4 Outstanding Performances from Billy Idol’s ‘State Line’ Concert Film

Billy Idol has returned with an amped-up concert film called State Line; its theater screenings were set for November 15 and 19 with streaming and DVD releases planned for shortly thereafter. It’s an historic occasion as Idol and his band are thought to be the first to perform at Hoover Dam, which is located at the Nevada-Arizona state line. The festivities depicted start at dusk in front of an intimate crowd of 250, and go into the night, with some of the dramatic angles on the famously sneery Brit recalling his hit video for “Eyes Without a Face.”

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Filmed before the gargantuan concrete structure, a grand thing to behold in and of itself, State Line serves up Idol’s most familiar ’80s-era hits like “Dancing with Myself,” “White Wedding,” and “Rebel Yell.” But also included are unique treats like his recent rocker, “Cage”; a semi-acoustic version of the rockabilly-flavored cover “To Be a Lover”; an anthem from Idol’s old band Generation X, “One Hundred Punks”; and the rarely heard “John Wayne,” a dramatic deep cut from the 2008 collection The Very Best of Billy Idol: Idolize Yourself.

Idol’s current band includes guitarist/right-hand man Steve Stevens, guitarist Billy Morrison, keyboardist Paul Trudeau, bassist Stephen McGrath, and drummer Erik Eldenius. A special bonus is the soulful singing of Kitten Kuroi and Maiya Sykes, who provide a welcome flourish that particularly boosts the ‘80s numbers whose studio versions were buoyed by backing vocals. Other guest appearances include Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones, No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal, and The Kills/The Dead Weather singer Alison Mosshart.

State Line is a must-view for even casual fans of the iconic punk, pop, and rock singer, and there are four performances to specifically keep an eye out for. As the entire set attests, it’s never been easy to peg Idol as just one type of artist, despite the punk moniker always coming back around when his name’s mentioned. He’s got plenty of old-school influences that have informed his work over the years, and State Line proves it.

1. Flesh for Fantasy

Idol’s slinky, sexy hit from Rebel Yell gets turned into an extended jam, starting with Stevens’ electric improv. Hearing those opening chords of the song ring out in the Black Canyon provides an intensely dramatic rush. Whereas both the original studio and single versions of “Flesh for Fantasy” fade out, the band rides out the groove in this seven and a half-minute version, with Trudeau pumping in some heavy keyboards at the end.

2. Eyes Without a Face

This is the ballad that took Idol’s career to the next level after the fist-pumping anthem “Rebel Yell” electrified MTV audiences nationwide. It also gets an extended seven-minute version here, as it opens with a lush synth intro and Stevens’ beautiful acoustic soloing before the actual song kicks in. The guitarist switches to his electric axe for the blistering middle of the number, and sticks with it after; the remaining soft parts played on electric add an extra texture to the performance. “Eyes Without a Face” is one of the most memorable ballads of the ‘80s because of how unusual it is, and that translates live.

[RELATED: Behind the Song: Billy Idol, “Eyes Without a Face”]

3. Mony Mony

Idol and company immediately dive from ballad mode into this stomping, dance-friendly number, with Stevens quoting T. Rex’s “20th Century Boy” at the outset. “Mony Mony” was that rare song where the live version became a hit. In fact, it is Idol’s one No. 1 U.S. hit, topping the charts in 1987. The rendition for the film is an inspired take Idol, with the upbeat rocker animatedly interacting with Kuroi and Sykes at one point as they belt out their vibrant harmonies. It’s the one big moment in the show where he’s facing away from the audience as he’s so enraptured by them.

4. Blue Highway”/“Top Gun Anthem

This is an interesting medley of an upbeat tune from Rebel Yell and the Oscar-winning instrumental theme to Top Gun (written by Harold Faltermeyer with Stevens as soloist). One of the things this concert highlights is how skilled the guitarist is in both mellow and muscular modes, and he shreds his ass off at the end of this nearly eight-minute medley. Stevens’ diverse and colorful playing has always imbued Idol’s music with a special magic that has made them a unique and unbeatable combination.

Photo by Jane Stuart

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