Next Avenue Logo

Billy Idol on His Hoover Dam Concert, His Career and More, More, More

The 80s rocker with the famous snarl — now a grandfather — talks about being the first musician to perform at the Hoover Dam 

By Michele Wojciechowski

Imagine sitting in a college or university classroom waiting for the instructor to arrive. When he walks in, he's sporting black leather, studded wristbands and blond, spiky hair.

While that's not exactly the direction that rocker Billy Idol's career took, it could have, as he says in "Billy Idol: State Line," the new film that documents the first concert ever played at the Hoover Dam.

Billy Idol holding a microphone while performing on stage. Next Avenue
Billy Idol performing at the Hoover Dam, 2023  |  Credit: via

Idol admits that he loves history. And if the music thing hadn't panned out, he definitely could have seen himself working as a university professor teaching the subject he loves.

Fans, though, are happy it did work out and can't imagine not having songs such as "Rebel Yell," "White Wedding," "Eyes without a Face," and many more to listen to and watch him perform.

"I've got grandchildren, and I'm thinking now about what life's going to be like them in the future."

At 68 years old, the grandfather of four — yes, we said "grandfather" — is still going strong.

Well Dam!

You may be asking why Idol would choose to play a concert at the Hoover Dam. He says that part of it came from his concern for his grandkids.

"I've got grandchildren, and I'm thinking now about what life's going to be like for them in the future. I was thinking about the effects of the drought and the Hoover Dam and the Colorado [River Basin], and just how the world is going to be when they're 80 years old," Idol says. "I do have a big reason for wanting the world to be safe for them."

He's also interested in bringing attention to water conservation, which he does both via this concert as well as in a number of public service announcement being released by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

"The drought conditions prevalent in the American West are severe and impossible to ignore. It takes all of us conserving water in whatever ways we can to preserve the future of our natural resources for our grandkids and beyond. I'm proud to help amplify this issue in whatever way I can," Idol says in a statement.

And although he wanted to help the world, this badass also wanted to do something really cool.

Billy Idol smirking in an alleyway. Next Avenue
Billy Idol  |  Credit: Photo by Steven Sebring

The Concert at Hoover Dam

Back to history. Idol is big on water conservation, but he thought performing at the Hoover Dam would also be, well, cool.

"It's just so scenic, you know? The Dam's very iconic. Even in England, we learned about the Hoover Dam being work projects with the New Deal," Idol says. "We've played a million places, but we've never played at a Dam before. So it was just pretty incredible. Someone like me, I've seen the Hoover Dam in Hitchcock's 'Saboteur' [the director's 1942 spy thriller], but it's also in '711 Ocean Drive,' an Edmond O'Brien film that ends on the Hoover Dam."


The concert is played in two parts. First, Idol and his longtime guitarist, the iconic Steve Stevens, play an acoustic set by themselves on the roof of the power house at the foot of the Hoover Dam, straddling the Colorado River. In addition, they're directly on the state line of Nevada and Arizona, as Idol demonstrates.

At sunset, Idol plays with a full band including Stevens, along with special guests Alison Mosshart [of The Kills and The Dead Weather], Steve Jones [Sex Pistols and Generation Sex], and Tony Kanal [No Doubt].

"Even though it's got a little deeper or a little bit of gravel in it, well, you need to bring a bit of dirt."

The scenery is gorgeous, and the music — performed in front of only 250 Idol fans is rockin.'

"You feel that energy. We were kind of where the helipad was; it was kind of on two sides. There was a wall in front of us so somehow it really contained the sound because we were in this kind of bowl. It really added ambiance to the sound. It gave it this yumminess," says Idol with a laugh.

"The Hoover Dam just evokes a lot. It looks fantastic behind us," admits Idol. "Maybe it's not a bad thing to reflect on this slightly more desperate time where Americans really did pull together."

The Famous Voice

When Idol sings in "State Line," his voice sounds amazing. But let's face it: when you think of Billy Idol you don't really picture him sipping tea with honey backstage to preserve the pipes.

Not surprisingly, he doesn't.

"I found that if you keep working your voice, things happen. I'm really lucky. Even though it's got a little deeper or a little bit of gravel in it, well, you need to bring a bit of dirt. Actually, this little bit of dirt I got is aiding everything," Idol says.

He adds that he watched other rock stars push their voices so that when they got older, sometimes they just couldn't even sing at all or at least not sing the way they once did.

"Maturity of the voice is really interesting. I was never really pushing. I was never singing out of my range. I was always just in the right place for me, you know? I was just being me," says Idol. "I've seen other people get older and can't sing like they used to. Some people get better. Maybe I'm one of those."

After playing with Steve Stevens for 40 years, Idol feels lucky. "It's worked out in a good way," he says. "I've got a maturity, but I've still got fire!"

"Billy Idol: State Line" is available on DVD and Blu-Ray now. For more information on his future tours, which begin again in February, check out

Contributor Michele Wojciechowski
Michele Wojciechowski Michele "Wojo" Wojciechowski is an award-winning writer who lives in Baltimore, Md. She's the author of the humor book Next Time I Move, They'll Carry Me Out in a Box. Reach her at Read More
Next Avenue LogoMeeting the needs and unleashing the potential of older Americans through media
©2024 Next AvenuePrivacy PolicyTerms of Use
A nonprofit journalism website produced by:
TPT Logo