BLUE OYSTER CULT
DTE Music Theater, Clarkston, Michigan
June 28, 2006
By CLARK PAULL
“Raise your can of beer on high,
And seal your fate forever,
Our best years have passed us by,
The Golden Age of Leather”
From the view in Center 2, Row G, Seat 6 of this outdoor shed, you’d be hard pressed to characterize the above refrain from Blue Oyster Cult’s 1977 “Spectres” album as prescient. Although the synchronized shiny black cowhide and metal hardware no longer adorn what’s left of the original line-up (Eric Bloom, Allen Lanier, and Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser), replaced now by more utilitarian gear like t-shirts and jeans (still in black, though), these Long Islanders placed an exclamation point on their paid-our-dues integrity with a set that caused most at this sparsely-attended gig to take one giant step back.
Lest there be any question of the authenticity of BOC’s epithet “On Tour Forever,” check this out: this was their 110th appearance in Michigan dating back to a 1972 Grande Ballroom gig, a roller coaster ride of
attendant peaks (headlining Cobo Hall) and valleys (Bay City’s Pig Gig Rib Fest - “where the ribs are as hot as the music”). Besides glory years rhythm section Albert and Joe Bouchard, the list of others to pass through the cosmic ether on this 34-year junket reads like a La Cosa Nostra meet-and-greet; Rick Downey, Jimmy Wilcox, Tom Zvoncheck, Jon Rogers, Ron Riddle, Chuck Burgi, John Micelli, Greg Smith, John O’Reilly, Al Pitrelli, Danny Miranda, and Bobby Rondinelli. The current engine room resemble that remark as well - bassist Richie Castellano and drummer Jules Radino.
Taking the stage and a page out of Mike Watt’s book with an undulating “The Red and The Black,” Castellano and Radino are wide-eyed but squarely on the mark, moderating Bloom, Lanier, and Roeser’s circular argument that six strings good, eighteen better. Wishful, provincial thinking perhaps from a guy who believes deep down that anything worth a toss has the stench of the Motor City clinging to it, but “This Ain’t The Summer Of Love” and “Cities On Flame” smack of Detroit in spirit if not intent, both delivered with
Bloom (Transmaniacon) MC’s the proceedings, taking turns with Lanier wearing out a path between the guitar stands and the bank of keyboards as if they don’t know whether to fish or cut bait, Lanier unusually proficient at both, but it’s clearly Roeser’s jurisdiction, emphatically underscored with as good an excuse to show off as any in “Buck’s Boogie” and a celestial, 10-plus minute take of “Then Came The Last Days Of May,” worth the price of admission all by its proud self. Roeser may look more like a high school math teacher these days than the decadent dandy of yore, but his playing remains a thing of science. He is the man.
“Godzilla” is about as close to novelty territory as these guys have ever dared venture if you disregard the $35 tour t-shirts with “More Cowbell!” emblazoned on the back available at the merch booths, and it gives Roeser, Bloom, and Lanier a breather while Castellano and Radino do something you don’t see too much these days; bass and drum solos. Radino is one of those drummers who pulls so many faces you wonder if there’s an oxygen tent and defibrillators backstage in case he doesn’t make it, but he hits as hard as
anyone I’ve ever seen.
Unfortunately, just after “Burnin’ For You” makes nearly everything on my body stand up, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” is cued up and the DTE curse – the local noise ordinance which mandates that all shows end no later than 11:00 p.m. – rears its ugly head not much more than an hour after the house lights went out. Feh…
Blue Oyster Cult may not be pretty, but they breathe, sweat, and bleed, some of the scariest, best, and certainly undervalued writers whose pension funds I’ve had the pleasure of padding. Had to pass up the tour t-shirt, though, in favor of a tank of gas.
Heroes may walk among us still.
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