For the last half of the 90’s, Billy didn’t release anything. After the failure of the ‘Cyberpunk’ album (which was awesome) and the issues with the label, Billy sort of vanished from the music scene. He did have the single for the movie “Speed”, he made a memorable cameo in the movie ‘The Wedding Singer’, but outside of that, there wasn’t much else.
In 2001, that started to change. VH1 aired a ‘Behind the Music’ on Billy and a greatest hits compilation was released that had a cover of Simple Mind’s song “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” which had moderate success. Heck, the greatest hits album sold over 1 million copies in the U.S. alone. VH1 also decided to film a VH1 Storytellers with Billy and along for ride was Steve Stevens which was a reunion that was long overdue.
I am not going to critique the VH1 Storytellers show, but the CD that was released. The CD came out on February 22, 2002 and is only the songs that were played and not any of the stories. For that, you need the DVD.
The CD contains 14 tracks that are both acoustic and fully plugged in. I would say the first 8 songs are fully acoustic and the last 6 are plugged in for a wide variety of sounds and to keep it interesting. Since the stories were omitted, the songs were mixed together nicely to give us what sounds like one seamless live show and let me tell you it is fantastic! This is the first live album we have of Billy and thankfully not the last.
Here is what the inside of the cover says about Billy. This comes from Bill Flanagan, the executive producer of VH1 Storytellers. He can make anyone sound fantastic. Maybe he can write my obituary when the time comes.
The album kicks off with the song “Cradle of Love” and it is as campy and fun as you remember. The song is so cheesy that even Billy changes the lyrics to tell you that fact himself. I laughed when I heard it. It also shows that a song that might even be bad, is really fun at the same time.
One of the highlights of the album is Steve Stevens. His guitar playing on this album is amazing and well worth it for that alone. Nothing highlights it more than the song “Don’t Need a Gun”. Steve adds a great flamenco style and sound with his acoustic guitar and his playing is fast and ferocious. Billy feeds off that energy and gives a powerful performance. This might actually be the best version of this song EVER!!!
The album is one hit after another including “Flesh for Fantasy” and “White Wedding” which the fans really get into. Another song that Steve and Billy really get in to it and there is no denying the magic these two have when they play together.
They go in to “Sweet Sixteen” next which was made for the acoustic guitar and they play “To Be A Lover” which is sped up with some keyboards thrown in and backing vocals of Stella Soleil which compliments Billy nicely. It is one great performance after another.
“Rebel Yell” comes rocking in with the acoustic which adds a new side to the song, but the acoustic doesn’t change how much they rock this song out. They capture the magic and spirit of the song perfectly and is another highlight of the album.
They go right in to an old Generation X song, “Kiss Me Deadly”. How great it is to hear Steve’s interpretation of the song as he didn’t write it or play on it (hell he didn’t even know Billy at the time this came out). His playing adds a little extra to the song. Billy still sounds great even after 20+ years after the original.
“Eyes Without a Face” starts off acoustic, but it doesn’t last long before the go full on plugged in and the guitar wizardry of the original is returned live and from this point the Billy Idol show is turned up a notch. Stella also returns with the much added backing vocals that this song needs.
The energy is even turned up another notch when they dive in to “Dancing With Myself” and then straight in to another Generation X classic, “Ready Steady Go”. Again, with Steve on guitar it has a different feel, but still as great and what a blast they are having here. You can feel the joy Billy has singing this one.
The opening licks from Steve on “Blue Highway” are cool as shit. And don’t forget “Mony Mony”. That song is always a hit live, of course the crowd has to scream out “Get laid, Get Fucked”. It wouldn’t be the song if they didn’t.
The album ends with the Door’s cover “L.A. Woman”. If you thought the studio version Billy did was sped up and a totally different song then the original, then hold on to your hat because they sped it up even more and it is a frantically fast rock song with no hints whatsoever that this is a Doors song. You are exhausted when it is over…but in a good way.
And that is it. 14 tracks and over an hour long of nothing but hits. I don’t know how much work they did on touching up anything, but they captured a great live performance as Billy and Steve sounded tight and amazing together. Why did they wait so long to get back together. They need each other, no doubt. However, it would still be 3 more years before a new album.
I will give the disc a 4.5 out 5.0 Stars as it sounds amazing and you can’t help but get caught up in the excitement. They sound like they are having so much fun and enjoying every second and it comes through those speakers with all this life and you are sucked in. Pure joy and a must have for any collection!! Get yourself a copy if you see it.
If you want to check out the other reviews I have done so far for the Billy Idol Series, click the links below:
- Generation X – ‘Generation X’
- Generation X – ‘Valley of the Dolls’
- Gen X – ‘Kiss Me Deadly’
- Generation X – ‘The BBC Transcription Disc Series No. 126 1978’
- Billy Idol – Don’t Stop E.P.
- Billy Idol – Billy Idol
- Billy Idol – Rebel Yell
- Billy Idol – Whiplash Smile
- Billy Idol – Vital Idol
- Billy Idol – Charmed Life
- Billy Idol – Cyberpunk
- Billy Idol – “Speed” (song from the Speed Soundtrack)
- Generation X – K.M.D. Sweet Revenge
- Billy Idol – VH1 Storytellers (Live)
- Billy Idol – Devil’s Playground
- Billy Idol – Happy Holidays
- Billy Idol – The Very Best of Billy Idol: Idolize Yourself
- Billy Idol – Kings & Queens of the Underground
- Billy Idol – BFI Live (#RSD 2019)
- Billy Idol – Revitalized
- Generation X – Your Generation (7″ Record Store Day Release)
- Billy Idol – The Albums Ranked From Worst to First
Up next will be Billy Idol’s ‘Devil’s Playground’.