Saturday, April 01, 2017

Blue Öyster Cult thrills capacity crowd at The Coach House

Blue Öyster Cult, from left, Eric Bloom, Richie Castellano,
Buck Dharma and Kasim Sulton.
Review by Robert Kinsler

Photos by Bob Steshetz

Blue Öyster Cult
With: Gun Boat Kings
Where: The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, CA
When: Friday night, March 31, 2017

Over the last few years I've been fortunate to catch Blue Öyster Cult in concert several times, but those occasions were either special industry showcases (most recently at the 2015 NAMM Show; see review here) or when BÖC was opening for another artist (see my review here of BÖC and Deep Purple bill at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa in summer 2014).

Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser impressed on both
lead vocals and lead guitar at The Coach House.
So when the chance came to catch the groundbreaking American hard rock troupe in a headlining role at the legendary Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on Friday night, I knew I had to be there. The venue was packed and the excitement at seeing BÖC in a relatively intimate setting was palpable. 

This year marks the 50th anniversary of BÖC. Formed on Long Island, NY in 1967, the band was originally called Soft White Underbelly until 1971. As the quintet proved across its two-hour performance on Friday, BÖC has a rich and varied discography stretching back to the band's self-titled 1972 debut and continues to deliver top-tier performances. 
Jules Radino behind the kit.

The band's lineup includes Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser (lead guitar, lead vocals), Eric Bloom (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Jules Radino (drums), Richie Castellano (keyboards, lead guitar, backing vocals) and Kasim Sulton (bass, backing vocals). All made significant solo and collaborative contributions to the music making across the 17-song set.

After opening with a straight-forward rocking take on "The Red & the Black" and the satisfying prog rock-meets-hang banging "Golden Age of Leather" (complete with stellar vocal harmonies), the show's power quotient seemed to suddenly lift higher. "Burnin' For You" is one of the band's most beloved songs and soared this night. Dharma s distinctive lead vocals and lead guitar work, the lush mix of backing voices and the song's infectious and mysterious soundscape worked on a multitude of intoxicating levels. 
Richie Castellano at the Coach
House on March 31, 2017.

Another early highlight of the set included the '80s-styled synth foray "Shooting Shark," complete with Castellano and Dharma each playing multiple guitar solos; each of the sorties was very different and added depth to the song. Equally strong was "The Vigil," a bona fide masterwork that blended psychedelic and progressive rock styles, challenging vocal harmonies, and both tandem and solo guitar lines that were melodic and imaginative.

BÖC continued to unfurl one great song and one great performance after another. "Dancin' in the Ruins" was a melodic juggernaut, Castellano's keyboards and Dharma's emotive vocals layered atop the driving rhythm section. Old time rock 'n' roll ("ME 262," "Before the Kiss, a Redcap"), progressive rock (the ambitious "Then Came the Last Days of May"), melodic pop rock ("True Confessions") and post-punk rock ("Tattoo Vampire") offered up a masterclass in the importance of exploring new ground 
Eric Bloom in action at The Coach
House on March 31, 2017.

After thrilling the faithful with a powerful take of the band's 1977 hit "Godzilla," Dharma stood on the stage alone and performed a nuanced five-minute solo on his electric guitar. As the other band members filled in around him, he went into the iconic opening of "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" and BÖC simply lifted the audience to an even higher place.

The audience was not about to let the night end yet, and after an extended standing ovation, the band returned to perform a strong encore that was as potent as the regular set. "Perfect Water" was particularly powerful, a prog rocker with the characteristic mix of artful arrangement, wonderful musicianship and virtuoso musicianship that makes BÖC such a unique and treasured artist.

Opening for BÖC was the Gun Boat Kings, a six-man ensemble based in Southern California. The group impressed with a mix of original material that mixed up '70s-styled blues-rock, R&B, folk rock, jazz and soul. 

"Those Green Eyes" was an especially-strong song, a detailed and involving song that fused its run with a mix of soul, rock 'n' roll and R&B. "Angelina" was also convincing, recalling some of the strong cuts on Jefferson Starship's Red Octopus album with its jazzy and R&B flourishes.
Richie Castellano of BÖC.

Blue Öyster Cult setlist at The Coach House on March 31, 2017
The Red & the Black / Golden Age of Leather / Burnin' For You / Shooting Shark / The Vigil / Dancin' in the Ruins / ME 262 / Before the Kiss, a Redcap / Then Came the Last Days of May / True Confessions / Tattoo Vampire / Godzilla / (Don't Fear) The Reaper

Black Blade / Perfect Water / Hot Rails to Hell / Cities on Flame With Rock and Roll

1 comment:

Buck Shot said...

Kasim Sultan is a fantastic bass player and has quite a voice himself. His work with Todd Rundgren's Utopia is really great, especially on my favorite track from the Ra album, "Singring and the Glass Guitar." I just love that song, including Sultan's entertaining bass solo as he battles the eternal winds in search of the second key!