LEWISTON – “It’s a memory that will last/It’s like a postcard from the past.”
While that could be a slogan for the 12 weeks of soft-ticket concerts that make up the 12th season of First Niagara Presents Tuesdays in the Park at Artpark, it’s actually a lyric sung by Billy Idol early in a powerful performance that marked the opening of the marquee series at the Lewiston institution that turns 40 this year.
The beauty of that lyric in the context of this concert series is that in spite of the gripes of many about an “over the hill” series lineup, “Postcards from the Past” is a new number from the 57-year-old star from the “Second British Invasion” brought on by a nascent MTV in the early 1980s.
Idol didn’t offer many new songs in a set that nearly reached 120 minutes, nor did he need to – surely, most of the 9,000 or so who paid as little as $10 to see him were happy to hearken back to his heyday, as is the norm on summer Tuesdays at Artpark. That said, the rebel for the masses commanded the crowd as if he’s still in his prime and on the prowl.
Appropriate for a performer who evolved from the London punk followers of the Sex Pistols to an international sex symbol, Idol first saluted the crowd not with the sign of the horns but with a simple thumbs-up and a mile-wide smile.
With his ascending yell of, “Are! You! Ready! Let’s Goooo!” his five-piece band led by gaudy guitarist Steve Stevens kicked into Idol’s 1978 Generation X single “Ready Steady Go,” in which the singer admits his idolization of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones in defiance of his punk pals.
The early solo hit Idol carried over from Gen X, “Dancing with Myself,” complete with his baritone hues of Buddy Holly, showed that the band came to entertain from the get-go, as Stevens played with his guitar behind his head before breaking into windmills and Idol unleashed his patented primal roar in full form, to be repeated frequently.
During the sultry groove of another early staple, “Flesh for Fantasy,” Idol pulled from the front row a fan’s sign bearing the song, held it out to the crowd and pressed it to his now-bare chest before handing it back, then angled to the edge of the stage toward the hillside fans farthest from him, pointing to the top and clenching his fist as he shouted repeatedly, “Flesh!” in an urgent yet comical combination of punk and lust.
The remaining set balanced a few new songs with deep cuts and scattered hits such as “Eyes Without a Face” followed by a signature cover of The Doors’ “L.A. Woman.” The set closed, of course, with a “Rebel Yell,” “White Wedding” and “Mony Mony” string that proved a nice way to start again a hit-parade summer of fun concerts at Artpark.
The thousands who arrived in time for opening throwback quartet Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown saw the bar set high and heavy.
The band blasted out the blues at the roots of riff rock, led by Bryant’s alternating between searing electric and crossroads resonator guitars in a style that suggested the 22-year-old Northeast Texas native now based in Nashville has a high ceiling ahead of him.