The curtain falls on summer, and while most festivals start to wind down, the MMRBQ takes the baton to give us one final, resonant hurrah. This isn’t just any end-of-season event, it’s the festival that throws in all the dynamite sticks it has and lights the fuse. A spectacular burst of talent, the line-up is more than just musicians playing their instruments; this years lineup has featured artists who’ve etched their names onto our pages, our playlists, and of course, our prestigious “Best of the Year” lists.
Larkin Poe, gracing our lists in the past, bagged the title for the best folk album. Also this year the indomitable force that is Ayron Jones was there. Who at one point also snatched our “Best Rock Album of the Year” award. It wasn’t just for his riffs, but for the raw, gritty soul he pours into every track. He’s the embodiment of what rock should feel like.
And Dirty Honey, those guys are always great to see. With the buzz of an impending album release, the air is thick with anticipation. And if you’ve been with us for a while, you’d recall that fantastic interview we had with them. If you missed out on that gem, don’t fret, just swing by our interviews section and dive deep.
The 2023 MMRBQ is more than just an event; it’s a culmination. A culmination of the summer, of sound, and of stories that bands like these bring to life. So, as the sun sets on this season’s festival journey, let’s revel in the crescendo that MMRBQ was, and we start, with a punk rock idol.
When the name “Billy Idol” is uttered, for many, it’s like a bolt of lightning straight through rock and roll history. Spiked hair, that snarl, and attitude that screams pure punk – it’s all emblematic of a legend who’s stood the test of time. This year, at the Freedom Mortgage Pavilion in Jersey, as part of the 2023 MMRBQ powered by 93.3 WMMR, Idol didn’t just perform, he reasserted his legendary status. The vast sea of attendees, spanning fans who’ve been with him since the ’80s to Gen Z-ers discovering his hits on retro playlists, were all there for one thing: the Billy Idol experience.
Opening with the electrifying Generation X hit, “Dancing With Myself,” he didn’t just get the crowd moving; he had them pulsating to his rhythm. The track, originally an ode to resilience and defiance, transformed into a collective anthem of joy, echoing across the pavilion with many dancing, quite literally, with themselves. It’s this power, the capability to stir emotion and provoke movement, that underscores Billy Idol’s indomitable presence.
Having whipped the crowd into an electrified frenzy with “Dancing With Myself”, Billy wasn’t one to let the momentum dip. With the keen instinct of a seasoned performer, he sensed the crowd’s pulse and played to it, seamlessly transitioning to his next move.
With a mischievous twinkle in his eye and that iconic grin, Idol began engaging directly with the crowd. Bantering, pointing out to eager fans, and even sharing brief, yet memorable anecdotes. The environment was electric, more of a wild, boisterous gathering of friends than a concert, really. Billy has always had this uncanny ability to make even colossal crowds feel intimate, like he’s jamming out in your living room.
Then, as the crowd still resonated with the echoes of the previous song, Idol and his band rolled into the unmistakable opening chords of “Rock the Cradle of Love.” Released in 1990 as part of his ‘Charmed Life’ album. It showcased a slightly more polished, yet still rebellious sound from Billy. The track’s catchy melody, fused with its edgy undertones, had it climb charts and remain a favorite in rock rotations for years.
Just when one thought the high couldn’t get any higher, out came Steve Stevens, wielding his guitar like some sort of modern-day Excalibur. The notes he played weren’t just sounds; they were emotions manifested in musical form. With a flourish, he heralded the intro to “Flesh for Fantasy”, and the crowd lost it. Every bend, every pluck resonated, amplifying the atmosphere tenfold. Stevens has always been more than just a guitarist to Billy Idol; he’s an integral part of the musical tapestry they weave, and moments like these underscored that sentiment. And lets not forget, this guy has to be one of the best to ever pick up a six string.
Billy, feeding off the energy, took a moment to address the ocean of faces before him. With heartfelt words, he shared how genuinely fantastic his time on stage was. In classic Idol style, he painted a picture of the night, emphasizing that this wasn’t just his party – it was everyone’s. Every soul in the pavilion was an essential piece of this musical jigsaw. The feeling was mutual; the crowd wasn’t just spectators, they were participants, reveling in the communion of rock. Without allowing the energy to dissipate, the band powered into “Cage”. A lesser-known gem but with all the hallmarks of an Idol classic. But the rollercoaster wasn’t over. Up next was their rendition of William Bell’s “To Be A Lover”.
Taking center stage yet again was Steve Stevens, proving his unmatched versatility. This time, the atmosphere was more intimate as he wielded an acoustic guitar, teasing out the delicate and hauntingly beautiful intro to “Eyes Without a Face”. The shift in mood was tangible. The once raucous crowd was now swaying, hanging onto every note, every word. This track, a poignant blend of rock and ballad, showcased Billy’s ability to weave intricate emotions into his music.
Just when the introspective vibes of “Eyes Without a Face” settled in, the unmistakable intro to “Mony Mony” blasted through the speakers. A cover of Tommy James and the Shondells’ hit, Billy’s version has always been rawer, edgier, and packed with attitude. The Pavilion transformed into a dance party, with fans belting out the chorus, jumping, and letting loose. The communal energy was infectious, proving that classics, when rendered with respect and innovation, never fade.
Keeping the momentum alive, the unmistakable strains of “Rebel Yell” followed. With its anthemic chorus and unforgettable guitar riffs, it was a trip down memory lane for many and an adrenaline-pumping experience for all. Billy’s vocals, fierce and powerful, resonated with the same energy as they did decades ago, much to the delight of the audience.
Then, painting a picture of a sultry summer scene, “Hot in the City” came on. Its evocative lyrics and Billy’s sultry delivery turned the pavilion into a neon-lit dreamscape, with fans singing along, lost in the magic of the moment.
As the night inched towards its conclusion, there was still one grand act left in Billy Idol’s arsenal. The initial chords of “White Wedding” echoed throughout the pavilion, and a collective cheer erupted. This wasn’t just a song; for many, it was a rite of passage. An anthem of a generation, “White Wedding” encapsulates Billy’s unique blend of punk aggression and pop sensibility. As he belted out the iconic chorus, every person in the venue joined in, blurring the lines between artist and audience, past and present.
It was a fitting end to an unforgettable evening. Billy Idol didn’t just perform; he took everyone on a journey through the annals of rock, reminiscing about bygone eras while basking in the present’s electric energy. The 2023 MMRBQ, with Billy as one of its headliners, was a showcase to the enduring power of music, its ability to unite generations, and the magic that ensues when legends grace the stage.
Billy Idol had, once again, proven why he’s rock royalty. And for everyone who was part of this musical odyssey, it was a night that would resonate for years to come.