Blue Öyster Cult are my favourite American band. In recent years they’ve come over to the UK every couple of years. Last time they came over was 2006, so I figured they must be due over again this year. And lo! a tour was annouced! Last time I said to myself I’d try and get to multiple dates, but in the end Manchester turned out to be the only one I could make. The gig moved from the smaller Academy 3, where they’d played last time, to the larger Academy 2. I asked the doorman how many tickets they’d sold, and he told me they’d sold 600 in advance, half again the capacity of Academy 3, which explains why they moved it. If it wasn’t completely sold out, it was a pretty good crowd; and enthusiastic too; who was the guy behind me shouting for “The Siege and Investiture of Baron von Frankenstein’s Castle in Wessaria”? Beats “Grendel” at Marillion gigs, I suppose.
I was underwhelmed by support band Rolling Thunder. Instrumentally they were pretty tight, and their guitarist, though a bit too much of a showoff, had good chops. Unfortunately their frontman was a far better poseur than a singer, and they suffered from a critical lack of memorable songs.
With Allen Lanier absent due to ill-health, this tour saw Danny Miranda return on bass, with previous bassist Richie Castellano moving over to rhythm guitar and keys. As you’d expect from the last night of a tour, they were pretty tight, Eric Bloom and Buck Dharma on great form vocally, and Buck reeling off some wonderful solos, reminding me just why I rate him so highly as a guitarist.
BÖC always vary their setlists a lot from tour to tour, and even night to night, and you never know quite what they’re going to play, they always manage to throw in some surprises. This was a great setlist; opening with “This Ain’t the Summer of Love” and “Career of Evil”, we got personal favourites of mine, “Shooting Shark” and “The Golden Age of Leather”. And Astronomy.
Astronomy is my favourite BÖC song, in fact one of my favourite songs by any band. Although it’s always been regularly rotated in and out of the setlist, I’ve never heard them play it live on the five previous occasions I’ve seen the band. So I’ve waited for 28 years to hear this song live. So when I heard that opening guitar figure and a huge cheer went up.
Occasionally hearing a favourite song after a long wait can be an anticlimax. This wasn’t. The version they played was utterly spellbinding, with Buck Dharma playing what might well have been the best extended solo I’ve ever heard him play.
They closed the set with the usual standards, “Godzilla”, complete with bass solo, drum solo, and a brief Queen medley, and of course “Don’t Fear the Reaper”.
Sadly the strict curfew meant the band couldn’t come back for an encore, which left what had been a great evening ending a little flat. But that was soon forgotten; it was still a fantastic gig; they may be old, they may not have released a good record for ages, but they still rock live.