Blue Öyster Cult and Edgar Winter

You should technically be reading this review with full-colour pictures of the concert which featured Blue Öyster Cult and Edgar Winter, but unfortunately the venue where I saw it (Merriweather Post Pavillion in Columbia, MD) had some lame union laws that prevented me from taking pictures, even though I was equipped with a photopass.

Now I've gotten that off of my chest, on with the review. This show was actually a festival that featured a bunch of other bands such as Orleans, Rick Derringer, and Creedence Clearwater Revisited, but I didn't get to see any of them. The first act I saw was Edgar Winter, and he put on a great show. The highlight of it was, of course, his keyboard drenched hit Frankenstein, which lasted for almost 20 minutes, and featured a great deal of self-indulgent noise both from him and his guitarist. Winter did the vocals, played the keyboards and a saxophone, and even did a bit of percussion. It surprised me how powerful his voice still was, after all these years. But overall, it was a great warm up for me to see Blue Öyster Cult.

As the Öyster boys came out (flaunting the no-smoking regulation in the pavillion), there was some cool background music being played (which I believe was also played the last time I saw them) which really set the mood for the show. They opened up with Stairway to the Stars, and never looked down. The set was extremely tight, and the band was in fine form. Unfortunately, the volume of the music was too loud, and the mix buried most of the intricate details of the music. The intensity of music reached its peak when they did Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll. The sheer aggressiveness of their performance blew me away, and it was highlight of the show for me. The group once in a while took turns showcasing the individual members' talents, but it was Dharma who shone with his stellar guitar work. Other songs they played included Before the Kiss A Redcap, Buck's Boogie, and course their classic staple, Burnin' For You (prefixed with "this is to all the women in the audience" by Eric Bloom), Godzilla (with some corny acting by Bloom at the sound of the fictional monster), and (Don't Fear) The Reaper (which featured a long delay as Dharma tuned up). These were the songs that brought down the house.

The shows included people of all ages, and it got me thinking about the longevity of seventies music. While the seventies had their share of crap, it seems that music from that decade has outlasted music from any other in the last four decades. Perhaps it has to do with the professionalism that seventies artists have, or perhaps that on the average, the most complex rock music was made around that time. Perhaps it was just a matter of luck that some of the top grossing bands today, such as Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, The Eagles, KISS, etc., especially in terms of touring, built momentum in the seventies.

Anyways, Blue Öyster Cult played a new tune, Harvest Moon, which I thought mixed some of their best aspects, and some of the best aspects of seventies music. I've always thought that they had a great potential for making sludgy doomy music, à la Black Sabbath, but they never pursued it to their full potential. It's evident though that they have a rock-n-roll side, and they can put out some searing melodies and crunchy riffs. Harvest Moon I thought combined both those aspects, and retained a high level of musical complexity. It also has a bit of that symphonic feel seen in Veteran of the Psychic Wars, from the Heavy Metal movie sound track. If all their tunes on their upcoming album are of this nature, it is definitely something to look forward to!

As a footnote, I cannot emphasise enough how good this band is. As I wrote before, they're one of the most underrated bands around, and it's a shame because their music is incredibly complex, highly melodic, and simply amazing.

Music ram-blings || Ram Samudrala || || August 11, 1996