Saturday, November 10, 2007

Concert Review: Blue Oyster Cult, Burton Cummings Theatre, Winnipeg, MB, Oct. 28, 2007

This was the legendary New York band's first appearance in Winnipeg in about 20 years, when they last played a bar to less than 300 people. Without an album to support and with only the memories from classic rock radio playing their handful of hits the show, not surprisingly, was not a sell out. Curiously, the best seats they had they day before the show were in the last row on the floor, but there were many seats in the rows in front of us that were empty.

Boy, do they ever look different. Mind you, there's only two original members remaining. Bassist Rudy Sarzo, of Quiet Riot, Whitesnake and Ozzy Osbourne, looks pretty much the same as he always was in the heyday of hair metal. He's actually 57 years old, but was an absolute sensation during the songs and his solo. I was wondering who he was and the audience gave him a lot of applause when Eric Bloom introduced him.

Singer/guitarist Bloom no longer sports tons of hair in an afro, but the bearded 63-year old performed with the vigor of someone 20 years younger.

Lead guitarist/ vocalist Buck Dharma (Donald Roeser), 60, was unbelievable on guitar.

Unlike a lot of guitarists, Dharma apparently played the same guitar all evening, a curious looking axe with no head. His solos in the jams at the end of their classic tracks, were tasteful without being cliched heavy metal-ish. During one solo, a fan walked to the front of the stage and waved others to join him. And join him, they did as many of the fans flooded to the front. Dharma hammed it up by dropping to his knees and bending over toward the crowd, almost to the point where their fingertips could touch him.

It was a bit funny to watch but the fans that were able to get up close and personal no doubt reveled in the experience. A big surprise to me was the axemanship of Richie Castellano, who also played keyboards and sang. Castellano, Dharma and Bloom could probably wander around any city and not be recognized due to their non rock-star appearances. I had never heard of Castellano but he proved to be an intense and formidable performer in his own right, on vocals and instruments.

Early on, fans were shouting out for "Don't Fear The Reaper" and Eric Bloom responded, "Oh, we're going to play all that stuff, don't worry. You are going to stick around for a while, right? I mean, It's not every day we're here."

Songs played included "Summer of Love," "O.D.'d on Life Itself," "Burnin' For You," "Shooting Shark," "ME 262," "Cities on Flame," "Golden Age of Leather," "Black Blade," "The Last Days of May," "Godzilla," "Don't Fear The Reaper," "Hot Rails to Hell," and "The Red and the Black."

Opening for the band was Alverstone, a young, local band that are obviously into The Ramones, Strokes, New York Dolls. They received a fair amount of applause and while are promising, are not quite ready to headline.

Overall, this was a very fine classic rock concert.

During some numbers, there were three guitarists grooving really loud. I don't know if they are having much of a career anymore, in the last 20 years, but they are still touring and recording and still bridge the gap between the sound of heavy metal and hard rock, without having to rely heavily on cliches to keep them going.

Yes, Eric Bloom played a cowbell during "Don't Fear The Reaper," and yes, the audience went nuts for that song.

I would see them again in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, they had no merchandise for sale. They could have easily sold hundreds of t-shirts to the mostly older crowd.

My rating for this show is 4.5-out-of-5-stars.

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