Friday, October 26, 2012

Blue Oyster Cult prime at 40

Blue Oyster Cult performing acoustic version of "In Thee"

Blue Oyster Cult kicked off a run of 40th anniversary dates Thursday, Oct. 25, at Showcase Live in Foxboro with a two-hour show that underscored the band's ongoing vitality with welcome song revivals and a couple of freshly worked up acoustic numbers.

The night began on a questionable note when the band shut down pre-approved photogs just before show time, raising questions about the group’s condition (and hence leading to us using the same sort of iPhone pics everyone else was taking versus quality shots).

Blue Oyster Cult opened with its standard starter “The Red and the Black” but showed no signs of rust or hesitancy. New bassist Kasim Sulton fit right in, and Richie Castellano gave the keys a rest to play guitar alongside Eric Bloom and Buck Dharma. The triple-guitar attack carried into “The Golden Age of Leather”
Eric Bloom and Jules Radino

Dharma fleshed out the tunes with long, lyrical solos and took his best vocal turn of the night on “Burnin’ for You.” Bloom took back the microphone for “Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll,” though Dharma stepped into the spotlight on that song with a feedback-fuzzed solo.

Bloom moved to the keyboards and Castellano to guitar for a segment where the audience got to choose between “Shooting Shark” and “Harvest Moon,” with the former getting the nod. Then Bloom waved the band off of the set list to see what would happen during a run through “The Vigil”; pleased with the results, Bloom said, “See what happens when you practice.”

At that point the band was not only well-rehearsed but also red hot and tore though the WWII tale “M.E. 262.” B.O.C. swerved into longer, spacier grooves with “Then Came the Last Days of May,” a showpiece for Dharma, though Castellano earned a standing ovation after delivering the first of the song’s epic guitar solos (and, yeah, Buck got the people on their feet too).

Bloom made the bad decision to talk up the New York Giants while standing in Patriots Place, then joked that he’d lighten the mood by turning the discussion over to a debate on Romney versus Obama. All was forgiven when he simply took up the mic and delivered the twisted horror rock of “Lips in the Hills."

The band then moved into the standard closing sequence of “Godzilla” and “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper.” “Godzilla” still has a bass feature medley which has been adapted for Sulton, highlighting his resume with musical snippets of Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘n’  Roll,” Todd Rundgren’s “Bang the Drum All Day,” “and Meat Loaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights.” After crafting a solo of his own, Sulton passed the baton to drummer Jules Radino whose solo nicely set up the closing “Godzilla” jam. Then things quieted to a Dharma interlude that built into the familiar strains of “Reaper,” which the band dedicated to Bill Graham, who died in a helicopter crash on Oct. 25, 1991.

For its encore, B.O.C. gave the crowd a sample of an upcoming acoustic show it has planned ahead of two NYC dates. First it was a revival of “In Thee,” Allen Lanier’s lonesome ballad, stripped here to its essentials. The band then added full drums and keys to “Astronomy” though Bloom and Dharma stayed on acoustic guitars and drafted a moody, slow-burn version of the song.

While “Astronomy” was the night’s boldest performance, BOC seemed to want to go out on a louder kick, so the band turned over the microphone to Castellano and let him lead the charge through a raucous “Hot Rails to Hell.”

At 40, Blue Oyster Cult is still quite capable of moving through its myriad musical mutations without sounding like it is simply going through the motions.

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