The Öyster Boys are Swimming...

One has to work hard, play hard, and not fear the reaper in order to get the most out of life. Thus, knowing that I had a midnight deadline to meet for which I had slaved all week, I went to the Blue Öyster Cult show at the Boots club in VA. Blue Öyster Cult is one of the most underrated bands around and this is surprising to me since I think they are as influential to contemporary (metal) music today as are other proto-metal bands such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple.

Like the aforementioned bands, Blue Öyster Cult was another band I grew up with but paid very little attention to at that time, except for the excellent, and sometimes melancholic, guitar work of Buck Dharma (whose real name happens to be Donald Roeser). And luckily for me, he was as good as ever with his guitar wizardry.

The band opened the set with Stairway to the Stars from the selt-titled album Blue Öyster Cult and followed it up with Dr. Music (from Mirrors) and OD'd on Life Itself (from Tyranny and Mutation). This was enough to energise the crowd and lead the way to more classics such as E.T.I (for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence) and a medley of Before the Kiss and Teen Archer. See You in Black, the new tune they played (which would later end up in the Heaven Forbid album, shows that they still have the same Cult magic that they had---it's one of the better live new tunes I've heard in a long time. Buck Dharma's playing was excellent in the renditions of Telepaths, Cities, and M.E. 262.

Once they had finished playing all these tunes, they then started playing the popular radio tunes, starting with the extremely catchy Burnin' For You. "What's that I hear out there?" in response to a pounding sound introduced Godzilla, which I think has one of the cooler quotes from their songs: "History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man". And finally, Stephen King's favourite, an appropriate tune for this month, drove the packed crowd wild! In fact, Blue Öyster Cult is one of King's favourite groups and the extremely haunting Don't Fear the Reaper was played in The Stand miniseries in its entirety (it's also quoted in the book). The guitar work (one of the first songs I learnt to arpeggio), the lyrics, and the canon fugue-like classical elements inthe song sent shivers of the excitement down my spine:

Love of two is one.
Here but now they're gone.
Came the last night of sadness
and it was clear she couldn't go on.
Then the door was open and the wind appeared.
The candles blew then disappeared.
The curtains flew, then he appeared [saying don't be afraid],
come on baby [and she had no fear].
And she ran to him [then they started to fly].
They looked backward and said goodbye [she had become like they are].
She had taken his hand [she had become like they are].
Come on baby [don't fear the reaper].
                   ---Blue Öyster Cult, (Don't Fear) The Reaper

In general, the vocals weren't very well done I thought, but the bass playing and drumming were excellent! Keyboardist/guitarist Allen Lanier also was in fine form, and they really rocked when there were four guitars playing a tune simultaneously.

The opening groups were Out of Touch and 619, both of whom played a lot of covers, with Peace Pipe by Cry of Love in common. The 619 vocalist put on a decent show for the crowd and was funny to watch at times. They were nothing spectacular.

For an encore, the Oyster boys came back with a medley of This Ain't the Summer of Love and Golden Age, and finished with Red and the Black. The effects that were used to enhance the drumming visually were hypnotic. All in all, it was a great show in an extremely intimate atmosphere. Check it out if they come to your town, even if you're not familiar with their stuff. Songs like The Reaper will still blow you away.

Music ram-blings || Ram Samudrala || || October 15, 1994.