Blue Oyster Cult @ Institute, Birmingham – Wednesday 27th February 2019

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A near capacity crowd greeted the return to the Midlands of Long Island veterans Blue Oyster Cult and they were rewarded with a career spanning set that saw the band digging deep into their back catalogue. Eric Bloom remarked that BOC have been mixing things up each night on this current run of UK dates and across the half a dozen shows so far they have already performed more than thirty different songs. Aside from Bloom, the only remaining original member is lead guitarist and vocalist Buck Dharma, the pair joined by bassist Danny Miranda, drummer Jules Radino and Richie Castellano on guitar and keyboards. And whilst Miranda, Radino and Castellano may not have been around for the bands classic years they are all native New Yorkers which retains a sense of BOC’s roots that go way back to 1967 when they started out as Soft White Underbelly.

After taking the stage to the strains of the theme from Game of Thrones BOC eased into ‘The Red & the Black’ which made for something of a subdued opener. Bloom’s voice is now noticeably thinner and, despite delivering all of the between song banter and introductions, he took a more diminished role on stage with Buck Dharma very much the leading figure. Buck’s voice remains in good shape and the performance began to really gather some momentum when the opening riff of ‘Burnin’ For You’ kicked in and saw a huge response from the audience.

Bloom gave the crowd the choice between ‘Harvest Moon’ and ‘Shooting Shark’ (a close call but the former won the vote) and they then went right back to the debut album for a mesmerising ‘Then Came the Last Days of May’. Dharma’s guitar showcase ‘Buck’s Boogie’ saw him in scintillating form and throughout the entire show the interplay between the trio of guitarists and Miranda was sublime. BOC have never been an easy band to pigeonhole as songs can feature smooth melodies and harmonies and include multiple distinct parts and yet set to lyrics that can be mysterious, sinister and dramatic – all of which can be said of the mighty ‘Godzilla’.

Inevitably the main set closed with ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’ which has no doubt been played at every BOC show for the past four decades. How could they follow that? Well a sizeable percentage of the crowd decided that they simply couldn’t and headed for the exit which meant they missed Castellano’s lead vocal on the show closing ‘Hot Rails to Hell’. Although parts of the performance seemed to be very much for die-hard fans a revolving setlist does reward those who see multiple shows over a short time period and overall BOC seem to have the balance about right – even if the opening fifteen minutes or so was perhaps too understated. With Buck and Eric seemingly still enjoying being up on stage after all these years and a new album being positively discussed there is still more to look forward to from Blue Oyster Cult.

Setlist:-

The Red & the Black
Before the Kiss, a Redcap
This Ain’t the Summer of Love
Burnin’ for You
Perfect Water
Harvest Moon
The Vigil
Buck’s Boogie
E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)
Then Came the Last Days of May
Dancin’ in the Ruins
Godzilla
Guitar Solo
(Don’t Fear) The Reaper

Encore:-
In Thee
Hot Rails to Hell

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