The legendary Bryan Adams and Billy Idol, both masters of the heartfelt lyric and manly rock poses throughout their long careers, played Darien Lake Amphitheater Friday, a rainy night that left ardent fans watching from the lawn a little soggy.
Despite being diplomatically billed as co-headliners, the main event was Adams' "Shine a Light Tour" in honor of the Canadian artist's 14th release.
The starring vocalists share the limelight with their respective lead guitarists and collaborators: Adams' bandmate Keith Scott and Idols' Steve Stevens propelled much of the onstage energy. Expansive solos by both, especially interludes by Stevens, gave some respite to the vocalists and charged things up sonically.
Idol, although visually punk in black leather and his still-handsome signature sneer, is a tender, lyrical singer: The voice, a little tremulous for the first song, 1982 mega-hit "Dancing with Myself," quickly got up to speed. Peppered with his signature air punches, the song got the crowd singing, dancing and in partying mode.
"Darien … Buffalo, c'mon!" Idol yelled, "we're gonna have a good time." That was ensured when, after changing up his outfit for the first time (back to audience, curiously modest), Idol's shirt was now opened wide and, after the first of several solos by Stevens, Idol strapped on his own guitar for the band's cover of The Doors' "L.A. Woman." A mere prop, his guitar would largely hang loose, but looked good, especially for the end-of-song pose, fist up.
"I'm just here to warm things up right now,"Idol said, with surprising humility. The bands, it should be noted, are appearing on the same bill for only eight cities of the Adams tour.
"The Ghosts in My Guitar," an Idol song from his 2014 release "Kings & Queens of the Underground," was dedicated to the singer's late father, a stream of personal family photographs projected behind the band. It was on to more popular "Eyes Without a Face," flowing into an incredible Stevens flamenco solo that touched on a little Led Zeppelin.
It would take a few more numbers to get to the jewel of the set, Idol's signature "Rebel Yell," the audience jubilantly joining in for all the "more, more, mores." Idol removed his sparkly black t-shirt he'd donned mid-set, tossing it to some lucky fan in front of the stage. He returned for a single encore song, "White Wedding."
The Adams portion of the night began with a short, feel-good video explaining that each concert ticket sold equaled one tree being planted by the tour's "official logistics partner," DHL. The ensemble jumped right into two from '88: "Somebody" and "Kids Wanna Rock."
With impeccable voice and some self-effacing humor — "My name is Bryan and we're on 'The Shining Light' tour, I can tell you're thrilled about that," Adams said — he and band played with unwavering power amid a stage refreshingly light on multi-media distractions. Washes of solid colors and patterns of light kept the focus on the musicians and the love-drenched lyrics at hand.
“You Belong To Me" became an opportunity for the audience to show off their dance moves, cameras transmitting what Adams called "pulling some shapes." Surprisingly, he then took three requests, dedicating them to fans once he could discern their names. Julie wanted "Hearts on Fire," Pat (dubbed a "big ol' romantic" by Adams) got his "Thought I Died and Went to Heaven," and Renee got to hear "When You're Gone."
"Cuts Like a Knife," set closer, preceded a pair of lovelorn Adams hits: "Straight from the Heart," and "All for Love." It was a perfect ending to a night featuring two agile, ageless icons of rock.
Bryan Adams, Billy Idol
Aug. 9 at Darien Lake.