By Thom Jennings
Niagara Gazette — This Tuesday marks the beginning of Artpark’s Tuesday in the Park series. The series will feature more improvements, including an additional Jumbotron video screen, enhanced sound and additional non-smoking areas.
Those improvements are nice, but what really counts is what’s happening onstage and the series opener literally packs a punch, the fist-pumping punk rocker that dominated MTV in the 1980s, Billy Idol.
As if that was not enough, the opening act Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown are well worth arriving early to catch. Bryant was featured in one of my favorite music documentaries of all time, “Rock Prophecies.” Bryant is a future guitar god; I am thrilled that he is the bill.
Inasmuch as I am eager to see Bryant, the evenings feature performer is one everybody should be excited to see. Billy Idol helped define MTV’s heyday ( the era when the station was an outlet for new music promotion and not a cesspool of crappy reality shows) with songs like “White Wedding,” Rebel Yell” and “Eyes Without a Face.”
Idol began his music career in the 1970s with the English punk rock band Generation X, a group that released three albums during their short tenure together, and were the first punk band to appear on the legendary UK music program "Top of the Pops." Idol opens many of his shows with the Generation X song “Ready Steady Go.”
After Generation X disbanded, Idol moved to New York City and hooked up with his longtime musical partner, guitarist Steve Stevens, who still performs with Idol. The duo recorded Idol’s eponymous debut, which was released in July of 1982. The album contained three of Idol’s most recognizable songs including “White Wedding,”” Mony Mony” and “Dancing With Myself.”
Idol’s version of the Tommy James hit “Mony Mony” was heard in dance clubs for many years, and there is a famous call and response during the instrumental that is not suitable for print (there should be a few fans that scream it out during the show if he plays the song). A live version of the song released two years after the studio version hit number one in the U.S. “Dancing with Myself” was a remake of a song Idol originally recorded with Generation X.
Unlike all too many of his MTV era contemporaries, Idol continued to release successful albums through the 1980s and into the early 1990s, cranking out hits like “Rebel Yell,” “Eyes Without a Face,” “To Be a Lover,” and “Cradle of Love.”
At the end of the 1990s Idol’s appearance in Adam Sandler’s “The Wedding Singer,” thrust him back into the spotlight. The scene in the movie, where Idol plays himself, is a classic. In the scene, a sympathetic Idol helps wedding singer Robbie Hart (played by Sandler) reunite with his girlfriend when it’s discovered they are on the same flight.
Idol’s last studio album of original material, “Devil’s Playground,” was released in 2005. The album contains the song “Scream,” which appeared on an episode of the television show “Viva La Bam.”
Idol’s current band includes the aforementioned Stevens and former Dream Theater and Black Country Communion keyboardist Derek Shernian.
Tickets for Billy Idol at Artpark are $15 for general admission and available at the Artpark box office or online at Artpark.net. There are VIP and front of the stage ticket options available as well. You may bring lawn chairs to the amphitheater, but no food or drinks may be brought in to the show.Thom Jennings covers the local music scene for the Gazette and Night & Day.