Album review: BLUE OYSTER CULT – Hard Rock Live In Cleveland 2014

BLUE OYSTER CULT - Hard Rock Live In Cleveland 2014

Frontiers [Release date 24.01.20]

“Hard Rock Live In Cleveland 2014” is Blue Oyster Cult’s sixth live album. Not many in a 50 year career. Maybe that’s why it’s a sumptious, 2 CD + DVD affair, housed in a sturdy gatefold digipack. Something of a celebration.

Blue Oyster Cult was one of few bands who didn’t get sucked into the cultural vacuum created by political and social events in the early seventies. Of the original crew, only Donald (Buck Dharma) Roesser and Eric Bloom remain. Notably, frequent Todd Rundgren collaborator, Kasim Sultan, plays bass in the live band tonight. His resonating guitar tones and powerful voice add a welcome heft to the harmonies.

Along with Richie Castellano and Jules Radino, on guitar and drums, this is a tight, energetic rock band. And there’s no mulling over past glories, no cruising through an aural comfort zone. A band with nothing to prove, but plenty to say.

(Their streed cred got a significant boost in 1978, when legendary film director John Carpenter included DFTR in his seminal horror thriller “Halloween”. He may not have been annointing the band as kings of sinister hard rock, but it was certainly a blessing, a confirmation, from a respected source.)

Of tonight’s 17 tracks, 5 are appearing on a live album for the first time. As always, the band’s disquieting, doomful agenda is baited with catchy hooks. ‘Shooting Shark’s story of chronic relationship failure is strangely uplifting, thanks to a chorus that is simultaneously tragic and beautiful.

Roeser’s scorched voice and world weary persona carry the song’s elegaic tone with grace and conviction. He works the same magic on ‘Golden Age Of Leather’. It’s delivered as an eerily different, operatic rock epic, bringing to life the notion that the biker community is completely separate from mainstream society.

Throughout, the band maintains the vivid, slightly skewed hard rock style which distinguished it from its peer group in the seventies. It’s eminently listenable. To the extent that midway though the set they make another two previously unheard live songs, ‘The Vigil’ and ‘I Love The Night’, tales of alien invasion and vampiric seduction, into the kind of gleaming heavy metal that it’s impossible to pastiche.

The crowd is noisy and receptive. Blue Oyster Cult are not a band who seem to focus much on engagement. Their relationship with their fanbase always seemed a strange brew, a rock’n'roll alchemy – their music, full of melodic flair and literary intelligence, is their manifesto, take it or leave it.

Review by Brian McGowan

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