Friday Night: Blue Oyster Cult & Marshall Tucker Band At Arena Theatre

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Blue Oyster Cult, Marshall Tucker Band Arena Theatre March 18, 2011

An odd co-headlining bill on the surface had the Marshall Tucker boys opening Friday's show. Though only singer Doug Gray remains from the classic lineup, the rest of the group are all crack players, in particular guitarist Rick Willis and keys/flute/sax man Marcus Henderson.

In all honesty, Gray had vocal difficulties for portions of the set, his singing at times seemingly muted and then - when reaching for a higher note - doing so with a whispered rasp. However, his laid-back humor in addressing the audience generated a lot of goodwill.

Aftermath has always appreciated that MTB was one of the jammiest of the Southern rock bands, letting songs unfold leisurely with many musical sidetrips. However, with an abbreviated set like this, the long instrumental interludes on "Blue Ridge Mountain Sky" and "24 Hours at a Time" overstayed their welcome as the audience got a bit restless.

But kudos to Gray for including the blues/jazzy deep track "Bob Away My Blues," an unexpected choice whose risk paid off and featured his best singing. The set closed with the anthemic "Can't You See," perhaps the highlight, and sung alternately by Gray, the audience, and a powerfully-lunged Willis.

For a moment, the band and their audience were one, and the feeling rippled through the crowd.

After an interminable set change, Blue Oyster Cult took the stage with the familiar "On your feet or on your knees!" spoken intro. And while the one-third full Arena certainly wasn't the stadiums they used to play, the band delivered a tight, energetic, hard-rockin' set with fiery playing on (appropriately) "Burnin' For You" and Buck's Boogie," as well as the deep album cut "Then Came the Last Days of May."

BOC has two remaining members from the classic lineup, but they're the two that matter most - singer/guitarist Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser and singer/guitarist/keyboardist Eric Bloom, the latter of whom engaged in his usual entertaining radio-announcer rapid-fire stage patter.

As the show progressed, it made Last Night think of what an underrated classic rock guitarist Roeser is. Though why the band still includes the synthy, more pop oriented "Shooting Shark" in the set is a mystery.

Bass player Rudy Sarzo - whose resume include stints with Dio, Ozzy, Whitesnake, and Quiet Riot, brought some rock-star sizzle to the stage with his flashy moves and solos. Guitarist Richie Castellano and drummer Jules Radino also got sections to shine.

And while "Godzilla" at this point is an overplayed classic-rock staple, it has an undeniable live power (Bloom made no reference to the recent Japan disasters). Aftermath was nevertheless disappointed at how many in the audience stayed firmly in their seats for this of all songs.

Hey, lazy mature rock fans, get your asses up occasionally and you'll live longer.

The also brief set closed with the on-the-fly fiery encore of "Hot Rails to Hell," sung by Castellano. Hopefully, BOC will be back with a longer main headlining gig and fill in those tunes that were sorely missed like "Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll," "7 Screaming Diz-Busters," "Career of Evil," or "ME 262."

Personal Note: While Classic Rock Bob had the privilege of going backstage to the Marshall Tucker Band's dressing room, a lot of talk was about our earlier interview with singer Gray, which even the roadies seem to have read.

"I can't believe that headline!" Gray laughed, "at least it's attention-getting." Gray also kept introducing CRB to people as, variously, "The guy who wrote the jerk-off article" or -with a wry smile - just "the jerk-off." (A tip of the hat to Rocks Off Sr. for the memorable wordsmithing).

Personal Bias: More-than casual fan of both acts' '70s material.

The Crowd: Mostly forty- and fiftysomethings of original vinyl vintage, with a healthy smattering of younger people seemingly there for BOC. Some blinged-out cowboys and their overly-painted ladies.

Overheard In the Crowd: "Oh my god! A rock star noticed me! I fucking love Blue Oyster Cult!" - from thin, blonde woman by the stage stuffed into tight camouflage halter top

Random Notebook Dump: Buck Dharma could have the worst toupee among classic rockers today. A roadie behind the stage knocks on the famous cowbell for "Don't Fear the Reaper."


Marshall Tucker Band:

This Ol' Cowboy Fire on the Mountain Blue Ridge Mountain Sky Bob Away My Blues 24 Hours at a Time Can't You See

Blue Oyster Cult:

Before the Kiss, a Redcap Burnin' for You Buck's Boogie Shooting Shark Then Came the Last Days of May Godzilla (Instrumental) (Don't Fear) the Reaper Hot Rails to Hell

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