There aren’t too many survivors of MTV’s golden age that have weathered the ravages of time, be it their talent (studio or live) or physical presence. And that’s understandable. Three decades will change almost everyone. I can’t really attest to Idol’s studio side of things over the past few records, but with as his show kicked off at the Orpheum with the hard charging “Postcards From The Past” from last year’s Kings & Queens Of The Underground, things were looking up. Long-time cohort Steve Stevens was also along for the ride, sartorially glam and having lost none of his fretboard prowess.
Opening band Broncho took the stage beforehand under somewhat chilly conditions. The frigid air streamed through the doors while people streamed into the show, but the group’s kinetic energy on stage warmed their immediate environment, unleashing a sound was a quasi-mix of Sonic Youth guitars set to shoe-gaze mode with maximum treble, coupled with the clipped vocal delivery of Adam Granduciel of The War On Drugs.
Ultimately, the sold out crowd was instantly on board with what Idol was giving them. perched from atop an industrial grate installed over the stage monitors, he’d leap from and prowl the stage to ham it up with his band. Clearly, he’s all about having fun these days, a point that was driven home repeatedly. “Eyes Without A Face” still holds up as a great hybrid of classic Bowie with the slightly detached, romantic feel of the verses, and a walloping glam rock chorus that snapped neck hairs to attention. Stevens clearly reveled in these moments, and his black fingernail polish practically wore off from abuse before your eyes.
But glam wasn’t all he doled out. He dropped in some total flash Steely Dan licks in “Flesh For Fantasy,” did a solo that heavily dipped into Flamenco waters (and weirdly grafted a Led Zep medley into it), and in a most unexpected twist, poured Frippertronics-type noodling all over “Blue Highway” which really made it stand out.
Not everything clicked though. While the transmogrification of “L. A. Woman” into “Boston Woman” was a tad pandering, it was better than the severely dated “King Rocker” from Idol’s Generation X days which felt like a paint-by-prime-numbers punk ditty. But Idol’s boundless energy carried the night, and then some. Spotting an ardent fan in a wheelchair over at stage right, he tossed a drumstick that way, and after seeing that it didn’t reach its intended target, he grabbed another one and made sure the second delivery was successful. Clean living has also been an integral part of his lifestyle. His patented lip sneer was 100% intact, and not too many 59-year-olds can go shirtless and pull it off. Stevens should take note and drink more kale smoothies.
Primarily based in Boston, Massachusetts, Tim Bugbee is no stranger to traveling throughout the country or overseas to capture the best live music photos.