I have only previously seen legendary rock band Blue Oyster Cult on one occasion and that was only briefly at a festival as I was heading off to view somebody else on another stage. Bands are not getting any younger and given that this lot are even older than myself, I thought that I would be better to avail of the opportunity while I could. On arriving to pick up my tickets, I was quite surprised to find that they were playing in the largest of the four Manchester Academy venues. I knew that they had a long history and career but didn’t actually feel that they were currently sufficiently still in vogue and popular enough to fill the venue – yeah, I was certainly wrong about that.
Opening tonight were the rather surprising Temperance Movement, not surprising in terms of quality but rather on a compatibility level. I have seen the band on several occasions headlining their own tours but in terms of their blues-based rock appealing to the BOC fans, well… I was skeptical. The band have certainly put in the road miles over the past few years and the step up to playing a larger stage didn’t appear to phase them in any way. Rather the contrary was the case and they seemed quite comfortable on it as their clear musical quality shone through. They had a few fans in the crowd tonight but they were largely preaching to the unconverted. The band focused on a short eight-song set split between two of their albums. Unfortunately, material from my personal favourite of their albums, White Bear, was very conspicuous by its absence. Luckily my personal favourite was still there in “A Deeper Cut”, a melancholy and slower paced song before the more up-tempo “Built-In Forgetter” brought things to a conclusion. I don’t think that their set would win over a large section of newer fans but they certainly did a competent job in very difficult circumstances.
Minimalistic would be a particularly appropriate description of the headliner’s stage set, I guess they were just going to rely on their back catalogue of quality songs to get them through the course of the evening. I had done a little online searching prior to the show and found that the band were generally playing a largely different set at each date on the current set of UK dates. I guess this could be interpreted as a reward to their patient UK fans whom they don’t tend to visit much in recent years. Thus, there would be the few obvious set staples, “Reaper/Godzilla/Burnin For You”, but outside of those well it could be anything revisited. Unfortunately, my favourite, “Shooting Shark” – the song that had first introduced me to the band back in the 80s – was missing in Manchester.
It was clear from a general observation of the crowd surrounding me (yes, they did completely fill the larger venue) that the band were playing to an audience of diehards who in most cases had racked up many previous shows and tours dating back to the band’s inception. One thing that was not visible with the audience was that newer generation of converts. I thought that was particularly unusual. I guess that the music of Blue Oyster Cult remains as a refined and very specialised taste, not generally palatable to the masses. I would have favoured any other track over “Don’t Fear the Reaper” that is forever omnipresent in the band’s live set. Maybe that would have been too controversial for them to drop what has essentially become their signature tune, but I do feel that the band’s musical legacy is filled with many other songs which actually sit on equal footing with that particular song.
Despite not being too familiar with the vast majority of the songs that the band played, I was still able to experience a very enjoyable evening out, albeit at a rather more sedate pace from the normal and regular rock shows that I enjoy.
All photos by John Gilleese
BLUE OYSTER CULT
THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT