Rock icon plays at Salt

| 07 Mar 2012 | 01:37

BYRAM — Internationally recognized rock guitarist Steve Stevens captivated the audience from the new stage at Salt Gastropub on Feb. 28. Stevens is the lead guitarist for Billy Idol. During the set, Stevens abandoned noisy hard rock to give the audience an intimate display of his considerable skill in other styles of play. Still sporting his crazy, teased out, jet-black and big hair, his performance appeared effortless at times. After starting the night out with a flamenco-infused piece, his fingers weaved their way through notable songs like "Hocus Pocus," "Eyes Without A Face," "Light My Fire," "The Wind Cries Mary," and of course, Billy Idol's top hit "Rebel Yell." Stevens made his entrance into the great rock-n-roll arena in the early 80s and is mostly known as the guitarist for Billy Idol from 1981-1986 and from 2001 to the present. The group was one of the earliest to be seen on MTV when the network was changing the pop culture landscape. In addition to those accolades, Michael Jackson brought him in to play guitar on "Dirty Diana." “It was an honor," said Stevens, after the show at Salt. "To walk into the studio with Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones was mind-blowing.” During his hiatus from performing with Billy Idol, Stevens brought home the heavy metal in the form of a Grammy Award for the instrumental song “Top Gun Anthem” that is featured in the iconic movie. This guitar aficionado grew up in Far Rockaway, Queens, and attended the FAME School Of Performing Arts in New York City. Stevens was influenced by 70s rock bands Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and other early English guitar-hero bands. He formed his first band in Manhattan in 1979. Although not a musician, his father was very supportive and shared his own love of music through his record collection which expanded young Stevens' knowledge base to include jazz and classical music. Stevens first guitar teacher was the sister of Phil Ochs, a well-known protest musician who also lived in Far Rockaway. Stevens said his 30-year career is based on studying music to the point of being able to figure out how to play without notation. “I don’t really read music, so I can’t be a session musician," said Stevens. "I get called by people to come in and play with them and they basically say ‘just do your thing.'" Stevens was part of the supergroup Bozzio Levin Stevens and recorded two instrumental albums of rock and jazz fusion. Other collaborations run the musical gamut, from Vince Neil of Motley Crue, the Thompson Twins, Joni Mitchell and techno band Juno Reactor. Stevens and his wife Josie are currently based in Los Angeles, and are one of the couples on the E! television reality show "Married to Rock."