LIVE: Blue Oyster Cult @ Empire State Plaza, 8/23/18
Review by Mark Alexander Hudson
Photographs by Stanley A. Johnson
On a hot and balmy summer night Blue Oyster Cult closed out the Capital Concert Series at Albany’s Empire State Plaza with a concise one-hour set. The show had been originally scheduled for July 25, but the thunder storm season had seen to it that the boys from Long Island were delayed until the end of the run.
The short set was well paced, containing both their crowd pleasing radio hits, as well as some deep cuts to delight the diehards, including this writer.
BOC have long been described as “the thinking person’s (sic) heavy metal band,” a misnomer in my view in many ways. The adage assumes that heavy metal fans do not usually think, and that BOC are a heavy metal band in the first place. Neither is true.
One listen to the curlicue lines of lead guitarist Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser immediately betraying the influence of West Coast psychedelics like Garcia and Cipollina, would dispel that notion. Also the band’s penchant for jam band/prog workouts like the organ ‘n’ guitar showcase “Buck’s Boogie,” which wouldn’t sound out of place on the legendary Allman Brothers at Fillmore East live album. Add to that the punky biker barroom blitz of songs like “ME 262” and the more commercial earworms of “Burnin’ for You” and the timeless “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” and you have a very varied band.
If by “thinking” however, intelligence is inferred then that’s spot on. The Cult’s songs are usually and undeniably “about something” while avoiding pretention. No accident that their lyrical partners have included British science fantasy author Michael Moorcock and the punk poetess herself, Patti Smith.
Don’t forget that, cowbell jokes aside, “Reaper” really is a quite sublime song about the existence of love beyond death & into the afterlife. Roeser, surely one of the unsung guitar heroes of rock, wrote that song,
with its gorgeous cascading acoustic waves. He also came up with some killer riffs like “E.T.I” and “Godzilla.” Eric Bloom, the other remaining original member of the group, had fun with the intro to the latter, as the building stomping footsteps echoed over the Plaza. “Oh no, there goes Cohoes,” he joked, “Troy – totally destroyed!”
Bloom and Roeser shared the vocal & guitar duties, and the band is now rounded out by Richie Castellano on guitar and keys, Danny Miranda on bass and drummer Jules Radino. They did the Island proud… and made me dig out the old records, remembering how good they were. You should do the same.
Opening up with an energetic and upbeat set was Kristen Capolino and her band. She can certainly shred, and her enthusiasm was contagious, but one word of advice. Yes, it’s cute to close out with a hard rock version of “Straight Up,” but the joke wore thin after 10 minutes or so. Read the crowd – you are not going to get a grizzled bunch of rockers singing along to a Paula Abdul song. Now if she had switched to, say, “I Love Rock & Roll” after a couple of verses (similar chord structure, solos still would’ve worked), I think she would have got the fist pumping reaction she would have hoped for.
BLUE OYSTER CULT SET LIST
(“Game of Thrones” intro music)
Before the Kiss, a Redcap
Golden Age of Leather
Burnin’ for You
Then Came the Last Days of May
(Don’t Fear) The Reaper