August 31, 2016 Blue Öyster Cult’s Magnificent Homecoming Suffolk Theater Riverhead, NY 8-19-16
Making their debut with their self-titled album back in 1972, Long Island, New York’s Blue Öyster Cult brought with them a unique blend of Psychedelia, Rock-n-Roll, Boogie, and the Blues, with Heavy Metal elements. Their spaced-out jams and even spacier lyrics endeared fans to their supreme originality, making them a compelling act to see. Catapulted to international stardom following a six year run that would include six studio albums and two live albums, Blue Öyster Cult became one of the most dominant bands on the scene in the ’70s into the early ’80s.
Now celebrating over four decades together, original members Eric Bloom (guitar/vocals) and Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser (lead guitar/vocals) lead a lineup of Richie Castellano (keyboards/guitars/vocals), Jules Radino (drums), and Kasim Sulton (bass) as the band continues to tour year after year. Continuing their touring ways in the summer of 2016, the band recently returned stateside following European appearances including a spot at Germany’s Wacken Festival. An experience any Rock band should partake in, what better way to complete the journey than a few weeks later come back to Long Island where it all started for Blue Öyster Cult. That being said, the band has always made Long Island a homecoming destination with performances at NYCB Theatre at Westbury, The Paramount, The Space at Westbury, among other hot venues in the area. This time, they would make their way a little further east, coming to Riverhead’s Suffolk Theater on Friday, August 19th, for an evening of blistering Rock-n-Roll.
Drawing a nice crowd into the classic theater dressed with a beautiful bar and mezzanine area, Blue Öyster Cult hosted the theater all by themselves as they kicked off their set with 1976’s “This Ain’t the Summer of Love.” A perfect intro to the band, the song’s darting intro on guitars, menacing lyrics, and straightforward talk about the end of flower power, set the stage for a straight-on Hard Rock assault. Keeping it going, “Golden Age of Leather;” a harrowing tale of the death and destruction of a group of motorcycle outlaws, came next, opening with an a capella verse saluting the life and times of the gang before taking off into a straight-ahead Rock number.
With everyone cheering for more, “Burnin’ for You,” with its unforgettable riff, top 40 worthy melody, and screaming guitars, was the first of many big hits the band would offer up to The Suffolk Theater. The aforementioned facts in mind, the single did in fact hit the top 40 upon its release, and went all the way to #1 on the Billboard Rock Tracks, thus igniting the crowd to sing along from start to finish. Reminiscent of mid-sixties English Rock, “Od’d on Life Itself” blended a classic Brit-Pop riff with strange effects on keys for a mish-mash of styles that resulted in a propulsive groove that was accented by a dynamic solo from Roeser. Showing more versatility, “True Confessions” saw the band laid down Honky-Tonk keys and intricate harmonies as the song bounced along in the spirit of ’70s California Rock. An interesting detour for a band known for heavy guitars, but one that was executed flawlessly, everyone ate it up as many stood by their tables and grooved to the rhythm.
Getting their southern boogie on, “ME 262” (short for Messerschmitt 262, a WW2 plane used by Germany; the world’s first jet powered fighter plane), it hurried along with crunchy guitars and furious drumming, telling the story of a German fighter pilot taking on the English. Going back to 1979’s Mirrors album, the plaintiff was “The Vigil” with its gyroscopic guitars in the intro and somber soloing throughout, during vocal breaks as well as over the vocals, the track was a guitar lover’s dream.
Engaging the audience with friendly conversation, Bloom made everyone feel like they were family as the heaviest kept coming with 1980’s “Lips in the Hills” with thick riffs and ornate soloing. Off of Cultosaurus Erectus, the album is one which the band would embark on a would tour with Black Sabbath, known as famed Black and Blue Tour. A delightful reflection on a great time, they then stretched back to their debut with “Then Came the Last Days of May,” telling the true story of a drug deal gone bad in the Arizona desert. Clocking in at over twelve minutes, the tune let Roeser and Castellano trade extended solos, and oftentimes soloing in harmony. A deep album cut of Classic Rock at its best, Blue Öyster Cult elevated the song to an otherworldly extended jam.
Keeping the crowd on the edge of their seat, they would go on to close the lengthy set with two of their biggest hits. First up was “Godzilla;” a song with lyrics that definitely are not too heavy or serious, thus being delivered with a tongue-in-cheek aesthetic. Complemented by the enormous, fuzzy, beefy riff that every kid who ever picked up a guitar tried to learn, the crowd was loving every minute of it. Adding to the power of the track was perfectly placed solos drenched in wah-wah effects as the funky break showed the band’s taste and abilities that extend far beyond Rock-n-Roll. This is before no doubt their most famous song, “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper,” concluded the set. Classic in every meaning of the word, an eerie, spooky riff opens the track as the lyrics told a foreboding tale of death and the listener’s reality that it is inevitable. On this night, the band delivered a flawless rendition before exiting the stage triumphantly.
After a brief break, and being encouraged for more, Blue Öyster Cult came out for a two song encore beginning with Castellano leading on vocals for “Hot Rails to Hell.” A perfect slab of early ’70s Hard Rock /Heavy Metal, chugging and fuzzed out guitars, a catchy chorus, along with an unholy amount of cymbal crashes made for an amped up rocker. Delivered with expert precision, for the finale, they would go back to their debut one last time with “Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll,” which lifted off with a riff that would make today’s Doom Metal bands jealous. Heavy in tone, its raw power, coupled with Eric Bloom’s gruff delivery and the stop and start drums, made for a sonic experience. It was a psychedelic-themed freak out before the final stanzas buttoned up the show quite nicely as the band brought impeccable creativity, chops, and thunder together.
Having been on the road for nearly fifty years, Blue Öyster Cult are the working man’s band; professional musicians who bring their A game to the stage every night. Their shows consistently feature smash hits that everyone knows, deep album cuts die-hard fans adore, and a personality with their stage presence that is unmatched. Showing no signs of fatigue, they currently have shows booked from now until, currently, March of 2017. Covering all four corners of the United States and all points in between, make it a point to check them out live, they will not disappoint.Photo credit: Ken Buglione Photography