Niagara Gazette

June 5, 2013

Billy Idol opens Artpark's Tuesday series with serious swagger

By Thom Jennings ngedit@niagara-gazette.com
Night & Day

Night & Day — Billy Idol set the bar high for this year’s Tuesday in the Park series. The ‘80s punk rocker showed off his swagger during a two-hour set filled with his hits and a couple deep cuts from his Generation X days.

Idol came out of the gate strong with a solid version of “Ready Steady Go.” Idol looked every bit as young as he did during his MTV days, changing shirts and going shirtless at various points throughout the evening. There was no shortage of fist pumps and Idol’s devious, toothy, grin.

What made Idol’s music stand out in the ‘80s was his unique blend of pop and punk music. While punk music purists might argue that pop is the antithesis of punk, Idol managed to avoid looking cheesy and somehow reached the masses while maintaining a bad boy anti-establishment image.

Of course Idol’s music is anything but inaccessible to the masses, as was evidenced by the well-behaved crowd, very few of whom were holding onto the Goth look that his fans sported during his heyday.

In fact some of the evening’s highlight were anything but punk, including a wonderful nylon stringed guitar solo from Idol’ longtime musical partner Steve Stevens.

In spite of Idol’s larger-than-life stage presence, he left enough room for the aforementioned Stevens to shine on the guitar at various points of the evening. The tandem of Stevens and Idol was quite a spectacle, and if anyone began the evening not realizing just how great of a guitarist Stevens is, they certainly didn’t leave the venue without a deep appreciation for his prowess on guitar.

Idol aptly described his and Steven’s relationship by noting, “he’s sublime and I am ridiculous.” Idol is still ridiculously good. His voice has not lost any power, and in some ways his phrasing is superior to what is on the original versions of his classic hits.

Nonetheless, what makes the show work is the fact that Idol has somehow managed to avoid the pitfall many of his contemporizes suffer from, he is not a parody of his younger days. Quite the contrary in fact, both he and Steven can sport the rocker hairdo and rocker outfits and still look cool, how they pull it off is somewhat of an enigma, but they certainly do.

Idol has also crafted a set that has great peaks and valleys. The middle of it featured slower songs like “Sweet 16” and “Eyes Without a Face.” They were followed with a mid-tempo version of the Doors classic “L.A Woman,” which Idol changed to “Lewiston Woman” in honor of the venue. (few artists actually acknowledge they are in the town of Lewiston so it was a nice touch).

The regular set ended with a stellar version of “Rebel Yell,“ after which Idol came out onstage with Stevens and the two of them played an acoustic intro to “White Wedding,” before the rest of the band came out and finished it off.

The evening closed with “Mony Mony,” which sent the crowd into the stratosphere. Idol’s live version packed a bigger punch than the recorded version and truly ended the evening on a high note.

 

 

 

Thom Jennings covers the local music scene for Night and Day.