Concert Review: Blue Öyster Cult, Blotto (Corning Preserve, Albany, New York, July 18, 1996)

Dinosaur bands are often most effective when their members are self-aware enough to know that they’re playing dinosaur music — but are also smart enough to not let you know that they know it. ’70’s vets Blue Öyster Cult began to achieve dinosaur self-actualization around 1980-81, when they issued the aptly titled Cultosaurus Erectus, embarked on the Black and Blue Tour with the freshly de-Ozzied Black Sabbath, had “Veteran of the Psychic Wars” featured in Heavy Metal, and worked “Burnin’ for You” into the Top 40. The Cult then groped for awhile (losing their original rhythm section in the process) before issuing their “twenty years in the making” concept album, Imaginos, and hitting the Heavy Metal Preservation Society circuit — without ever letting on that they knew they were pimping black-leather nostalgia.

BOC’s play-anywhere ethos brought them to the Corning Preserve last Thursday for what Mayor Jennings lauded as the best attended show in Alive at Five history; a truly staggering number of people turned out to eat fried dough and hear what the Cult had to play and say. (The “say” part is nominally significant as many of BOC’s lyrical horror-shows were penned by “serious” outsiders, including journalists Richard Meltzer and Sandy Pearlman, Jim Carroll and Patti Smith). The Cult didn’t disappoint. They played their AOR staples, tossed out a new song to keep nostalgia-pointers at bay, and generally worked their metal-blues-stomp thing just as it needed to be worked.

Buck Dharma’s stun guitar remains BOC’s center-piece. His keening presto-pizzicato lead lines vivisected Allan Lanier’s slush-tone barrelhouse organ on “Buck’s Boogie”, while a brain-lesion-inducing guitar-harmonica duet (with Willie Nelson-sideman Mickey Raphael) during “Dr. Music” could have caused a major fish-kill had the PA been pointed toward the Hudson. Lanier also donned an axe to make intermittent three-guitar stew with Dharma and vocalist-guitarist Eric Bloom; the twitch-inducing 18-string “OD’ed on Life Itself” provided the afternoon’s heaviness high point. Overall, seeing BOC live in 1996 was akin to swimming with a coelocanth: Both are weird as hell, but it’s strangely thrilling to go face-to-face with a fully-functional living fossil in its own environment.

Blotto’s sorta-annual get-together recreated 1983’s Blot and Blue tour (coda to the aforementioned Black and Blue . . . heck, wouldn’t you want to hang out with Blotto too, after a year on the bus with the Sabs?). Blotto’s set rollicked and reeled from Lee Harvey Blotto’s boss opening Maui-beats on “I Wanna Be a Lifeguard” all the way through the never-ending-jerk-off false fadeouts during closer “Metalhead”. The filling was just as tasty as the cookies: Bowtie Blotto belted “It’s Not You (It’s Your Family I Can’t Stand)”, Sarge Blotto provided a great dramatic reading of “My Baby’s the Star of a Driver’s Ed Movie”, Broadway Blotto lent a creeping-surf lead to “The Munsters” and Cheese Blotto held down the bottom end with energetic elan throughout. It was fun. It sounded great. It should happen more often.

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