February 15, 2015
Sandwiched between a national holiday that flaunts our elected leaders and a Hallmark holiday which haunts selective breeders, Sunday night at the Fox delivered a terrific two-course meal of new flavor and aged meat. The marquee of the art-deco masterpiece and Downtown Oakland were buzzing, as fans of all ages filed into the theater to see a presidential figure of rock and roll. The state of this union? Shirtless and salient.
[jump] Oklahoma natives Broncho opened the night at 8 sharp with some cuts from their newest release, Just Enough Hip to be Woman, showcasing their brand of infectious post-punk to an audience who was mostly unfamiliar with it (overheard in the front section: “I like this band!”). Ryan Lindsey twitched as he churned out stripped down power chords and waggish vocals center stage, connected to a live wire and charging the battery for impending Idol worship. Broncho's five-piece arrangement was tethered by Ben King, Lindsey’s first mate who's thick glasses and slicked back hair remained stable throughout the energetic performance. The set ventured into their fantastic first release, Can't Get Past The Lips, with two-minute wondersongs “Try Me Out Sometime,” “Psychiatrist,” and “Liquor Store” firing in machine-gun succession. The band took a quick breather to tune, and Ryan thanked everyone for coming early before dodododododoing his way into “Class Historian.” (NPR loves that tune.)
I had a chance to catch up with Ryan and Ben after their show, huddled around some of Steve Stevens' portable wardrobe units in the catacombs underneath the stage. Apparently the last time they came here, someone tweeted to them “your band is trash,” which they seemed pretty proud of and proceeded to retweet. After getting snowed in on the East Coast they were happy to be spending the tail end of their tour in California; Ryan's parents live fairly close and were at the show supporting their progeny.
When the house lights went dark for the headlining act, audible excitement circled the building as people wondered what was going to unfold. Billy Idol was in Oakland, assuredly alive in body and spirit. The MTV idol hasn't lost a step in years of what must be an exhausting calling; it's not easy being a conduit for Generation X's suburban angst. Idol's timelessness is exactly that, and he carries the torch of rock and roll like it never got passed in the first place. The first song Billy and his big-haired bandmates unleashed was “Postcards From The Past,” a fitting analogy for the musicians on stage who've been preserved in carbonite for the audience's nostalgia-fueled pleasure. Make no mistake, the musicianship of Steve Stevens and charisma of Billy Idol are without a doubt engrossing regardless of age. At times the show felt like a tangible connection to a different era when live music and, most importantly, music videos reigned supreme; wailing guitar solos, leather jackets, sneering while pointing your ax at the crowd, and even a duckwalk — this show had it all.
The set was complete with all the hits and a few surprises. “Eyes Without A Face” faded into a cover of “L.A. Woman,” with Idol donning a guitar and singing “Oakland” instead of L.A.” during the chorus (does he do that for every city?). After that, Stevens was granted a solo showcase in which he had the whole stage to himself, smoking a cigarette and ripping through classic riffs and a flamenco guitar display that El Mariachi could hum while firing his pistola.
The band came back and closed with “Rebel Yell,” then did “White Wedding” and “Mony Mony” as an encore; everyone sang along and smiled, pumping clenched fists as Billy Idol puppeteered the crowd into a fervor. He introduced the band, passed out set lists, guitar picks, and drumsticks to people in the front row, and thanked the room from top to bottom for “making this an amazing night.”
You're welcome, Billy. And thank you for always being consistently brazen, voltaic, and more, more, more.
Broncho is back in the Bay with a show at The Independent on March 31.