Billy Idol – Zermatt Unplugged, CH – 2010-04-15

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Hundreds of raised fists, excited girls of all ages that beg for autographs in front of the stage, and in the center of it all the man who like no other fuses hymnic melodies with a decent punk rock attitude, creating timeless pop tunes in the process:

Billy Idol. Comes with open shirt, occasional pouting and trademark fist shaking if genuine.

In 2001 he played a special acoustic show for VH-1 Storytellers and achieved no less than his triumphant return to music television. The accompanying DVD bought him a lot of street credibility and reached out to a good couple of new listeners.

Fittingly, Billy Idol and band now paid an exclusive visit to the Swiss Zermatt Unplugged festival, and turned the huge tent at the foot of the Matterhorn into a huge partying zone within minutes.

Mister Idol and his band really didn’t need any electric guitars to build a solid wall of sound. While his VH-1 Storytellers show had most of the songs reduced to just guitar and vocals, Zermatt recieved the full Billy Idol treatment:

Nearly all the songs were played with a full band lineup: Stephen McGrath (bass) and Jeremy Colson (drums) layed an edgy but very precise rhythmic foundation, on which Billy Morrison and Steve Stevens (both acoustic guitar) built wild musical creations.

The audience didn’t remain seated for very long: Just a couple of minutes into the show, most people were standing, singing and partying enthusiastically in front of their seats. The Zermatt crowd turned out to be very familiar with Billy’s lyrics, so the party vibe quickly spread through the whole tent.

The setlist didn’t leave much room for wishes and included all the hits you would expect at a Billy Idol show, like Dancing With Myself, Flesh For Fantasy and of course Eyes Without A Face.

With 13 songs played in total, one or two more surely wouldn’t have hurt. Concentrating on the classics though kept the great vibe on a constant high level throughout the show.

The arrangements that were played at Zermatt Unplugged were all rehearsed exclusively for the festival. Thus, Idol and his band performed the classic Rebel Yell in a relaxed lounge version that got everyone clapping along for eight minutes straight. Snapping his fingers, Billy strolled across the stage and later grooved away on a pair of tonewood blocks. That made two ununsual sights in one Billy Idol song.

Just like at the Storytellers show, the acoustic arrangements helped the songs shine a great deal: The unplugged version of White Wedding provided a much sharper dramaturgical arc than the original version, Prodigal Blues gained even more authenticity and down-to-earthness.

The relaxed setting inside the tent also helped shorten the distance between band and audience. Just perfect for a guy like Billy Idol: Hey may not have had a choice in signing autographs during the whole of the show, but it was pretty obvious that he enjoyed himself a lot doing so and being given the rockstar treatment.

This man just refuses to age, as do his poses and gestures. His fans obviously have kept a very young-at-heart attitude too. When a very enthusiastic woman kept begging for a kiss at the side of the stage, her Idol didn’t take very long to react and grant her the wish. Tonight’s Billy Idol was a very modest and polite one.

Traditionally artists at Zermatt Unplugged are expected to use only acoustic instruments on stage. Mister Idol bent this concept a little though, using keyboards or guitar synthesizers audibly in two places.

In both instances, this was done in a very decent and careful way. Still it would have been nice and probably not very complicated to have filled these parts with purely acoustic instruments.

The show stayed true to the Zermatt Unplugged philosphy all in all though. The sound of acoustic guitars suited Billy’s voice wery well, and the arrangements all featured a great deal of pure wooden glory, most notably Stephen McGrath with an upright bass and lots and lots of percussion.

All in all a very Zermatt Unplugged-worthy performance: Billy Idol in great form and mood, backed by a tightly groooving band.

A setlist full of evergreens that were performed here in special arrangements, prepared exclusively for the night. Add to that a party vibe that went straight through the roof. What more could you ask for? Ah yes, an autograph of course…

Review & photos: Bjoern Kahlenberg

S E T L I S T :

01. Cradle Of Love
02. Dancing With Myself
03. Flesh For Fantasy
04. White Wedding
05. Eyes Without A Face
06. Rebel Yell (Swing Version)
07. Sweet Sixteen
08. Don’t Need A Gun
09. Kiss Me Deadly
10. Prodigal Blues
11. To Be A Lover
12. Hot In The City
13. Mony Mony

Posted by Bjoern   @   28 April 2010


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