Blue Oyster Cult rocks Bay Area with landmark concert tour

More than half a century after their debut, Blue Oyster Cult are still on the road pedaling their classic rock tunes for fans.

Of course, the pride of Stony Brook, New York, is no longer headlining arenas and stadiums like it did in the mid-1970s and into the early 1980s. Instead, Blue Oyster Cult (BOC) is more likely to play at a 500-seater club or county fair.

Naturally, some might wonder if BOC – a band so far removed from their commercial heyday – is still worth watching in 2022?

The band would answer that question with a resounding yes during their 50th anniversary tour at the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton on Thursday, July 8.

And the main reason can be summed up in two words:

Buck Dharma.

The only remaining original member of Blue Oyster Cult is still a force to be reckoned with on the concert scene. His vocal work remains at a high level, reminiscent of what is heard on “Agents of Fortune”, “Spectres” and other BOC primetime albums. He’s also one of classic rock‘s truly underrated guitar heroes, filling just about every song with memorable riffs/tracks.

Dharma was definitely in top form in Pleasanton, delighting the near-full crowd who found themselves singing along to “Godzilla”, “Burnin’ for You” and other favorites during a 90-minute show in the intimate Lucky California Amphitheater. (Side note: This amphitheater — which boasts some 3,000 fans — is a true hidden gem, ranking among the best places to listen to live music in the entire Bay Area.)

BOC opened the 15-song show with “Dr. Music, a song from the 1979 album “Mirrors” that sounds so similar to the KISS number “Dr. Love” that I kept hearing Gene Simmons’ voice in my head (which can be very unsettling).

From there, the band – which, besides Dharma, currently includes longtime member Eric Bloom on vocals and guitar, as well as bassist Danny Miranda, keyboardist Richie Castellano and drummer Jules Radino – returned to its very first album, the eponymous affair of 1972, for a solid version of “Before the Kiss, a Redcap”.

‘Golden Age of Leather’, from 1977’s ‘Spectres’, opened with some truly impressive vocal harmonies, then came ‘Dancin’ in the Ruins’, one of the key tracks on the underrated ‘Club Ninja’ release. from 1986.

Fans – many of whom were proudly wearing their BOC shirts – really came alive once the band released the single “Burnin’ for You”, which briefly and surprisingly made Dharma and company MTV darlings in the early 80s.

Dharma absolutely nailed the memorable guitar bridge in “Burnin’ for You,” then followed it up with more fretboard fireworks on “Harvest Moon” from the overlooked 1998 release “Heaven Forbid.”

Bloom got on the mic and did a good job with ‘ETI (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)’, from 1976’s acclaimed ‘Agents of Fortune’, before Dharma opened the book for the band’s final album – ‘The Symbol Remains’. of 2020 – with the country hiker “Train True (Lennie’s Song)”.

Then came the biggest surprise of the night (at least for this listener, who hadn’t seen BOC perform live in decades) when Castellano – who joined the band in 2004 – stepped in and released “Tainted Blood”. from the park. His voice was strong, clear and more classically metal-oriented, resulting in one of the heaviest musical moments of the evening.

Castellano played guitar alongside Dharma while Bloom took over on the keys for this number, which was also from the band’s latest album, and that same guitar duo would come together again for some truly impressive work on the stunner. debut album “Then Came the Last Days”. of May.”

So far, the show has really been a treat for longtime fans – those who actually own the albums on vinyl and CD (as well as maybe a cassette and 8-track tape) – as opposed to those who know the radio play-only band.

Still, this latter group would get what they were looking for as the show neared the finish line.

“I think I’m hearing gigantic steps coming in that direction now,” Bloom announced as an introduction to the monster mash “Godzilla,” which had a massive crowd singing along. (“Go, go Godzilla”, indeed.)

This left the legendary “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper as the closer main set.

“I just learned that actor James Caan has passed away,” Bloom said. “I want to dedicate this song to him.”

Fans greeted the song as if their favorite sports team had just won the World Series/Super Bowl/NBA Finals, howling in approval as the number – which they’ve heard played countless times on classic rock radio – sent a collective shiver down your spine.

The only thing missing, Will Ferrell would tell you, was “more cowbell.”

Or, really, not at all.

Yes, the band played “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” without the use of that instrument, which Ferrell and his “Saturday Night Live” pals would make legendary in a 2000 skit with the brilliant Christopher Walken (aka ” The Bruce Dickinson”) in one of the funniest moments in television history.

Yet even that didn’t seem to matter much on a night when the band proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Blue Oyster Cult is still worth watching in 2022.

Corina C. Butler