Tonight is the first date on a seven consecutive night tour of the UK. Surprisingly it is not part of a European tour but a week out of a fortnight gap in US dates. Of course I'm not complaining, as the three previous shows I've seen have been excellent. I had planned to go just to the London show but with John Young confirmed as support at the first two shows (Newcastle is tomorrow evening) tonight seemed like a good idea too. The last time the band blessed this countries soil was almost exactly four years ago (3 June 1998) when they played just one date at the London Astoria. It was so busy (and warm) that evening that I settled for standing room just inside the door, thankfully on a raised area near the bar, which provided a decent, if distant, view of the band. At that point they had released their first studio album in around ten years, 'Heaven Forbid', a rather darker affair lyrically than previous LPs. Some of this may have been due to the input of horror writer John Shirley. Last year another new album 'Curse of the Hidden Mirror' was released (June 5th, 2001) but I have yet to buy it. This is more due to the large number of other CDs I've bought at gigs that because I don't expect it to be good and hopefully this evening I'll have a chance to hear some of the songs before deciding on a purchase.
Under the sparse cover of the Bladerunner theme (a familiar intro tape for me - Pallas used to use it back in the 80's) and marginally dimmed stage lighting the band arrived a few minutes after nine to check the tuning of their respective guitars. Three minutes later they were introduced by an MC (roadie to you an I), "Good evening England. Are you ready to rock'n'roll? Please welcome from New York the amazing (no, not Spiderman) Blue Oyster Cult." A couple of hundred voices echoed the band name then turned to cheers to welcome the band as a 3 guitar, one bass and drum line-up belted into BURNIN' FOR YOU (off 1981s Fire of Unknown Origin). As with many of the tracks played tonight it is a mid paced and melodic not-too-heavy-rocker. I don't know if it was my position, fairly near the back of the hall, or the fact that I was above PA level but the volume seemed particularly low for a rock band. I guess the venue may have a maximum level that they can't exceed but it certainly didn't help ignite the evening. The fact that the whole place is seated didn't help the atmosphere much either, nor did the large gap of wooden floor between band and audience. Still, Burning for You is a decent opener with an easy chorus.
Applause rose quickly from the stalls as Bloom smoothly swapped riff to something a little heavier with a slightly more boogie feel, O.D.'D ON LIFE ITSELF (Tyranny and Mutation), which got a couple of lads up on the dancefoor. They seemed to be enjoying themselves but the rest of the audience remained firmly rooted to their comfortable seats.
"All the way from NY City to the UK here we are. Our first night of this seven day run . We'll see some of you all seven nights I understand, some of the extreme wackos from the continent." I guess they may have been the guys on the floor dancing along to the music. Keep things going the moved off world for EXTRA TERRESTRIAL INTELLIGENCE. Bloom discarded his guitar and simply stood clutching the microphone and accompanying stand and the audience seemed to join in slightly more vocally for this one. During the final riffing extravaganza Bloom moved to check the keyboards were ready and joined in on them for the finale.
" About 10 months ago we came back with a new album called the 'Curse of the Hidden Mirror' so we're going to play something from that album now called POCKET." Bloom made the announcement at the front of the stage but moved back to the keyboard to let Buck handle vocals. This is probably the most laid back track so far and not without an interesting guitar sound - though it did seem to go a little awry at one point - but not a classic track on first listen.
Bloom decided to return "to something a little extraterrestrial2 with a song that "Buck and Allen here start at the beginning with these guitars." After he introduced THE VIGIL there was a brief pause - for some guitar tuning by Buck - before this particularly melodic track which typifies material on the Mirrors album I suppose. Once tuned Buck turned to tha audience and asked "OK?" as if someone other than he was the culprit. Bloom remained on keyboards, rather than Lanier who's stuck to guitar so far tonight, for this allowing the two pronged guitar workout that grew during the middle of the track before a pause and the main riff cutting back in.
Time for Buck to get down and dirty next with the introductory chopping riff to HARVESTER OF EYES. Bloom was back on guitar and vocals for this rather chuggy tune. No rest for band or audience alike as some hi-hat action from Rondinelli immediately prefaced another crunching riff as CITIES ON FLAME came lurching from the dim and distant past and the debut, eponymously titled, album. Bloom remained on guitar and vocals though Lanier finally took over on keyboards.
A brief respite in the music allowed "BOC in the house tonight" and some other shouting from the audience including the rather strange "in the house tonight, bring it on" before the Cult began the twangy guitar introduction to PERFECT WATER. By the time Buck began the vocals the others had joined in for the initially slightly ploddy 'Club Ninja' track. Things picked up with the chorus and some wailing guitar later in the song.Bloom explained afterwards, "The not often played Perfect Water." He continued "The next song features an intro by Allan Lanier" as the tinkling ivories led gently into one of my favourites (again from Fire of Unknown Origin), JOAN CRAWFORD, vocals again by Bloom. During the introduction Buck took his jacket off and in his T-shirt was ready for some serious rifferama as sound effects of car crashes, cavalry horns and alarm clocks blasted from the speakers. The track seemed to get a little lost mid way through compared to the studio versionbut I think this may have been intended . As it began so the track ended with some descending keyboards and a final crunch of guitars and drums.
Pausing briefly enough only for Lanier to change program on the keyboards its boogie time again with, what else, BUCKS BOOGIE. Well over five minutes of Buck Dharma's best followed- "Buck's Boogie on Tuesday night" as Bloom put it.
He continued by guiding us "back to the first album" (Blue ÷yster Cult) and "a true story about some guys from Long Island New York who drove out West to find some illegal substances. Some to smoke and some to sell and unfortunately they met a fate they didn't deserve." THEN CAME THE LAST DAYS OF MAY. After his introduction Bloom retired to the keyboards again and let Allen and Buck loose on what became an extended guitar workout for the pair. The track must have extended to over ten minutes as first Allen then Buck soloed and jammed their way down those dusty roads portrayed in the lyrics. For their trouble the audience provided a standing ovation, the first of the evening.
Bloom "OK, listen very carefully." Thud, distant roar. What could it be? "Coming this way slowly down from Wales, swimming across oceans and making giant footsteps down the M1 right now" (laughs at this as the first loud roar is heard) "Well then, tell me who the f*@k is it?" The crowd, used to the theatre, knew and bellowed back the name of the menace that approached, "GODZILLA", as the band kicked into the slow, doom laden, disaster movie of a song about that Japanese creation. After the first verse the danger level subsided slightly as some "monster bass" broke up the attack care of "Mr Danny Miranda" stamped around the stage instead. He provided a rather laid back bass solo before the pace increased when Bobby Rondinelli joined the fray before letting the bass and audience have a little call and return session. As that ended, rather quickly thankfully, Danny left the stage to the pounding beat of the rather more attacking playing of Bobby Rondinelli. This wasn't the best drum solo I've seen, more a case of hitting everything as hard and quickly as possible with a brief respite part way through to add a hint of atmosphere, but at least it wasn't dragged out too long. Everybody returned for a final chorus as the behemoth retreated (from Tokyo, he's a quick mover) into the distance.
The briefest of moments passed before Buck began a doodling riff. Lanier had taken up position behind the keyboards while Bloom now walking around with a guitar on, hands behind back, waited for his turn to join in. That riff eventually paused and transmogrified into something familiar to all present, the big hit single from way back when, (DON'T FEAR) THE REAPER. Many of the crowd were on their feet now, some joining the few that had remined on the 'dancefloor' for the whole show. The ringing guitars built layer upon layer of sound until the whole song climaxed - as, I'm sure, done some of the audience! A simple "Goodnight everybody. Thanks for coming 1st night" and the band were away.
Only for a minute or so but in that time the rest of the floor area had filled as people moved down for the final songs. Lanier returned first, checking keyboards with some hammondy organ sounds. Buck stepped up to his microphone and gave the cue for the music to begin again, "I guess we got time for one more." Before this though the bass thudded to check things were still working before Rondinelli pounded out the beat, the riff soon taken up by Buck, while Bloom (his jacket now also off) settled for just microphone. Hollering "Oh Yeah" the beat picked up for some rocking and the tale of Suzie and her brother - DOMINANCE AND SUBMISSION (from Secret Treaties). The funky guitar calmed for the chorus which was underpinned by mainly keyboards and the rhythm section, the guitar being kept for the repeated calls for "dominance and submission". As the final, slightly off, notes cranked from Bucks guitar Bloom said farewell "Thanks everybody, goodnight!" as the others doffed their instruments and came together in a line at the front briefly before retreating to the dressing rooms. Undeterred the as the crowd, now mostly standing on the floor in front of the stage, shouted for more even as the lights rose at quarter to eleven - not that it stopped them clapping and shouting for another min or two as Queen blared out of the PA to further underline the end of the show.
Overall not a bad show but not as good as I remembered the band. they could be forgiven as it was the first night of a tour and probably the day after they flew in. With no ME262 as a final encore there were no crossed guitars care of Bloom and Dharma to end the set. I hoped that the London show would prove better.