… they just end up playing gigs in Holmfirth. For those of you who don’t know the place, Holmfirth is where they film Last of the Summer Wine, a sitcom about three wily old codgers which has been running on the BBC since 1973. And Holmfirth is where I saw a band from my youth, Blue Öyster Cult, perform live last night.
I was a big fan of BÖC during my teens, and last saw them live in 1988. Twenty years ago. Sadly, they haven’t done much since then – they were dropped by their record label, released three albums a decade later on an independent label… with whom they subsequently fell out. And so are now without a recording contract once again. But they continued to tour. Or rather, some of the original members of the band continued to tour.
I forget how I discovered BÖC were playing the UK. I remembered being surprised they were appearing in Holmfirth – as well as the more usual venues in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow. But Holmfirth is an easy drive away, so I decided to go see them (and persuaded Craig to accompany me and provide transport). I didn’t really know what to expect – this is a band that formed the year after I was born, and whose original members are now in their sixties.
But you know what? They were bloody great.
The evening didn’t start well. Craig wanted to test his free GPS – and it soon proved it was worth every penny he’d paid. It randomly decided that we really wanted to visit a field somewhere near Hepworth, rather than Holmfirth. And then it would utter directions like “drive straight for a while,” “drive some yards”, and “turn slightly left”. We actually took a wrong turn shortly after entering Holmfirth – which took us directly to the venue. The GPS had suggested some other roundabout route, which was a mile longer.
The venue was weird – a cinema built in 1912 and currently being refurbished. No seats, a fancy gold proscenium arch and balcony, scaffolding and bare brickwork. I’d ordered the tickets on-line, to be picked up at the “box office”. Except they claimed I’d cancelled the payment. Which I hadn’t. So I went to get more cash from the ATM so I could pay for them. Only to be told when I returned that they’d made a mistake. I hadn’t cancelled my payment. Someone else, a Mr Hassal, had. And they’d got confused. As Craig pointed out, the hassle with the ticket sales had been caused by confusing Mr Sales with Mr Hassal…
Happily, BÖC were definitely on form. Only two of the original group remain: Eric Bloom and Buck Dharma. The set-list was a trip down memory lane. Pure rock nostalgia. The most recent song they played was ‘Shooting Shark’ from 1983’s Revölution By Night.
When BÖC started out in 1967, technology couldn’t deliver studio-quality sound on-stage. So bands would play extended “live” editions of songs – something to make the concert experience stand out. That was certainly the case last night. The highlight of the gig had to be ‘Then Came the Last Days of May’ from Blue Oyster Cult. It’s a classic song, but last night it was even better. When it came to the solo, Richie Castellano took the lead. I wondered if Buck Dharma no longer had the chops to play it. But no, after five minutes of scorching guitar-work from Castellano, Buck Dharma took over. And delivered another five minutes of superb soloing.
Other fan favourites – ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’ and ‘Godzilla’ – were also greatly extended. In fact, during ‘Godzilla’ the band left the stage, giving Danny Miranda five minutes to solo on his bass. Which was then followed by the obligatory drum solo from Jules Radino. (Danny Miranda, incidentally, also plays bass for Queen + Paul Rogers, so we were treated to a quick instrumental Queen medley.)
Other tracks performed included ‘Harvester of Eyes’, ‘This Ain’t the Summer of Love’, ‘Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll’, ‘Career of Evil’, ‘Black Blade’, ‘Unknown Tongue’ and ‘Burnin’ For You’. It was all bloody good. (Even Craig admitted as much, and he was born nearly 10 years after BÖC released their first album.)
Best gig of the year? Too soon to say yet. But it was certainly the best one of the year so far. I don’t care how old they are – if BÖC are back touring in the UK next year, I’ll go and see them. Again.