It’s ’70s-rock heaven as Blue Oyster Cult, Wishbone Ash, Uriah Heep, and Nazareth play Vancouver

By Steve Newton

On November 6, 1993, I saw the Total Recall tour at the Commodore Ballroom. No less than four of my fave bands from the ’70s were on the bill. Here’s the review that ran in the Georgia Straight the following week.

In last week’s Straight we ran a little panel discussion wherein various local music experts put forth their thoughts on the pros and con of ’70s rock. Strong melodies, simplicity, and a positive outlook were pointed to as favourable aspects of that musical era, while the period’s excessiveness and hero worship got the thumbs-down.

Now, all five of those qualities and faults could be detected at the Commodore last Saturday, when Nazareth, Blue Oyster Cult, Uriah Heep, and Wishbone Ash shared the stage, but the bloated excess commonly attributed to ’70s rock had been seriously pared down. There were no 10-minute drum solos or interminable guitar freak-outs, no flash pots or smoke machines. You couldn’t even complain about the volume being too high!

There was a lot of hero worship going on, I’ll admit, but what’s wrong with that? I, for one, think Blue Oyster Cult’s guitarist Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser is God. He did write “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper”, after all.

The marathon music fest kicked off right on time at 8 p.m., with British prog-rock greats Wishbone Ash and the sweet dual-lead guitar harmonies of “The King Will Come”, from 1972’s Argus LP.

Original members and guitarists-vocalists Andy Powell and Ted Turner were happy, smilin’ guys on “Blowin’ Free”, but the band’s uplifting set only lasted for a half-hour and didn’t include an encore. The show’s production crew was running a tight ship and had to make way for the night’s next act, Uriah Heep.

Heep was the only band among the four that didn’t include its original vocalist. Singer Bernie Shaw now holds down the position vacated long ago by David Byron, whose alcoholic antics got him fired from the band in the mid-’70s. Byron later died of a heart attack–joining OD’d bassist Gary Thain in rock ‘n’ roll heaven–but original guitarist Mick Box and longtime drummer Lee Kerslake are still alive and kicking up a Heepish storm, along with former Spiders from Mars bassist Trevor Bolder.

Amidst rowdy cries of “Heep! Heep!”, the band knocked off crusty faves such as “Stealin'” and “The WIzard” before encoring with “Easy Living” and garnering one of the wildest crowd responses of the night.

B.O.C. was up next, and the prime purveyors of ’70s heavy metal had this old riff-retainer leaping up and down to the vigorous boogie strains of “ME262”, “The Red and the Black”, and the aforementioned “Reaper”. The New York quintet–which includes original members Eric Bloom, Allen Lanier, and Roeser–misses the magic of former bass- and drum-playing brothers Joe and Albert Bouchard, but its imaginative and compelling tunes have stood the test of time. The band also premiered an impressive new track, “Harvest Moon”, which bodes well for its next album, due in the spring of ’94.

With three of its four founding members present, Scotland’s Nazareth came closest to being Total Recall’s genuine article, but my fond memories of seeing the band on its mid-’70s Loud ‘N Proud tour make current guitarist BIlly Rankin a poor excuse for original axeman Manny Charlton.

Gravelly voiced singer Dan McCafferty did hit the mark on gritty numbers like “Hair of the Dog” and Joni Mitchell’s “This Flight Tonight”, though, and you know that can’t be bad. My biggest beef was that they band didn’t perform that locally inspired ode to shady rock promoters, “Vancouver Shakedown”.

To hear the interviews I’ve done over the years with Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, and Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser of Blue Oyster Cult subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can eavesdrop on over 200 of my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:

Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest, 2005
Jack Blades of Night Ranger, 1984
Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard, 1992
Colin James, 1995
Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown, 1998
Tom Cochrane of Red Rider, 1983
Ed Roland of Collective Soul, 1995
Taj Mahal, 2001
Tom Wilson of Junkhouse, 1995
Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, 2003
David Lindley, 2002
Marty Friedman of Megadeth, 1991
John Hiatt, 2010
Nancy Wilson of Heart, 2006
Jeff Golub, 1989
Moe Berg of the Pursuit of Happiness, 1990
Todd Rundgren, 2006
Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, 2001
Steve Earle, 1987
Gabby Gaborno of the Cadillac Tramps, 1991
Terry Bozzio, 2003
Roger Glover, 1985
Matthew Sweet, 1995
Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds, 2003
Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars, 2001
John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, 1995
Steve Hackett from Genesis, 1993
Grace Potter, 2008
Buddy Guy, 1993
Steve Lynch of Autograph, 1985
Don Wilson of the Ventures, 1997
Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, 1998
Trevor Rabin of Yes, 1984
Albert Lee, 1986
Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, 1984
Jeff Healey, 1988
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1996
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, 1993
Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Klaus Meine of Scorpions, 1988
Jason Bonham, 1989
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Edgar Winter, 2005
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Randy Hansen, 2001
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joey Belladonna of Anthrax, 1991
Joe Satriani, 1990
Vernon Reid of Living Colour, 1988
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
Zakk Wylde of Pride & Glory, 1994
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
John Doe, 1990
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Doyle Bramhall II, 2001
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Randy Bachman, 2001
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
J.J. Cale, 2009
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, 1997
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Steve Vai, 1990
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
Mick Ronson, 1988
Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Joan Jett, 1992
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, 1989
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Rob Hirst of Midnight Oil, 2001
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Mike Fraser, 2014
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
David Gogo, 1991
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
James Reyne from Australian Crawl, 1988
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1986
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Gaye Delorme, 1990
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 1984
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, 2016
Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
Rik Emmett of Triumph, 1985
Sonny Landreth, 2016
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, 2016
Jeff Beck, 2001
Albert King, 1990
Johnny Ramone of the Ramones, 1992
Peter Frampton, 1987
Otis Rush, 1997
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1989
Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
Steve Howe of Yes, 2017
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, 1983
Uli Jon Roth, 2016
Poison Ivy of the Cramps, 1990
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1985
Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
Robert Plant, 1993
Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, 1983
Warren Zevon, 1992
Tal Wilkenfeld, 2016
Steve Clark of Def Leppard, 1988
Ronnie Montrose, 1994
Danny Gatton, 1993
Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
Ann Wilson of Heart, 1985
J.J. Cale, 1990
Yngwie Malmsteen, 2014
Chris Cornell, 2008
Long John Baldry, 1985
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
Kim Mitchell, 1984
Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers, 1994
Derek Trucks, 1998
Susan Tedeschi, 1998
Joe Satriani, 2018
B.B. King, 1984
Albert Collins, 1985
Ronnie James Dio, 1985
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, 1984
Dick Dale, 2000
Greg Allman, 1998
Dickey Betts, 2001

….with hundreds more to come

 

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