I have two lists of bands I would like to get round to seeing. One is the ‘Bands to see before I die’, the other is ‘Bands to see before THEY die’… Morbid and inappropriate? Maybe… BUT the fact remains, there are some bands who are still going but the nature of time amongst other things certainly doesn’t help. So it comes as no surprise when I see one of my favourite bands who have been a huge influence on me musically are touring to celebrate 45 years of psych and mystical rock and roll. Armed with beers and bumping into a fellow Noctum scribe, it was time for an enjoyable evening.

Well it would have been, but sadly the support act Jared James Nichols got us off to a rocky start (Pun intended!). The power trio, fronted by singer/guitarist Jared James Nichols did play some good blues inspired rock and roll riffs and he did have the whole image right – the gurning face during solo’s, a black low slung Les Paul and a cut off flannel shirt vest… It was a very typical middle-America rock look… But the sound was less than desirable.

Squeals of feedback from the wireless rig punctuated the set and at times were distracting, especially when the rough round the edges vocals were shattered with that high pitched whining noise. The musical style was just your typical ‘New’ Classic Rock – warm, plenty of crunch, some good low end and lots of screaming solos, but for the small glimmers of light in the set, it was for the majority a dull and mundane affair. With plenty of extended, gurn inducing guitar wankery and a song with a chorus which was laughable (Baby can you feel it?) and a few choice word substitutions could have made it sound better (Baby is it in yet?). But for all this mundane and sameness, the end of the set was what sealed the deal on this being poor – a murder of the blues rock classic “Mississippi Queen” by Mountain. Vocally weaker than the original, lacking the same dirty bite and feel, it had me shaking my head until it was over!

Thankfully, come 9pm, Blue Oyster Cult rescued us. With a nicely packed out venue and a good buzz in the air for one of rock music’s most underrated bands, you could tell that it was going to be a good night.

And it was! Full of classics from the start, the legendary five piece kicked it off with ” Transmaniacon MC “, bringing a party like feel to the proceedings and “I’m On The Lamb But I Ain’t No Sheep” hit the nail on the head with its crisp delivery and slick lead work. The iconic “Last Days Of May” was a moment where the hairs on the back of my neck were standing. The crowd was in full voice, almost drowning out the sound of Buck’s smooth and haunting vocals, but the highlight was the guitar solo trade-off between Richie Castellano and Buck Dharma, showing some sublime musicianship with shifts from full on shred technicality to expressive, minimalistic but full bodied sounds.

“Stairway To The Stars” brought the hippie 60’s feel of The Doors, adding some groove and well voiced appreciation from the crowd, but the massive moment in the middle of the set was what got the attention – “Cities On Flame With Rock And Roll”. The iconic track brought everyone to another level of enjoyment and from here, things only sped up. “The Red And The Black”, “The Golden Age Of Leather” and “Burnin’ For You” in a run kept the momentum and energy going, pleasing the crowd and having them sing along in full voice and to some, the surprise inclusion of “Harvest Moon” was a highlight of their night and later on, the inclusion of “Tattooed Vampire” got them off guard once more.

Of course, there were only a handful of songs which were left as the 11th hour approached and when the iconic heavy riff of “Godzilla” came crashing down like a gigantic lizard going on a rampage through Tokyo, people were really getting into it. “Buck’s Boogie”, the obligatory precursor to the final tracks was yet another display of Mr. Dharma’s prowess on the six string and then it was the moment most were waiting for. With an iconic ‘Donk!’ (Or whatever noise it makes), the cowbell and iconic flowing guitar line brought us arguably one of the greatest rock songs ever; “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”. You can’t really say much about this song what hasn’t already been said and once again the hairs on the back of my neck were standing to attention as the haunting yet beautiful melodies got everyone pumped even more.

Sadly, much like the tolling of the bells, ‘DFTR’ signalled the end, and an encore in the form of “Hot Rails To Hell” brought Ritchie Castellano back on vocal duties and the energetic sound and performance closed the night the right way, totally wiping away the misery induced by the opening act.

It was a fantastic night, pretty much what I expected from Blue Oyster Cult and then some, pretty much blowing me away. Musically spot on, sounding just like they do on record, nothing was out of place. A fantastic and rare display of musicianship which has hit that level where it simply becomes automatic, much like breathing. Granted, it is to be expected of a band who have been in this cut throat industry for 45 years, but for a band like this, so influential and talented to still remain underrated and often overlooked is a crime… Much like the performance of the support act!

Here’s hoping they hang on for a 50th anniversary tour!!