On Your Feet or On Your Knees
Growing up, I got to see many concerts and pride myself on having seen most of the major rock and roll acts of the 1970s and 1980s. Among the bands I saw the most often was the Blue Öyster Cult, which, as revealed previously, features my uncle, Eric Bloom.
The last time I saw them play was probably in the early 1980s at Milford’s Jai-Alai arena even though they continue touring. That changed when Deb, Robbie and I saw them at the Ridgefield Playhouse last night.
It was interesting, milling about with the audience prior to the show. The majority of those in attendance were graying rockers in their 40s, 50s, and even 60s. I was surprised by a fair percentage also being in their teens and 20s.
Opening for them was Vervain, a New York group I was unfamiliar with and they provided a study in contrasts. The four-member band did a set of songs that while musically proficient, were unmoving emotionally. The sound mix was terrible so we couldn’t make out a word the sole singer was saying. His voice was fairly monotone despite the frequent grimaces during singing and guitar playing. They also stood there, played one song after another and didn’t chat up the audience until the final song and still, they didn’t introduce the members of the band. Very unmemorable.
When the BÖC took the stage, the audience was ready and the band delivered a show reminiscent of the 1970s. The 90-minute set relied heavily on their early catalogue of music, mixing the favorites with some lesser played pieces and I knew all but one of the numbers, which certainly made me feel good.
Eric, Buck Dharma and Allan Lanier are the only original members in the band, working with relative newcomers Richie Castellano, on bass, and drummer Jules Radino. They were tight and played well together. Musically, Buck’s amazing guitar work has always been a hallmark of the BÖC and he didn’t slow down a lick. Richie was also pretty amazing on the bass, especially during an energetic solo. Jules seemed to work very hard during each song, never even pausing for water between songs. Deb noted one of the drumsticks was shredding late in the show.
What I enjoyed most about the show was that it was a concert experience and not just a replication of their CD performances. A few years back, I took Kate and her friends to see Three Doors Down, Fuel, and some other group. You know what? They pretty much played their songs, talked a bit, had a good time on stage but didn’t really cut loose.
The BÖC cut loose as I had been raised to expect. They played long bridges, great intros, had the traditional bass and drum solos plus frequently allowing Buck to showcase his skill. Allan Lanier stepped out from behind the three-decker keyboards to show what he could do with a guitar a few times. They were good, they were tight and frankly, they rocked.
If anything has changed it’s not the level of musical power but the showmanship itself. Back in the day (he writes, feeling suddenly old), Eric and Buck would rub guitar necks producing music and feedback or all five members would come out, guitars blazing, and so on. They were among the first to use lasers on stage and they could duck walk with the best rockers, but alas, those days seem to be gone.
Still, if you ever enjoyed their music, be sure to catch them on tour because they can still inflame cities with their intense rock and roll.