– More Cowbell! FM Radio Flashback With BLUE ÖYSTER CULT, ALICE COOPER
By Mark Gromen
Growing up, I was an ALICE COOPER
fan, but for a period of time, BLUE ÖYSTER CULT
was my favorite band, seeing them 8 times in one year and even getting into a SOFT WHITE UNDERBELLY (their alias) bar show, despite being underage. Perhaps it's the effects of living through the decadence of the Sixties and Seventies, then again, it just might just be the natural aging process, but don't believe I've been to a rock concert with as many bifocals, canes and hearing aids. If the drinking age had magically been raised to 40, no more than a handful would have been denied. Suffice to say, the median age in the room had to be pushing 60, with the guys onstage even older, yet it rocked! Joe Bouchard (guitar/vocals/keyboards) is a little beefier than during his Blue Öyster Cult heyday, looking like a thinner John Goodman, while brother/drummer Albert's once pouffy Afro-ish mane has been thinned out and graying. Original COOPER
alum Dennis Dunaway (bass/vocals) truly relished being back onstage, telling jokes/anecdote (including an unspoken rivalry/envy between the 70s behemoths) between songs. Despite turning 67 later this year, he strutted around stage, occasionally flashing back to stadium rock antics of yore, high kicking and contorting his body into poses that graced the pages of Rolling Stone and Creem, a lifetime ago.
No fanfare, or intro tape, the band came on, plugged in and kicked into their 'Prophets, Dukes And Nomads'. Many of those who had been seated at a dozen cocktail tables during local opening act ETERNAL LEGACY (who toned down their usual metal stylings, opting for more appropriate hard rock fare), lined the front of the elevated Beachland Ballroom stage. However, when Joe broke into 'Be My Lover', his voice adopting the original Coop timbre, the room enlivened measurably. Even moreso with 'Under My Wheels', which followed. Dunaway said, “Meet Blue Öyster Cult in '79 and thought I'd blow them out of the water, but then they came up with this,” cue 'Cities On Flame', sung by the drummer. Only fair, a double shot of BOC ensued, although the commercial mega-hit 'Burning For You' (despised by some hardcore fans) was a surprising choice. Overall, they aired 7 Cooper classics and 5 from the Bouchards' past, alongside a baker's dozen BLUE COUPE originals in the 2+ hour set.
Both Joe and Dennis wore sunglasses throughout. It was clear all three musicians were having a lot of fun. 'Hallow Grave', the studio track onwhich Alice Cooper guests, gives Albert a chance to do some swing style drumming. A speedy, guitar oriented 'Hellfire Hurry' wanders into DICK DALE surf/50s rock n roll territory. For 'Desperado' Joe put away the guitar (actually slung over shoulder), solely employing keyboards. During the simple, repetitive 'Modern Love', both stringed musicians leave the stage and make a circle through the crowd, with instruments in tow. Dunaway is happy with the scotch he's procured from the bar. Someone yells, “Knock it back,” to which he truthfully replied, “If I knock it back, you'll be sorry for the rest of the set.” Fans indulge Dunaway singing 'I'll Forever Stick Around', an ode to his girlfriend, in order to hear the likes of 'Black Juju'. When finished the bassist said, “Any bass players out there who wants to know how to play that correctly, if you're not smelling burning flesh, you're not doing it correctly.”
'I'm Eighteen' turns into a giant sing-along between band and crowd. Pumping up the crowd, the bassist, hand to ear, chides, “You have to demand it,” definitely a creed from a different era, as opposed to today, with mandatory encores. For 'Ain't Dead', Dunaway teases, “We're not dead, we just like to look like we are.” Storyteller Dunaway kills time as Albert puts on the Godzilla head for the well known BOC number. Unlike the simple mask utilized back-in-the-day, this is an oversize model, complete with green claws. The transformed Bouchard roams through the crowd, in costume, drumming on the hardwood floors, walls, etc. Only one song bigger in the repertoire, 'Schools Out', which follows and closes the proper set.
Returning to the stage, 'Ride With Me' begins the encore. 'Hot Rails To Hell' is up next, although I must say, this one suffers from just one guitar (as opposed to the two or three that BOC used). Great to see they've embraced the Will Ferrell inspired cultural media phenomenon (originally based on BOC), with 'More Cowbell', a burly, bearded friend smashing away on the namesake “instrument.” Blaming the scotch, Joe mentions something about a setlist screw up to which Dunaway playfully retorts, “Yeah, not enough scotch!” 'Devil's Highway' gives way to the finale, 'Don't Fear The Reaper'. An amusing ride, all the more since, apart from the odd track heard on college radio, I was completely unfamiliar with half the songs!
Afterward, there was no $100 paid meet & greet, but rather the band stood behind the merch tables that lined the entrance hallway, shaking hands, posing for photos, signing vinyl/CDs (old & new), laughing, joking and interacting with their public, who had tales to tell and memories to impart. Old school rules!
More photos from Cleveland can be seen here.