Blue Oyster Cult

Blue Öyster Cult, Slim’s, San Francisco, CA, 04-25-10 (Sunday)      
 
  On April 25, 2010, Blue Öyster Cult (“BÖC”) played Slim’s night club in San Francisco. BOC played an 11?song, 90?minute set from 9:20 to 10:50.

1. Golden Age of Leather (Spectres record, 1978) began with Eric Bloom (“EB”), Buck Dharma (“BD”), Richie Castellano (“RC”), and Rudy Sarzo (“RS”) singing the first verse a cappella, “Raise your can of beer on high.  And seal your fate forever.  Our best years have passed us by.  The golden age of leather.”  The musical onslaught began with Jules Randino’s (“JR’s”) drum beats to this fairly up tempo song that featured BD on lead vocals.  BD wore light blue jean pants, black vest, black t?shirt, black leather shoes, and light maroon?tint sunglasses.  I initially had trouble hearing the vocals because they were poorly mixed in the sound, a problem remedied by the third song.  In contrast, RS’s driving bass lines were prominent in the mix and provided a groovy foundation.

 

BD sang the second through fourth verses without much pause in between.  Following the fourth verse, from approximately (approximations presumed throughout) the 1:55 to 2:35 marks, the band engaged in a jam session that included JR’s upbeat drum beats, RS’s driving bass lines, and BD’s 15?second guitar solo.  The band then sang the fifth and sixth verses, “Dawn colored the sky … The ritual ceased.  Some had died … They were buried with their bikes.  Each grabbed a rag … From a man with a sack.  Torn strips of color … The red and the black.”  BD resumed solely singing the seventh and eighth verses.   The song’s tempo was elevated after BD’s guitar solo, but significantly slowed down during the last 50 seconds of the song when the band repeated the phrase, “Golden age.”  [As far as I was concerned the golden age had not yet passed because when the band played Hot Rails to Hell as an encore a marijuana smoke cloud pungent enough to make a rhinoceros hallucinate to the point it would prance around like a fairy princess amidst a tulip field wafted through the air.]

 

2. O.D.’d on Life Itself (Tyranny and Mutation, 1973) is a very bluesy mid tempo song that featured EB on vocals.  O.D.’d on Life Itself contains interesting lyrics.  During the third verse EB sang, “Writings appear on the wall.  The curtains part and landscape fall.  There the writings done in blood.  Yeah, like a mummy’s inscription and a bat wing tongue.”  [EB and BD are exceedingly gifted musicians and songwriters.  However, EB and BD may have been inspired to write these lyrics when they opted to smoke bananas in lieu of eating them.]  EB wore black jean pants, black long sleeve button-down cotton shirt, black leather boots, and black sunglasses.  During the chorus BD, RC, and RS sang, “O.D.’d on life, life itself.  O.D.’d on life, life itself.  O.D.’d on life itself” and JR beat the life out of his tom-tom drums that were part of a grey and black fade drum kit featuring a single bass drum.  JR wore blue jean pants, black vest, white t?shirt, and black mirrored sunglasses.  The fourth verse led straight into BD’s fiery 40?second guitar solo.  As I listened to EB and BD’s bluesy guitar playing I was reminded of the chord progression for Ian Hunter’s Once Bitten Twice Shy from his self?titled record (1975) because they sound strikingly similar to those on O.D.’d on Life Itself.

3. Burnin’ for You (Fire of Unknown Origin, 1981).  Before Burnin’ for You EB said, San Francisco, how ya’ doing?  How is this San Francisco when you get a guy with no shirt up front?!  Let’s go back to Fire of Unknown Origin.”  Burnin’ for You began with an instantly recognizable chord progression by EB, BD, RC, and RS.  From the 0:10 to 0:25 marks EB, BD, and RC chanted, “Aaah … aaah,” serving as the cue for BD to sing the first verse, “Home in the valley.  Home in the city.  Home isn’t pretty.  Ain’t no home for me.”  Burnin’ for You is a soft ballad.  RC and EB provided rhythm guitars during the chorus while BD and EB sang, “And I’m burning, I’m burning, I’m burning for you.  I’m burning, I’m burning, I’m burning for you.”  EB used Marshall amplifiers (“amps”) and primarily played a black Gibson SG guitar with a pearl BOC logo inlay on the body, and he also sparingly played a black guitar with a Fender Stratocaster body with a three-dimensional red BOC logo on the body.

4. Buck’s Boogie (A Long Day’s Night, 2002) is an up tempo instrumental highlighting BD’s talents as a bluesy guitar player and also featured RC’s keyboard solo from the 1:05 to 1:20 marks.  At the 1:20 mark EB, BD, RS, and JR joined RC in an entertaining jam.  BD’s playing during Buck’s Boogie is reminiscent of the blues guitar playing by Big Joe Williams on Baby, Please Don’t Go (1935) and Angus Young on AC/DC’s Whole Lotta Rosie off the Let There Be Rock record (1977).  Midway through the song BD experienced technical problems with the tremolo bar on his white Steinberger Swiss cheeseburger model guitar (headstockless guitar with a Fender Stratocaster body resembling Swiss cheese).  BD switched to a black guitar with a Stratocaster body that he played through Marshall amps.  From the 6:40 to 7:05 marks Buck’s Boogie featured all the band members wailing on their instruments creating a wall of sound until the song came to a climactic end.  RS was fully immersed in bobbing his head and periodically quickly licking his right fingertips he used to pluck his bass strings.  RS wore dark blue jean pants, black tank top, black sneakers, and vest that was half solid black and half purple with a recurring, plus-shaped pattern comprised of four white basses.  RS played a maroon Peavey bass and used Ampeg amps.

5. Harvest Moon (Heaven Forbid, 1998) is a mid tempo song that featured BD on vocals and EB on Kurzweil and Korg keyboards positioned stage right.  RC, who had by this time taken his sunglasses off, provided a fluid and entertaining rhythm guitar section using a light brown Music Man guitar he played through Marshall amps.  RC wore black jeans, black long sleeve button-down cotton shirt with satin vertical stripes, and black leather shoes.  Harvest Moon’s verses have a driving engaging quality.  Following the first verse EB, BD, RC, and RS sang the chorus, “Ahh, ahh, ahh, ahh.  When the wind turns.  Ahh, ahh, ahh, ahh.  And blows the leaves from the trees.  Ahh, ahh, ahh, ahh.  Harvest moon.”  EB, RC, and RS handled the “ahh, ahh, ahh, ahh” chorus portions.  The second, fourth, sixth, and seventh verses have an interesting catchy quality in that, on the even?numbered verse lines, EB, RC, and RS softly sang, “Harvest moon” at the end of the verse (e.g., “I feel the nights grow cold … Harvest moon.”  “Old people feelin’ old … Harvest moon.”).  After the fourth verse, from the 2:10 to 3:20 marks, the band engaged in an entertaining and enjoyable jam session during which they elevated the song to up tempo mode and laid the foundation for memorable RC and BD guitar solos lasting 30 seconds.

6. The Vigil (Mirrors, 1979).  Before The Vigil EB introduced the band members and talked about, of all things, baseball, “The (New York) Yankees (baseball team) suck.  Thank you very much.  That is all from E.S.P.N. (cable sports channel) sports.  Now we move on to The Vigil.”  The Vigil began with BD playing melodic guitar notes and featured BD on vocals and EB on keyboards.  At the 0:45 mark BD, RC, and RS began playing a fairly heavy, mid tempo chord progression.  The song’s tempo was somewhat pedestrian but enhanced by RS’s prominent solid bass lines.  [RS’s music prowess and showmanship during The Vigil were the auditory and visual equivalent of taking a bland rice cake, immersing it in tabasco sauce and glazing it with a sweet, tangy barbeque sauce that glistens.]

Interestingly, The Vigil does not feature a chorus and does not need one to qualify as a good song, a testament to BOC’s musical genius.  [On the one hand are gifted artists like BOC able to write unique, memorable songs that do not conform to the traditional “verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo” formula.  On the other hand are “artists” like Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears who write uninspired formulaic songs that give me the urge to pick up their CDs and commit suicide by ingesting them whole, cutting off my trachea.]   From the 2:35 to 3:00 marks BD played a memorable guitar solo on his white Steinberger that had been repaired by his technician.  Beginning at the 3:35 mark JR stopped playing drums while BD sang, “Well, I’m no poet, but I can’t be fooled.  The lies don’t count, the whispers do.  I hear the whispers on the wind.  They say the earth has fallen due.”  At the 4:15 mark JR resumed playing drums shortly before EB twice sang the line, “Come to us” while BD played a memorable guitar run accentuated by RC, RS, and JR’s solid rhythm section.  At the 4:55 mark BD, RC, and RS resumed the fairly heavy, mid tempo chord progression.  EB played atmospheric keyboards for a few seconds at the 0:45 and 5:50 marks.  The Vigil ended as it began, with BD’s melodic guitar notes.

7. Black Blade (Cultösaurus Erectus, 1980).  Before Black Blade EB said, “Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to Rudy Sarzo!”  RS moved from his microphone (“mike”) stage left to BD’s center stage mike where he said, “I AM a Yankees fan,” triggering boos from audience members loyal to Bay Area baseball teams.  Black Blade began with BD’s searing 15?second guitar run after which the song adopted a mid tempo pace.  From the 0:35 to 0:40 marks the song momentarily shifted to up tempo mode while EB sang the last line of the first verse, “And it howls, it howls like hell.”  The tempo returned to mid tempo mode only to again resume an up tempo mode during the chorus when EB, BD, and RC sang, “Black blade!  Black blade!  Forged a billion years ago.  Black blade!  Black blade!  Killing so its power can grow.”  Interestingly, Black Blade momentarily shifted to mid tempo mode when EB uttered the final word of the chorus, “Grow,” which he repeated seven times while the tempo gradually escalated with BD, RC, RS, and JR’s masterful instrumentation until EB finally shouted, “Grow!”

From the 1:50 and 2:20 marks BD twice played the signature guitar run from the start of Black Blade.  From the 2:20 to 3:45 marks the tempo slowed a bit for a jam session, including RC’s atmospheric keyboards and RS’s monstrous bass lines he played center stage by JR’s drum kit.  Following the second chorus, from the 3:45 to 4:50 marks, the song switched to up tempo mode during which RC’s keyboard playing was prominently featured, RS played groovy bass lines, and EB sang the final verse in an altered voice that sounded futuristic (i.e., computerized).

8. Then Came the Last Days of May (Blue Öyster Cult, 1972).  Before Then Came the Last Days of May EB said, “We are going to go back to our first album.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  I think (Richard) Nixon was President.  I think the Vietnam War was just ending.  This is Then Came the Last Days of May.”  Then Came the Last Days of May is a bluesy song with a fairly slow tempo that featured BD on vocals and EB on keyboards.  BD sang at a slightly higher than usual octave.  Following the first verse, from the 0:45 to 0:55 marks, BD played fairly heavy trench?filled guitar riffs, a pattern he repeated after the second, third, and fifth verses.  After the fourth verse, from the 2:20 to 3:35 marks, BD and RC played extended guitar solos, beginning and ending with BD.  During his guitar solo RC banged his head in metal fashion and raised his guitar a la K.K. Downing (Judas Priest guitarist) while RS and JR provided a solid rhythm section.  After BD and RC’s guitar solos, the band jammed with BD, RC, and RS center stage and during which JR performed heavy drumming and the song’s tempo gradually increased.  After BD sang the fifth and final verse the tempo quickly slowed as the song came to a conclusion to much audience adulation.

9. Godzilla (Spectres, 1978).  Immediately after Then Came the Last Days of May EB shouted, “Yeah, Richie on the guitar!  Now, as you know, millions of years ago long before the Castro District (San Francisco neighborhood considered the world’s first and currently largest gay neighborhood) there were large reptilian creatures that roamed San Francisco.  If you listen closely you can hear … Don’t tell me … What is it?!  Godzilla!”  Godzilla began with EB, BD, and RS’s memorable, trudging chord progression.  In contrast to the record version, Godzilla did not feature keyboards to water down its potency.  Godzilla has a fairly slow tempo but its catchy chord progression prompted many audience members to bob their heads.  EB and BD shared vocals.  Godzilla’s standout part is its catchy chorus during which the band sang, “Oh no, they say he’s got to go.  Go, go Godzilla, yeah.  Oh no, there goes Tokyo.  Go, go Godzilla, yeah.”  [When I hear Godzilla I envision seeing a burly bearded mountain man wearing coveralls and combat boots dragging a moose carcass he just killed in the woods.]  From the 1:15 to 1:35 marks BD played a fiery guitar solo.  After the second chorus, from the 2:00 to 2:25 marks, the band jammed with BD, RC, and RS center stage while EB sang what on record is a tape track with the message, “Rinji news o moshiagemasu!  Rinji news o moshiagemasu!  Godzilla ga Ginza hoomen e mukatte imasu!  Daishkyu hinan shite kudasai!  Daishkyu hinan shite kudasai!”  [I have no clue what EB uttered.  It may have been the menu from a Japanese restaurant, but it rocked.]  At the 2:30 mark the band repeated the chorus a third time.

During the jam the band highlighted RS and JR’s musical talents.  EB said, “Maybe some of you remember Rudy Sarzo when he was in Quiet Riot!”  RS and JR played 10 seconds of the rhythm section to Bang Your Head (Metal Health) off Quiet Riot’s Metal Health record (1983).  EB then said, “Maybe some of you remember Rudy Sarzo when he was in Whitesnake!”  RS and JR then played 10 seconds of the rhythm section to Here I Go Again off Whitesnake’s Whitesnake record (1987).  EB then said, “Maybe some of you remember Rudy Sarzo when he was in Ozzy!”  RS and JR then played the rhythm section to Crazy Train off Ozzy Osbourne’s Blizzard of Ozz record (1980) for two minutes.  RS then left the stage and JR played a two?minute drum solo that exhibited his hard?hitting and technical skills.  After JR’s drum solo the band resumed Godzilla with the chorus.  Godzilla led straight into (Don’t Fear) The Reaper, the second song that received the strongest audience reaction.

10. (Don’t Fear) The Reaper (Agents of Fortune, 1976) commenced with RC’s atmospheric keyboards emulating blowing wind similar to Alexander the Great off Iron Maiden’s Somewhere in Time record (1986).  JR joined RC with a simple effective drum beat while EB and BD played the recognizable introductory guitar notes.  (Don’t Fear) The Reaper  featured BD singing vocals in a particularly soft and melodic voice accentuated by EB and BD’s catchy, recurring guitar notes.  Prior to the chorus, BD played a blues?based guitar run supported by EB’s clapping, RS’s bass lines, and JR’s drum beats.  During the chorus BD, RC, RS, and JR repeated and interspersed the phrase, “Don’t fear the Reaper” while BD sang the remainder of the chorus that resulted in the memorable lines, “Don’t fear the Reaper.  Baby take my hand.  Don’t fear the Reaper.  We’ll be able to fly.  Don’t fear the Reaper.  Baby I’m your man.”  After the chorus, the band sang a harmony, “La, la, la, la, la.  La, la, la, la, la.”  After the second chorus, from the 2:30 to 3:25 marks, the band engaged in a jam session highlighted by BD’s 40?second guitar solo during which RS came center stage behind BD and provided solid bass lines.  During the final chords of (Don’t Fear) The Reaper EB raised his right hand twice and softly uttered, “Thank you.”

The band left the stage at 10:49 and returned in one minute to play one additional song.

 

11. Hot Rails to Hell (Tyranny and Mutation, 1973).  Before Hot Rails to Hell EB said, “There is a certain aroma wafting through the air.  I hope marijuana is legalized because getting busted for a joint is bullsh*t.”  Hot Rails to Hell is an up tempo song that featured a catchy, fairly heavy, chugging chord progression.  The band played Hot Rails to Hell at a particularly fast tempo with RC handling vocals at a slightly lower than usual octave.  During the first verse RC sang, “Riding the underground.  Swimming in sweat.  A rumble above and below.  Hey cop don’t you know?  The heat’s on alright.  The hot summer day didn’t quit for the night.”  Right before the chorus JR played colorful drum fills and BD played melodic guitar notes.  During the chorus EB, BD, RC, and RS sang, “1277 express to heaven.  Speeding along like dynamite.  1277 express to heaven.  Rumbles the steel like a dogfight.”  From the 2:05 to 2:45 marks BD played a catchy guitar solo during which RS and JR provided a solid foundation.  After the second chorus, from the 3:20 to 4:10 marks, the band jammed and elevated the song’s tempo.  The band took a heartfelt bow at the end of the song.

 

One flashback memory is worthy of mention.  The BOC show reminded of the ill effects of excessive alcohol I have witnessed at shows dating back to the early 1980’s.  While EB was talking to the fans before Black Blade RS’s attention was drawn to the ramblings of a burly 6’3”, 240 pound drunkard standing front row stage left who I will refer to as Mountain Man Mel (“MMM”).  MMM shouted at RS, “Play I Love the Night (Spectres, 1977).  I want to hear I Love the F**kin’ Night.”  Do you guys know how to play I Love the F**kin’ Night.”  After being subjected to MMM’s drunken rambling requests 10 times, RS acknowledged him by casually peeling the set list off his amp and offering it to MMM to pacify him by proving BOC did not plan to play I Love the Night.  As RS offered MMM the set list, MMM swiftly and pompously turned his back to RS, raised his right hand, bent his wrist backward in limp?wristed fashion, and said in a quasi?feminine voice, “If you’re not going to play it, I don’t want it (the set list).”  MMM tossed his head back and whisked away from RS.  RS looked dumbfounded, shrugged his shoulders, and taped the set list back on his amp.

I had a similar experience at the urinal of a Kiss concert in Oakland, California during the Animalize tour (02-09-85) standing next to an inebriated man who I will refer to as Lush Larry (“LL”).  LL had drunk so much he had difficulty grasping the requisite appendage to urinate.  Shortly after achieving this nearly improbable feat, LL’s friend, standing behind him, asked him a question.  LL turned his head toward me to answer his friend.  Given his drunken state, LL turned not just his head, but his entire body, appendage and all.  If I had a machete I would have put it to good use.  Fortunately, I was able to get his attention by shouting at him before getting doused.  LL looked at me with a quizzical glossy?eyed stare as if I had asked him to explain Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Venue: Slim’s is a 400?seat San Francisco club that rhythm and blues artist Boz Scaggs opened in 1988.  Slim’s is located within three miles of San Francisco’s financial district.  The club decor is simple and includes chandeliers, brick walls, and a bar inspired by the facades of New Orleans manors.

Within five feet of walking through the entrance are six steps that lead immediately up and into the general admission floor approximately 20 feet from the stage.  At one end of the main floor is the stage that measures 29 feet wide by 16 feet deep.  The stage is three feet and three inches from the club floor and features a moveable drum riser eight feet by six feet and a very narrow photo pit.

At the other end of the main floor is a small balcony with 14 tables and seating for 70 people.  The sound console is located in the rear by the steps leading up to the balcony.  The L?shaped bar runs the length of the floor stage left.  The general admission floor also includes six pillars.  Located downstairs are three dressing rooms, coat check, and additional restrooms.

Opening Band: Medieval Knievel

 

Arash Moussavian, Entertainment Law Attorney
arashmoussavian@cal.berkeley.edu
www.linkedin.com/in/arashmoussavian
All photos taken by Arash Moussavian.  This article and all photos are protected by copyright.  Please contact me prior to use, or I will make shish kabab of your loins.

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