Over the past couple of months whenever I told people I was going to see Billy Idol, they'd say something like 'cool' or 'when's he playing?' - one young funny guy I no longer speak to replied, 'who?' - before asking the inevitable question, 'Is Steve Stevens playing?'.

It was a good question. Stevens is Idol's longtime songwriting collaborator and a total guitar hero. Despite their shared history and songbook the legendary fretman remains a free agent and doesn't always hit the road with Idol.

Stevens' name wasn't on the bill so I didn't know if he would be there or not. I'd always say that I'd find out. But I never did.

So it was with great relief - and a loud cheer - when the celebrated guitarist took to the stage to kickstart the night with the hard rocking, 80's pop chug of Idol's hit, Cradle of Love.

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And damn did it sound good.

Billy Idol at the Outer Fields, Western Springs. Photo: Christian Jandrawinata
Billy Idol at the Outer Fields, Western Springs. Photo: Christian Jandrawinata

Idol himself was looking sharp, all spiky peroxide hair and muscle, and at 64 still generating much swooning and screaming from the idolising crowd. Especially when his onstage costume change left him briefly bare chested.

Idol's voice has held up pretty well, whether delivering the punky sneer of Your Generation, selling the sentiment of Ghosts in My Guitar, or charging up the crowd with the hard rock power of Rebel Yell.

That last one was a particular standout, it's energetic stomp of a riff and Idol's raw powerhouse vocals leaving you feeling super amped up and ready to take on the world.

Stevens was given center stage for an extended turn in the spotlight to fuse flamenco, classical and Led Zep into one awe-inspiring, genre-smushing virtuoso display of a guitar solo that was as daring and showy as the black leather flares he was wearing.

Steve Stevens solos at the Outer Fields, Western Springs. Photo: Christian Jandrawinata
Steve Stevens solos at the Outer Fields, Western Springs. Photo: Christian Jandrawinata

The set stretched all the way back to Idol's early years in punk band Generation X, rightly centered around his dominating MTV era and went right up to his last album, 2014's Kings & Queens of the Underground.

There was the irresistible earworm pop of Dancing With Myself, the barnstorming set closer White Wedding, the sleaze-funk of Flesh for Fantasy and, of course, the epic power ballad that is Eyes Without a Face.

There were a couple of notable omissions, Hot in the City was left out in the cold and it was a nony for Mony Mony.

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Steve Stevens and Billy Idol at the Outer Fields, Western Springs. Photo: Christian Jandrawinata
Steve Stevens and Billy Idol at the Outer Fields, Western Springs. Photo: Christian Jandrawinata

Stevens was just a monster presence, his showmanship including huge windmill power chords, playing with his teeth and even performing more than a couple of his brilliant solos with his gat lifted back behind his head.

For his part Idol gave it his all, whipping out his trademarked fist pumps and punching the sky generously throughout.

"It's been 40 years but it feels like only four years in my mind," Idol said before introducing Generation X's snarly Ready Steady Go. It was a sentiment clearly shared by the crowd because it was all too easy to get caught up and transported back by the sound - and look - of his crack band laying down all those addictive 80s power rock riffs.

"Let's show them what a hit song sounds like," Idol said to Stevens at one point. There's no denying that they certainly did.

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