ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, MAY 20, 1988
By Steve Newton
Blue Öyster Cult is the sort of band you either love or hate. There’s no in-betweens. Nobody every says, “Oh, Blue Öyster Cult, they’re all right, I guess.” It’s either “The Cult rules!” or “No thanks, hand me that Hall & Oates album.”
Me, I love ’em. I’ve loved ’em ever since I saw them wipe the Pacific Coliseum floor with headliners T-Rex in 1974. Then in ’76 I saw Bob Seger open for them at the Gardens, and while old Bob put on a super show, B.O.C. were not to be outdone. Since then Seger has gone on to the Big Time, but for some strange reason Blue Öyster Cult hasn’t. Maybe the name scares people or something.
At any rate, they’re certainly one of the most stimulating hard-rock acts ever to come along, both musically and lyrically. And they can still kick royal butt live, as almost anyone at their sold-out 86 Street show on Wednesday (May 11) will attest.
The core of the band is still intact: lead guitarist Buck Dharma, guitarist/vocalist Eric Bloom, and guitarist/keyboardist Allen Lanier. With a new drummer and bassist backing them up, the three original Cultists headed straight into “R.U. Ready 2 Rock” and the overwhelming response from the 86 Street crowd was “Yup”.
“Dominance and Submission”, a killer tune from ’74, really got things warmed up, even without the blistering guitar solo we used to mimic back in high school. The riff-heavy “E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)” was next, followed by Dharma’s metallic showcase “Buck’s Boogie” and several of the band’s early tunes. Heavy metal–or whatever you want to call it these days–never sounded so good.
After “Joan Crawford”, a nice little ditty about the late actress rising from the grave, Lanier switched from keyboards to guitar and the “New York Guitar Army” gathered at stage-front to rock out on “Golden Age of Leather” and their semi-hit from ’81, “Burnin’ for You”. Their heavy-metal hymn to the real lizard king, “Godzilla”, featured the obligatory drum solo, but led into a surprise version of the Beatles’ “Birthday”. Then the band finally got around to playing its biggest hit–and one of the finest rock songs ever–“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”. That one’s cascading guitar lick and bittersweet lyric had me in goosebumps, and the rest of the crowd seemed to be getting riled up as well.
On that highest of notes, the band left the stage, but they weren’t going anywhere other than right back on. They took no prisoners (as promised) with a molten encore set that included “The Red and the Black”, “This Ain’t the Summer of Love”, “Cities on Flame with Rock ‘n’ Roll”, and the Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues” (with a bit of “Love Me Two Times” thrown in for good measure). Twenty tunes (and over two hours) after starting, Blue Öyster Cult left the 86 Street crowd alone to lick its welcome wounds.