It’s been forty years since Billy Idol released “Rebel Yell”, going solo after fronting the band Generation X.
He was born in 1955, actually a boomer by his birthdate, and he’s gearing up to do two intimate gigs at the Hoover Dam to just a couple of hundred people.
Setting the scene by spelling out the history of the Hoover Dam and showing the sheer spectacle of where it sits, Idol is clearly awed by the surroundings and excited by the opportunity.
Still a punk rocker at heart, he has moved more into a bluesy style in recent years, and the voice has matured and mellowed.
Between Arizona and Nevada, he’s performing right by the state line, in a rocky backdrop in the middle of nowhere.
Planning an acoustic set alongside a fully staged one, this film captures the best of an enduring artist while giving a glimpse into a life in the spotlight (and out of it, as Idol took quite a break before bursting back a couple of decades ago).
As a ‘second British Invasion’ star in the USA, Idol has always carried his British and American identity in his heart and in his songs.
That’s evident here, and it is a joy as a child of the 80s to hear someone from that time sound so good and positive in such a great setting.
We need to acknowledge Steve Stevens, who provides the musical support and tight friendship core any artist needs to give them the challenge and the centre to continue performing and dealing with what life throws at them.
In Billy Idol – State Line I found the sections about the Hoover Dam and the Colorado River very interesting. I’ve never been to the States, and it is fascinating to hear about how climate change and population increase may be impacting the natural world here.
But – the music is the thing, and this is the nearest you’ll get to being in the space where it happened.
We meet the fans, too, the faithful who were children when I was, who listened to Idol and others as the soundtrack of their formative years.
Idol himself seems genuinely fond of his fans and pleased they have stayed with him through the career.
And there’s the guests, led by Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols, to create a rich music palette in a glorious setting. “Treat every show like its the last show,” quips Idol, which is a good mantra, really, to always give more and show yourself at your best.
The cinematography is superb throughout, whether capturing the crowd or the sweep of the dam. It’s simply breathtaking while the human element isn’t forgotten with the love in the room.
To perform after all these years seems to be second nature to these artists in their seventh (or eighth and ninth!) decades.
Billy Idol – State Line Live is both crucial rock documentary and enjoyable concert film. It’s a genre which often gets short shrift while being dismissed as only valuable to core fans of the artist(s) concerns, but I disagree.
Young Billy Broad as was might have had big dreams as a child in Middlesex and later New York and Worthing, but were they this big – the first artist to play in front of “this modern piece of engineering”?
He seems to have beaten his drink and drug demons, and now, as a senior grandad, he is just enjoying life, albeit with the trademark spiky haircut and black leathers.
Directors Vincent Adam Paul and George Scott do a great job making audiences feel like they are in the room – the Nov 14 cinema release should be quite an event.