It`s been almost 10 years since Hard Rock veterans Blue Oyster Cult last appeared in Newcastle but the long, long wait was certainly worth it with the New Yorkers back in town to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the release of their debut album.
Newcastle and Blue Oyster Cult have something of a shared history going right back to the `70`s with part of their classic Some Enchanted Evening live opus being recorded at the City Hall, literally a stone’s throw away from Northumbria University and where they paid homage to local heroes The Animals by covering We Gotta Get Outta This Place all those years ago.
Fast forward to 2017 and there was the small matter of a significant milestone to mark. To spend 45 years in any one profession is an impressive achievement but to stay the course in the turbulent waters of Rock `n` Roll is an altogether more challenging matter. How have they done it when so many others have fallen by the wayside? Having a catalogue of songs of a startlingly high quality certainly helps as does the ability to put on a dynamic show that still thrills over four decades later.
Arguably the biggest factor is the unique chemistry that exists between original members Buck Dharma on vocals and lead guitar and Eric Bloom on vocals and stun guitar. Let`s face it, how many bands can lay claim to having a stun guitarist in their ranks? With Danny Miranda back into the fold on bass alongside long-time drummer Jules Radino and guitarist/keyboardist Richie Castellano, BOC were primed and ready.
Building the show around their milestone debut album meant that big hitters Stairway To The Stars, and the thunderous riff-fest of Cities On Flame With Rock and Roll book-ended the show while Buck Dharma`s scintillating performance on the classic Then Came The Last Days of May formed the centre piece of the evening.
With a setlist that changes from night to night you`re never quite sure what songs they`ll pull out of the hat. Of course the staples of their show are all present and correct meaning the hulking riff of Godzilla stood shoulder to shoulder with the Pop melody of Burnin’ For You. It is perhaps the evergreen classic (Don`t Fear) The Reaper that most people will know with its eerie lyric and shimmering harmonies combined with Buck Dharma`s stunning mid-song solo marking this down as one of the `70`s finest moments and the song that catapulted BOC into the mega league along with its parent album Agents of Fortune. They may well have played it at absolutely every show for four decades but it still sounded fresh and its impact undiminished by the passage of time.
To the hardcore Cultophile however, it`s when they dig deep into their back catalogue is where they really hit home meaning Tattoo Vampire, the biker Rock opera of The Golden Age of Leather and the haunting beauty of I Love The Night were received like a long lost friends.
The harder edged, more abrasive vocals of Bloom suited the darker, heavier material such as Black Blade and Lips In The Hills whereas Dharma`s smoother, melodic tones were more at home on harmony drenched Dancin’ In The Ruins and Harvest Moon. That combination gives BOC a unique edge and a variety of material that no other band possesses. In Dharma they have one of the all-time great guitarists. His deeply melodic tone and technical virtuosity which enhance each song rather than dominate is a major draw and nowhere does this become more evident than on an awe inspiring Then Came The Last Days of May where he traded solos with Richie Castellano, captivating the crowd in the process. This was a master craftsman at the very top of his game.
With such a rich and varied back catalogue BOC couldn`t physically fit everything in and maybe it is what they did leave out that marks them down as a rare and special band with songs like Flaming Telepaths, Veterans of the Psychic Wars and Astronomy would undoubtedly take pride of place in most others bands repertoires but BOC have so many they can afford to leave these and many others out and still cram their set full of Cult classics..
45 years and counting and rumours of their first new album in 16 years gathering pace, not to mention penning the soundtrack to a new JK Rowling book based on Blue Oyster Cult related themes, should make the lead in to their Golden Anniversary an event not to miss.
Review and Photos by Mick Burgess