Blue Oyster Cult
Review by Ian Paget
Initially conceived as an American equivalent to Black Sabbath, Blue Öyster Cult’s blues-inspired hard rock riffs and vaguely occult lyrics earned them a place in rock mythology that sees them still going strong five decades since their formation in Long Island, New York. With co-frontmen Eric Bloom and Buck Dharma still helming the band, there’s a devoted hardcore fanbase making the effort to follow them on tour and Bloom salutes those who’ve been to multiple shows already, promising to “mix things up a little”.
Tonight we start by revisiting the band’s early material, with 1973’s ‘The Red & The Black’ quickly giving us a glimpse of the musical talents on offer with Dharma and Bloom lining up alongside long-time bassist Danny Miranda and guitarist Richie Castellano to trade impressive solos and riffs with each other. ‘Before The Kiss, A Redcap’ follows and brings the blues influence to the forefront, with Castellano switching to keyboards and adding a psychedelic sound reminiscent of The Doors, a style that continues on single ‘This Ain’t The Summer Of Love’ as Eric and Richie swap positions for a while.
As the band progressed into the 80s, they incorporated a radio-friendly heavy metal style into their sound, and 1981 hit ‘Burnin’ For You’ is a great showcase for that side of the band before the pace slows for ‘Perfect Water’ and the band invite the audience to choose their next song, offering ‘Shooting Shark’ or the more recent ‘Harvest Moon’. Deciding the response is about even, Eric takes the executive decision to air the latter track. There’s a relaxed atmosphere on stage throughout the evening with Eric handling most of the talking between songs, introducing the band ahead of bluesy epic ‘The Vigil’ whilst Dharma takes centre-stage for the self-explanatory instrumental ‘Buck’s Boogie’ with impressively skilful guitar work. Asking for requests, the riff-heavy ‘E.T.I’ follows alongside fan favourites ‘Then Came The Last Days Of May’ and ‘Dancin’ In The Ruins’, and the proto-metal riff of ‘Godzilla’ is balanced out by sweet vocal harmonies and a catchy chorus.
Blue Öyster Cult’s signature song is of course the classic ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’ and it’s no surprise to see it close the set following a quick guitar solo from Buck, and the crowd have patiently waited for the big moment when the song’s opening riff kicks in. The audience show a massive reaction at the conclusion and the band applaud their fanbase as they leave the stage. When they return, the poppy ‘In Thee’ goes down a storm before finally Richie takes lead vocals for a raucous ‘Hot Rails To Hell’, a slice of Who-esque classic rock to end the night with a bang.
With such a long and distinguished career it’s a shame that Blue Öyster Cult are sometimes overshadowed by their biggest hit, but decades later they’re still here to prove their quality and tonight’s show doesn’t disappoint.
Special mention has to go to support band The Temperance Movement, who come out and play as if they’re headlining arenas with a vibrant performance summed up by frontman Phil Campbell’s larger-than-life stage presence and the band’s huge blues-rock sound. ‘Only Friend’ and ‘Caught In The Middle’ mark an explosive start to the set, with a soulful classic style that owes a lot to The Faces, Campbell coming across as a mixture between a young Rod Stewart and Buckcherry’s Josh Todd.
As well as the hard rock grounding, there’s time for the band to show off their mellower side on the likes of ‘Another Spiral’, and by the time they finish their set with ‘Built In Forgetter’ they’ve effortlessly won over the audience and put down a big marker for their future with an excellent performance.