Summer Shows 2009: Blue Öyster Cult - 14 Aug 2009


9. Sep. 2009, 7:38

Fri 14 Aug – Blue Öyster Cult

Third of four 2009 summer show reviews: Blue Öyster Cult Set Cleveland on Flame!

This was the longest I have ever waited between purchasing tickets and actually seeing the show: over *eight* months. This show was originally scheduled for December 18th of last year, and when it was canceled, it nearly scuttled the monthly live show streak that I had going from May 2008 to this past February. The reason for the reschedule? Buck Dharma fell down the stairs of his house carrying packages. Merry Christmas! (Especially bad because December 18th is D's birthday and the show was our plan to celebrate, so I had to hustle for last-minute replacement plans!) They ended up first canceling the handful of remaining shows for 2008, and then had to cancel some more based on Buck's recovery. By the time he was well enough to play and tour, they were going to be up against their trip to Europe and early summer bookings, so I could hardly believe when I got the notice from the House of Blues that they were re-scheduling for August!

I was worried that some of our gang wouldn't be able to make the show this far down the road, especially since August is a much busier time for everybody. But we all made it, and I gotta say: this show was worth every bit of the wait! Especially for JCV, who had not only never seen them live, but also wondered if he wanted to. At the time we bought the tickets, he was really just getting stir crazy and looking for a reason to get out of his crazy house. Would it be worth missing some of his son's baseball playoff game?*

If you've never seen BÖC live, you've missed a great deal. You can get quite a bit of pleasure listening to their fantasy-filled, dark, progressive hard rock, but the recorded studio output is just a shadow of the live performances. Listen to some of the live albums - especially On Your Feet Or On Your Knees - and you can only begin to get an idea. Many of their songs are intentionally short on the albums, but are always stretched live, and you'll never hear them the same way twice. It's sort of in the vein of a jam band - they're definitely not - but you haven't really heard them until you've seen them.

I was a bit worried about the lineup. Every prededing time I have seen them, Allen Lanier was still in the lineup. Since the last time, though, he's finally decided to hang it up for good and retire from the Cult (for touring purposes, and since the chances of another studio album are remote, he's effectively done). It's not that Allen brings a firey dose of energy to the show. Frankly, he doesn't - all those years of hard livin' with Patti Smith I guess have finally caught up with him. But he's been such an integral and versatile part of the band for about four decades that it leaves you wondering how the hole will be filled.

I had heard that Rudy Sarzo was playing bass for them since Allen had left. That would be cool! But I wasn't sure if that was just temporarily and still the case. A look at the website at the time made no mention, and the band pic & bio still showed Allen. And if Rudy was on bass, where did Richie Castellano go? He was pretty good on the bass. Who was on keys? And what would they be doing for a third guitar? I had no idea even as of show time, but just trusted that it had all been sorted out to a good arrangement.

And how. This was easily the best show I've seen from these guys. Rudy is in fact still playing bass for them. According to his website, he plays with them whenever needed as long as Dio is not recording or touring. Since RJD is all tied up with Heaven And Hell for the foreseeable future, this bodes well for BÖC. Richie has moved over to play third guitar, co-lead with Buck, and splits time on the keys with Eric Bloom. Jules Radino is still on the kit.

This lineup is tight. I had heard that they were not very good when they opened for Skynyrd here last year (what a weird bill), but it must have been an off night because they were definitely on flame with rock-and-roll this time around.

There are two major discoveries here:
(1) Richie Castellano is not just the latest in the long line of bass players that have held that spot since Joe Bouchard left in 1986. The kid has serious talent, and it was just waiting to bustout once he move over to guitar. He's good on the bass, but he can really shred.
(2) I no longer think of Rudy Sarzo as just a journeyman, merely "filling a bass slot" for Ozzy, Quiet Riot, Whitesnake, and Yngwie Malmsteen (and now Dio). He brings much more to the band than just providing a bass line. Part of that is due to his Latin background and playing style. He is very upbeat on stage, very extroverted with the fans, highly animated with his counterparts on stage, and he adds flourish and spark to the entire performance.

With Rudy in the band and Richie on guitar, this band is rejuvenated. They've got young blood and fire that I did not see when Allen was in the band. I mean this with only the greatest respect for Allen, but this band no longer looks like they're heading into the twilight. They look and sound** fresh, and certainly have many more miles, shows, and years left. I can't wait to see them again.

The Red and the Black
Before the Kiss, a Redcap
Burnin' for You
Cities on Flame
Shooting Shark (video below)
Buck's Boogie
Black Blade
Stone Of Love
Then Came the Last Days of May - as it often is, this was the highlight of the show. They usually stretch this little 3½-minute number from the first album out into a 7-10 minute guitar showcase, but what really impressed the hell out of me is that Buck gave up the centerpiece solo to Richie, and the kid brought the house down!
Godzilla - this included "Rudy Sarzo highlights": bits of Metal Health, Still of the Night, and Crazy Train
Drum solo
Buck's interlude
(Don't Fear) The Reaper

Golden Age of Leather - a very nice surpsie to see/hear this live. I've always loved this song and wanted to see it.
Hot Rails to Hell

Here are some of my favorite shots from the show - see the photobucket for more:

Four guitars:

Rudy & Eric:

Rudy brings a new energy to the band:

Black Blade:

Richie slays:

Eric & Buck - check out Eric's sweet guitar - haven't seen that one before:

Video: The only problem here is that I came to the show with a smaller memory card than I usually have in the camera, and didn't account for their tendency to stretch songs live, so I thought I had enough room at the start of the song but it's actually missing the final 50-60 seconds. And so this is the only video I have from this show!

\m/ (ò_ó) \m/

*Hell, yes! He hadn't been this happy after a show in a long time. I think he was impressed with just how good these guys are live after all these years, how good Richie is, and especially happy to see Rudy Sarzo up-close, in-the-flesh!

**My only complaint about this show was the sound, but it had nothing to do with the band. The HOB has a reputation for often having poor sound and hassles for the FOH, so that wasn't a surprise. It wasn't bad enough to ruin the show, but you can hear it when you watch the video. That's not just because of the camera I was using; the sound really was that uneven.

One more thing that barely rates a footnote: there was an opening band for this show. The Tom Fuller Band from Chicago. I have no idea how they got onto the bill. Their material doesn't even remotely mesh with BÖC, and they were easily the worst opening band I have ever seen in the history of going to shows. They actually have a song with the line, "go tell it to the lollipop hill" or something like that - WTF?? I can't understand why BÖC would allow such a disparity. The audience was completely bewildered and bored. At least the five guys on the stage seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Akzeptierte Übermittlungen
Progressive Metal, Blue Öyster Cult


  • GrantRS

    So, judging by the journal's submissions, you consider BOC to be progressive metal? That's not a tag that had occured to me for them. Judging by 5 of their first 6 studio albums neither the progressive or them metal tags individually seemed to fit (except for Astronomy, which is probably my favourite of the tracks on those 5 albums). I'm not meaning to try and correct you, don't get me wrong, I'm sure you know what you're talking about and I fully expect the som of later output is much more in that vein. I recognise a lot of the set list here, so I assume it's fair to say this leant toward the early material. Personally, almost all my favourite BOC tracks at the moment come from Secret Treaties, in fact if I listed a top 10 BOC songs right now (remember this is judging from 5 albums only) it'd more or less have the whole of Secret Treaties in it, maybe not Cagey Cretins though. Shame about the delay to August, but at least the show acutally happened. I was very much looking forward to a gig at the end of this month ([planet x), which apparently won't happen for a further 6 months now, so I've got a similar wait ahead of me to the one you had, only they've refunded me for my ticket so I'll have to go through the buying process again and at least I have the option to opt in/out if for some bizarre reason I have to, so it's not exactly the same. Is that a Music Man Van Halen signature model Richie uses in the video? What is clear from the video though is that Rudy and Richie are, as you say, rejuvenating the band. Of course, I haven't seen the band before they turned up, but I believe I'd be using the right words to express myself if I said; there is a very palpable energy from those two. Buck looks very confident with those guys beside him.

    10. Sep. 2009, 20:59
  • sablespecter

    I know you're not correcting - I love this kind of excellent point-counterpoint! I couldn't decide between the "progressive metal" group or "progressive rock" - but they most definitely are progressive. You will come to see that not only as you move through the whole catalog, but also as you come to see that they have constructed a long-arc story / mini-universe for their catalog, which recurrent themes and characters. (Come to think of it, a pairing with Co&Ca would be most excellent, especially considering that.) And hell, they actually wrote [i]with[/i] Michael Moorcock. I ultimatley lean to prog metal but NOT in the [i]contemporary[/i] sense, as with, say, Dream Theater. Whenever I use these tags - and I do so casually - I apply them with the band in the time of their releases, not modern time. And if you go back and look at BÖC in their heyday, they were very much considered metal. You've heard of the storied "Black & Blue Tour" which featured them and Black Sabbath on equal, alternating headline billing? And know they were one of the centerpiece artists for [i]Heavy Metal[/i], the movie? (I have a "music in the movies" set of entries on that film coming soon!) Plus, "progressive rock" at the time meant ELP or Yes, so that definitely does not apply. Are the five you have the first 5? Do you have Cultösaurus Erectus, Fire of Unknown Origin, and Imaginos? If not, those will help shed more light on the progressive elements. (I know, I know: where's my guide to BÖC??) Sadly, I'm not the type like you that can identify guitars on sight, so I cannot confirm. I'm glad you see the rejuvenation just from that clip. It definitely is apparent having seen them before, and makes me very happy. The fans were positively ecstatic at the conclusion. Truthfully, both Buck and Eric have always been very confident, but I think it is a load off that they don't have to carry the show now - Richie and Rudy are strong partners for them. See them next time they come to the UK!

    11. Sep. 2009, 5:43
  • GrantRS

    It's almost the first five - it's actually the first 6 except for Spectres that I have. For some reason those five were packaged together in a value for money box set so it seemed like the obvious entry point for me. No idea why they (was it Columbia?) chose to omit Spectres in favour of Mirrors. Perhaps they hold more hope of being able to sell individual copies of Spectres? Genre classifications of course are all trivial, but as a general guide for what I think of as 'progressive metal' as opposed to 'progressive rock' is whether the band are heavier or lighter than Rush. I might favour a funny interim "progressive/hard rock" type tag for the likes of Rush and maybe Wishbone Ash. I believe I've heard of the Black & Blue tour before, but it's not something that I would remember without prompting. I suppose BOC are slightly more appropriate a partner for Sabbath than C&C...maybe one day the 3 of them will tour together? Or perhaps with Dio if he ever gets round to the second part of Magica thus involving three bands with cross-album stories. It would be a tough tour for Rudy, but do-able if he was really determined. Shamefully, I'm not even sure I know what [i]Heavy Metal the movie[/i] is though. ...I could google it or I could ask you to tell me...or both. I don't get a lot of time for movies, with all the other things I do so unless a film happens to be on tv or I'm repeatedly told to know what it is they all tend to go under my radar. I did recently catch that Rock Star(?) film based on Ripper Owens on tv though - it was pretty disappointingly awful, IMO. lol.

    11. Sep. 2009, 8:17
  • GrantRS


    11. Sep. 2009, 22:59
  • lortgrodan

    I´m so glad that the show was pushed to august so I could catch while I was in Cleveland. This was a great gig with a great band whatever you call thier music.

    20. Sep. 2009, 5:36
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