Blue Öyster Cult transforms into the “New York Guitar Army” in Vancouver


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.




3 thoughts on “Blue Öyster Cult transforms into the “New York Guitar Army” in Vancouver

  1. Just wondering: was there a support act?

    Also: you mentioned “twenty tunes” – these 14 were the only ones listed:

    R.U. Ready 2 Rock
    Dominance and Submission
    Buck’s Boogie
    Joan Crawford
    Golden Age of Leather
    Burnin’ for You
    Godzilla – drum solo
    Beatles’ Birthday
    (Don’t Fear) The Reaper
    The Red and the Black
    This Ain’t the Summer of Love
    Cities on Flame with Rock ‘n’ Roll
    Roadhouse Blues (with Love Me Two Times)

    Do you still have your notes from the gig, and if so, do they give the full setlist?

    Finally, can you give a bit of background info on the “Birthday” inclusion? I know Meltzer’s birthday is 11 May, but I can’t think how that might be relevant to a 1988 gig in Vancouver….

  2. The problem with their name and having a song called “Don’t Fear the Reaper” is that many people automatically brand them ‘Satanic.’

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