November 27, 2009

Billy Idol in Super Overdrive Live

Billy Idol has had quite an interesting career, the majority of which I am completely unfamiliar with. From his early days with Generation X to his solo heyday in the 1980's, to his fall from grace in the 1990's, he has been all over the place. Not to mention his near-death motorcycle accident. The man has shown incredible resiliency coming through it all with a sneer on his face and a fist in the air. This concert shows the man doing what he knows, tearing the house down. I believe this was recorded in 2005 while touring behind his last album, Devil's Playground. It is a no frills concert and Blu-ray release, but it matters not as it so finely presented and just a blast to watch.

I like concert video releases. The good ones can make it feel like you are right there in the crowd experiencing what they are, in the moment. There is another reason I like concert videos, although much less common reason. I like it when a disk is released of a tour I have seen. This is the third time that I can recall off the top of my head where a band recorded a show on the same tour I saw them on. The other two are Megadeth's Rude Awakening and Insane Clown Posse's Bootlegged in LA (yes, I like a wide variety of music). In addition to putting me in the audience, it takes me back to my live experience. That experience can add so much value to a concert video.

In this case, I saw Billy Idol in Poughkeepsie, NY in September of 2005. It was sort of sad as there was scarcely anyone there. If the concert hall was 25% filled that would have been a lot. Due to the small crowd, security allowed everyone to leave their ticketed seats and gather right up at the security railing. This sort of crowd could have led the artist to dog it, save energy for the bigger crowds, but not Billy. Billy, Steve Stevens, and the rest of the band played their hearts out. Ripping through new tunes, classic tunes, Generation X tunes, it did not matter what they played, it was incredible. Billy showed his true colors as a consummate entertainer. I swear, it did not look like he lost a step in all these years. He was up there singing, singing autographs, shaking hands, and never missed a beat.

This show was recorded at the Congress Theater in Chicago, an old school venue built before the proliferation of air conditioning. Watch Billy as he literally sweats his way through the set. I can only imagine how hot it was. Wait, I think the gorgeous high definition image does a pretty good job of showing the heat, you can almost see the waves coming up from the stage.

The show opens with "Super Overdrive" and as those first notes hit, I was transported back to that September 2005 show. He moved through such classics as "Dancing with Myself," "White Wedding," "Eyes Without a Face," and "Rebel Yell" with ease, delivering something of a greatest hits show.

Now, while Billy seemed to have a limitless reservoir of energy, he is not the only man putting on a show. Guitarist Steve Stevens and his 80's metal look playing off of Idol's punk aesthetic delivered a guitar clinic. You would swear he as surgically attached to his instrument. His performance was flawless ripping through those catchy riffs and ripping off a few solos to fill out the set.

Man, this is just a lot of fun to watch. I have watched it a few times now and as an introduction to music on Blu-ray, it is quite impressive. While the show is not the most theatrical or heavily produced, it is perfectly represented here. The colors are spot on and I did not detect any combing or artifacts. There is a touch of video noise, but that is to be expected and does not detract from the experience.

The audio comes in three flavors, LPCM stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, and DTS HD master 5.1. No matter which flavor you prefer, they all sound great. They virtually envelop you in the music and the mix is crisp and clear allowing all of the instruments to shine through flawlessly.

If there is any complaint I could have with this, it is that the entire show is obviously not here. We get 12 tracks, whereas the show I saw had 17 plus 3 more in two encores. You can tell there are edits just by watching Idol's ever changing attire. This is particularly noticeable in the choice of ending the show with "Kiss Me Deadly." Don't get me wrong, it is a good song, but that was part of the encore at my show, and if you watch into the credits immediately after the song ends, his clothes are different. I know this is a minor quibble, but I would have loved the complete show.

The disk also falls short in the extras category in that there are none. No interviews, featurettes, or extra songs. Of course, the show speaks for itself, but it still would have been nice to have something.

Bottomline. This is no doubt a superb show by an artist who has created some timeless tunes and who also appears to have come unstuck in time. I know this sounds a little gushing, but I don't care. You either get it or you don't. I ignored Idol back in the days of my youth and am now playing a little bit of catch up. In short, do yourself a favor, get your hands on this, press play, and rock out.I bet you will be up dancing to it in no time.


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Unknown said...

What a fantastic review. I absolutely love Billy Idol. If anyone had lingering doubts about buying the DVD, this review will convince them to buy it.

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