing as they did so. The knees, the hips, the back. A moment to sip the overpriced drinks from the bar, see if the kids or grandkids have texted, fantasize about the house lights going up at an intermission so you can get better photos of the architecture. Idol announced that his granddaughter was in the crowd from nearby Long Island where he once lived.
I don’t know how many grandkids Idol has in towns where he once lived, who knows if he even knows, he’s Billy Fucking Idol. That’s how he introduced himself, at the end of the night, after costume changes for every song. He’s 67, put on a high-energy show, introduced his band members, and at the end said, “I play guitar sometimes, I’m from London, and I’m Billy Fucking Idol.”
I couldn’t stop laughing during “Mony Mony” when he held the mic toward the crowd for the requisite “Get laid get fucked” line. I was like a little kid giggling, and it wasn’t from the pot and Jack Daniels. I tried to find the origin of why people chant that, and it seems to be a bunch of uncertain reasons, but did you know one of them is that Idol “got laid got fucked” for the first time to the original 1968 single by Tommy James and the Shondells?