US TOUR: WEEK TWO

I’d like to pause for a second and show you around. Two tour busses, semi’s full of enough flight cases to build a pretty decent one-bedroom apartment, more lights than Lamps Plus on Labor Day weekend, and a bunch of guys dressed in black, with baseball hats, mag lights, rolls of gaffa tape and a slightly jaded expression to put it all together every night. And then break it down. And then put it back together again in the next city. The Billy Idol crew is awesome. Simple as that. They keep the stage clean, drama-free (well, until we get on it, that is!!) and looking and sounding the same, day after day. Which is very important for us. So the second night at Pechanga was a bonus for them, as everything was already built, and left standing from the first show on the Wednesday. When I arrived back at the venue on Friday, the mood was relaxed, nothing really needed tweaking, and we were ready to go again. Billy was in fine form and we shot the latest Idol TV episode while we were hanging around – it should be up by now, and if it’s not…. Well, I can’t get it all done at once!! The actual show was noisier than the first, with the audience making themselves very much heard. We love this, and I think we should start making notes here – let’s see exactly who is the loudest audience of the whole tour. Think you can (to quote our amazing drummer, Mr Jeremy Colson) …… “make some f#*cking noise”??? Then let’s see what you got!

After the second Pechanga show, it was back to Los Angeles and on to the home-town gig. The Palladium in Hollywood. Recently redone, the place is just perfect for a rock n roll show. A huge, sweeping balcony runs around the edge of the room, and the floor is all standing room, enabling the place to have that ‘packed to the edges’ feel that serves our kind of guitar-driven rock so well. Steve Stevens and his wife had some cameras with them during the afternoon, and the mood was definitely upbeat and showbiz, and they both looked 100% rock n roll and had a lot of fun with it all – I had my guy from Gibson guitars come down and hang out, and the phone (as always) started to blow up with casual….”so, um…. You playin tonight?”….type texts – circumventing actually asking outright, but kind of casting a virtual hook to see what lands. Day of show, people. Day of show. The phone gets switched off!! As the venue filled up, the energy levels rose and eventually the room was packed (the show was sold out) and we were amped up and ready for the big rock n roll show.

Ready Steady Go started as usual and the whole ‘entrance to the stage’ thing went down amazingly – with Billy singing the first verse of the song from the platform. The sound onstage and in our ears was strong and consistant and I felt good. Fingers doing what they should, mind focused on the songs and not what I was going to eat after the show (trust me, my head is an interesting place to be while I am onstage!!)……suddenly we are four songs into the set and it feels like seconds. This one’s gonna go by real quick. I start to take the audience in and its fantastic. The beautiful people of Hollywood are out in force, showing that Billy Idol is respected, honored and a force to be reckoned with…..and the band plays behind him like a train. Its amazing and I feel sharp and in tune with the gig. King Rocker and Running With The Boss Sound are perfect slices of Billy’s punk catalogue and go down a storm tonight, in a city that understands and appreciates punk. Rebel Yell (one of the most iconic songs in the last 30 years) still gets every single hand in the air, and every voice screaming ‘more more more’ – the show is a special one. If you were there, you’ll know this. For the encore, I am honored to bring out a very special guitar – owned by the late Doug Fieger of The Knack, it’s a fantastic Gretsch White Falcon. Doug was a friend, and the guitar is owned by a very close mutual friend who lets me play it on White Wedding – what an amazing looking and sounding guitar.

After the hectic home-town show, Jeremy and I ride up to San Francisco overnight on the bus. Everyone else chooses to fly up to the next show on the Monday – the day of show. But I hate airports and figure that a day off in a nice hotel in a beautiful city like San Fran is not a bad thing. And riding the bus with just two people on it is not too shabby either!! We talk late into the night and enjoy a good, quiet few hours sleep in the bunks before waking up right outside the hotel. Ahh – the only way to roll!! I spend the rest of that day off literally doing….nothing! I watch a few episodes of Warehouse 13 (gotta love the cheesy SciFi) and The Book Of Eli movie (not bad, a little cumbersome in places) and read 100 pages of a new book called American Junkie (not for the faint of heart). And so endeth the day off for William Morrison. Sometimes, the best plan of action is no action at all. I wake up the next day feeling refreshed and ready to rock. Today is Saratoga – The Mountain Winery – and after an hour of cardio in the gym, and the worlds most expensive turkey sandwich in the Ritz Carlton (I mean, seriously??), we jump on the bus, meet the others at the airport, and roll to the venue.

There is a certain wordiness that comes over me when I see natural beauty……”the silent, rolling vista stretched out before me, as the early evening mists settled on an unspoilt landscape”……Shelly, Byron, Keates, Morrison. Hahaha!! And this open air, steep sided, quaint looking amphitheatre is set in gorgeous Silicon Valley countryside. As the sun sets, it starts to get cooler, and the shadows truly make an amazing sight, until the sun is gone, and its time to play. The stage is much smaller than we are used to, so for this one show, the stairs, platform and our playground are removed, It feels like a very intimate club show, and with less running around I play an almost note-perfect set. I have to admit that it was a strange one for me – the audience were great, noisy, appreciative, but somehow it felt distant. Maybe because the previous LA extravaganza was so fresh in my mind. Either way, the show went off without drama. Well, almost – the suede pants I started the set wearing lasted about one song and split from crotch to knee! Another wardrobe malfunction for Morrison, and during Steve’s solo, I ran down to the dressing room and threw some jeans on. Oh well, splitting your pants onstage is a rock n roll thing to do, I guess!! We ran off the stage and into a van to get us down the mountainside before all the traffic and that was that. Back to the hotel and get some rest before the Fillmore in San Francisco.

I love San Francisco. It has a laid-back vibe, some colorful characters and some of the best venues for rock n roll in America. It’s the site of the last ever original Pistols gig in 1978 – Winterland (although the venue doesn’t exist anymore). And our show is at the Fillmore … again, not the original site, but still steeped in rock mythology and folklore. The only thing about the place is the hills. THE HILLS!! I left the hotel to grab a coffee and walked down to the Starbucks in Chinatown and almost had to call a cab to get back. And I’ve been doing an hour of cardio in the gym every day!! I mean, these are steep fucking hills here!! But I managed to crawl back to the hotel, calf muscles on fire, and collapsed into Jeremy’s car. Off to the Height for a quick look around and a slice of pizza. An interesting thing has happened up there now – the drugs have changed from LSD and grass, to smack and crystal meth. And so the street personality has changed. From ‘make love not war’, to ‘give me your fucking money’. The tie-dye tee’s still hang in the store windows, and the tourists still flock to smell the lingering odour of the Grateful Dead. But the new-skool addiction that is obvious everywhere you look has really colored the area. And not in a multi-dimensional, rainbow hued hippy way. More of a pale grey, bleached out Trainspotting kind of way. It’s a shame, and we leave, shaking the vibe as we go.

The gig is amazing, sold out, noisy, hot and sweaty. The stage is too small to fit the platform and staircases, but we run around anyway, jumping over the monitors and connecting with the front rows that are pressed against the barriers. I love the feel of these gigs. Billy is obviously having a blast tonight, singing every note and giving himself over to the performance – making each person in the room put their fists in the air and sing along. Steve Stevens, dressed all in red tonight, is channeling the Johnny Thunders/New York Dolls thing perfectly. And he plays like it’s the last gig in the world. Incredible. Jeremy, Derek, McG and myself follow this with a tight, rocking set and we all feel amazing when we finish the show. There are people everywhere when we leave the venue and get on the bus, bound for….. well, I don’t honestly know at the time, and I don’t care. The trick for me here is to know as little as possible. It could be 11.00pm on a Tuesday, or it could be 4.00am on a Sunday. Who knows. Who really wants to know? I, for one, am happiest when I have no idea where or when it is. And safe in the knowledge that someone will tell me when its 10 minutes before onstage time. What a life.

Billy Morrison