[ATTENDED: December 8, 2016] Blue Öyster Cult
I saw a whole bunch of concerts this year. I didn’t expect to end my concert year with Blue Öyster Cult. But, I enjoyed them when I saw them last, and when I saw they were playing at the State Theater in New Brunswick (and I was able to score a 4th row seat) I decided to see them again.
I didn’t realize that Blue Öyster Cult was also the first band I saw this year (back in January). So, it was a year bookended with BÖC.
While I enjoyed the previous show, I thought it seemed like the guys were getting a little creaky (understandable since they are in their late 60s). But they seemed much more “on” during this show. Eric Bloom was chatty and fun, his voice sounded great and he seemed a lot more energetic than last time. And that made the show much more fun. As did sitting really close–I was able to actually see the BÖC on his guitar.
When I saw them last time they played 13 songs and tonight they played 15. And the songs weren’t short by any means. The guitar solos in “The Last Days of May” were a couple of minutes each, and many of the other songs had extended parts where Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser casually wails away.
The setlist was similar to the previous show (there are certain songs they just have to play, I guess), but they played six songs that they didn’t play last time, which is pretty cool.
They opened with “The Red & The Black,” what I gather is their standard opener. It sounded great and you could really feel how “big” the band sounds when you’re that close. This song is also their opportunity to show off the 4 guitar line-up (in the old days the drummer would join with a guitar as well, but at least the bassist joined in this time–that didn’t happen last time).
The first different song came right after that, “Before the Kiss, A Redcap.” No idea what that means, but it was great to hear one of their weirder songs from their first album. This song has a few different parts, including an almost jazzy middle section, and they jammed it for a pretty long time. After the song, Bloom told a story of being at the O’Hare airport when they were touring their debut album. George Carlin came up to them and said, “You guys look like a band.” Bloom told him they were Blue Öyster Cult and Carlin pulled out a cassette of their debut and said how much he particularly liked that song. And he invited them to his show and they drank his beer and hung out. The advantages of being in a band I guess.
It was hard to tell how much the audience was enjoying the show–they were kind of quiet, but what do BÖC fans expect to hear, I wonder. Well, they expect to hear “Burnin’ for You” and Buck Dharma sounded great playing it. I was amazed at how much presence he commanded there up on the satge. He’s pretty short (5′ 2″ apparently) and he doesn’t do anything flashy. He just plays his guitar, but all eyes are on him all the time. He also smiled and made faces at the audience, which was fun. You can’t really tell from this picture but Dharma plays a guitar of his own design called the “cheeseberger.” It is a Steinberg guitar that is cut to look like Swiss Cheese.
Speaking of the audience, Bloom looked out at the crowd and said “Miller’s here.” And everyone said hi to Miller. Miller, apparently holds the record for most BÖC shows attended. Wonder how many that is.
They played 3 songs from each of their first two records. I was really surprised to hear “OD’d on Life Itself” a really catchy, groovy song (although I would have loved to hear “7 Screaming Diz-busters”).
Bloom told us that they had recently toured the Agents of Fortune album (40 years old this year). They did a few shows where they played the whole album. He said they were going to play something from it (someone shouted play the whole thing, but they just laughed that off). I was really surprised that they played “True Confessions” a slick ballad written by keyboardist Allen Lanier (who died three years ago). That was the mellow portion of the show. At the last show it was “Shooting Shark,” so I’m glad they mixed it up.
Then Bloom went over to the keyboard rack and said that he was changing the setlist. I’m not sure what they were going to play but they surprised the heck out of me by playing “Harvest Moon” (not the Neil Young song) from one of their more recent albums (well, it came out in 1998, but it’s their second to last album). It was moody and sounded great. I had forgotten just how fantastic that song is–an overlooked gem from an overlooked album.
Then they played “The Vigil” a song I really like (played last time and seemed more intense this time), which Bloom said was about extra terrestrials, which I did not know. I love the chanted “Come to us” part. There was some great soling here as well. And then Bloom came back with his stun guitar for a rocking rendition of “ME 262.”
He asked us all to join in on the a capella intro of “The Golden Age of Leather” which we did. And then came “Then Came the Last Days of May.” On this song their other guitarist and keyboardist Richie Castellano got a chance to really show off. Bloom also told us that Castellano has a podcast (called BandGeek) about playing and gear and stuff. Castellano is a great guitarist, but it’s during this song they give him free reign to play for a solid three or four minutes. His soloing is fast and intense and really amazing to watch (especially from this close). Once he’s done Buck Dharma takes center stage and he does a lengthy solo as well. His isn’t as falshy, but its just as enjoyable–grooving and pretty and all over the guitar. It was fun to watch, especially from my side of the stage since I could see all the fingerwork as it happened.
The last three songs were the same as last time. A really fun version of “Godzilla.” There’s a moment in the song where there’s a brief sort-of bass solo. And the bassist, Kasim Sulton, didn’t play it when he was supposed to. He held off for a measure with a big grin on his face. Sulton was a really good player, doing all the wild bass stuff with no trouble. Interestingly, he did not play bass for them when I saw them in January (not sure where he was). However, I saw him in the summer when he played bass for Todd Rundgren (he was an original member of Rundgren’s Utopia).
Then everyone left the stage except Buck for his instrumental soloing–what is sometime called “Buck’s Boogie” (although that is an actual song and this wasn’t that song). He loops some guitar riffs and then plays a really pretty solo over the pretty melody. It’s a chance for everyone to get a breather and for Buck to show of a little more.
And then they ended with “Don’t Fear The Reaper.” This time they dedicated the song to John Glenn (I assumed it would be Greg Lake). I imagine they have had an ample number of people to dedicate this song to this year.
I didn’t notice last time, but Eric Bloom plays a different guitar for this song (it’s got a reaper on it). That was neat to see.
And, an even more interesting “secret.” From where I was sitting, I could see the roadie who was playing the immortal cowbell for the song. The drummer Jules Radino doesn’t play the cowbell! Radino was really great. I didn’t notice him as much last time, but man, he plays loud and fast–thundering away. His toms were really heavy and loud for “Godzilla,” he played some great fills and, during some of their more complex drumming parts, he was always right on.
When they finished the song, a bunch of people rushed to the stage (something that the State Theatre usually doesn’t allow). I joined them and got close to the band and Buck threw a pick to the guy in font of me. He missed and it went skidding off to someone else. I assumed they weren’t doing an encore since it was pretty late, but they did come back, so for the last two songs I got to stand right under Eric and Richie as they rocked us through two songs.
Richie sang “Hot Rails to Hell,” which was cool–he marched around and got really close to us with his guitar too–waving it just inches from our faces–certainly the people right up front could have touched it.
And then they ended with the phenomenal “Cities on Flame with Rock N Roll” (a fairly common encore song although they didn’t play it last time). It was a great version, and we all screamed the chorus. And then it was all done.
Buck had some more picks in his pocket which he threw to us (well, not to me). And then in a somewhat amusing moment, the drummer threw his stick to the crowd. The front two rows were movable seats that they had lined up in front of the actual seats. This guy tried to get the drumstick and basically fell into the chairs knocking a whole bunch of them over and maybe some people too. I wonder if he got the stick?
It was a fantastic show. I admit that I wasn’t really that excited about the show going in. I’d had some pretty amazing shows this year and when I thouht about ending the year with this show, it didn’t sound all that exciting.
But man, they really brought everything. And yes, if they changed up the set list, I would see them again.
For ease of searching, I include: Blue Oyster Cult
|The Red & the Black||The Red & the Black|
|The Golden Age of Leather||Before the Kiss, A Redcap|
|Burnin’ for You
|| Burnin’ for You
|Career of Evil
||OD’d on Life Itself|
|The Vigil||Harvest Moon|
|Dancin’ in the Ruins|| ME 262
|Then Came the Last Days of May||The Golden Age of Leather|
|Godzilla||Then Came the Last Days of May|
|(Don’t Fear) The Reaper||Buck’s Boogie|
|encore||(Don’t Fear) The Reaper|
|Dominance and Submission||encore|
|Hot Rails to Hell|
|Cities on Flame With Rock N Roll|