By Thom Jennings
Niagara Gazette — One dozen shows, 14 headliners, and well over 24 hours of music, which is how I spent my Tuesdays this summer, starting on June 4 with Billy Idol and ending on Aug. 27 with ZZ Top.
In honor of a great season, I would like to happily present the first annual Tuesday in the Park Awards. The winners do not receive a cool statue, nor will any former child stars dance provocatively at an awards ceremony, it’s all for fun.
And the awards go to:
• BEST RETURN PERFORMANCE: There were plenty of return acts to choose from, 38 Special, Blue Oyster Cult, The Machine, ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd. I struggled with this one a bit because The Machine really played well but 38 Special deserves the honor of best return performance. In spite of the absence of a key member of the band, 38 Special’s show was simply fantastic, and they threw in some pretty cool cover tunes that they had not played when they were at Artpark a couple of years ago.
• BEST PERFORMANCE BY A ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAMER: There were four inductees that played at the series, but the one that put on the best performance was Gladys Knight without a doubt. Ms. Knight was enthusiastic and really connected with the audience. I dare say that there was nobody that could follow her performance and The O’Jay’s tried, but Gladys clearly overshadowed them.
• MOST ENTHUSIASTIC CROWD: There were a lot of great crowds, including the one for Gladys Knight. Two of them really stood out in my mind, they were at REO Speedwagon and Chicago. They were a different mix of people but they were both really enthusiastic, especially when the bands played their big hits. It’s close, but I have to give this one to REO Speedwagon. The crowd actually pulled off the rare act of getting the band to play an unscheduled encore, “Gloria.”
• BEST FRONTMAN: Yes, I know it is gender specific, but there was only one female headliner in the series. This one is a tough contest between Billy Idol and Bad Company’s Paul Rogers. Billy Idol had such amazing swagger it’s really hard not to award this to him, but Paul Rogers strutted around the stage like he owned the place. It’s close, but I have to give this one to Idol even though I am a longtime Paul Rogers fan.
• MOST CAFFEINATED CROWD: There were two shows where the line at Tim Horton’s was longer than the beer line. As surprising as this is, during Lynyrd Skynyrd’s show this year it was very cold for August and at one point the coffee line clearly was longer than the beer line. Nevertheless, Blue Rodeo brought the Canadians and their love of coffee, the line was ridiculously long all night. It is important to mention that Blue Rodeo’s wonderful performance required no caffeine to make it better.
• DANCING IN THE AISLES AWARD: One of my favorite things to see at a concert is people breaking out in random acts of dancing. Fans really got caught up in the moment at The Doobie Brothers, Chicago, and ZZ Top. Of the three, I have to give this one to The Doobie Brothers. It was a really fun show and the crowd was dancing all night.
• BEST SONG: The easy answer would be “Freebird” by Skynyrd, but seeing all those deceased members names scrolling behind them as the song played was a downer, even if it was a fitting tribute. There are two songs I distinctly remember being really great, Bad Company’s opening version of “Rock and Roll Fantasy,” and Joan Jett’s “I Hate Myself for Loving You.” I am going with Joan Jett because I spent the next week humming the song, and just thinking about it now is making me hum it again.
• BEST SHOW OF THE SEASON: This one always gets me in trouble when I do the overview for another local series. Again, this is pretty tough, there were so many great shows. Since I have to choose one I will go with Bad Company. They were really solid and they are a band that has not toured a lot in the last 20 years so it was quite a catch for Artpark.Thom Jennings covers the local music scene for Night and Day.