Blue Öyster Cult & Jefferson Starship Rock New Brunswick

Seeing Blue Öyster Cult and Jefferson Starship at the State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick last Thursday (Dec 8) was spontaneous, last-minute decision.

Let’s face it – there are many more rock concerts than one could possibly attend, plus tickets for most shows aren’t exactly pocket change. Therefore, I usually plan well ahead of time which acts I want to see. For Blue Öyster Cult and Jefferson Starship it was very different – an ad on Facebook I saw two days prior to the show gave me the initial idea, and when I noticed the ticket prices were reasonable, it was a done deal.

I had a fairly good idea about Blue Öyster Cult but wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Jefferson Starship. When I checked their line-up, I noticed only David Freiberg was a member of Jefferson Airplane when he replaced Marty Balin in 1972 on vocals during the band’s final concert tour until its brief reunion in 1989. Another original member of Airplane, Paul Kantner (rhythm guitar, vocals) passed away in January this year. But, to say it upfront, Jefferson Starship and Blue Öyster Cult did not disappoint.

Jefferson Starship, which was formed Balin, Freiberg and a few other Airplane members in 1974, nicely mixed their 10-song set with Airplane covers and own songs. They also threw in We Built This City, the 1985 No. 1 hit from Starship, yet another Jefferson Airplane offspring. In addition to that song, highlights included Airplane’s biggest hits Somebody to Love and White Rabbit.

At age 78, I thought Freiberg’s vocals were outstanding, as were lead singer Cathy Richardson’s. In fact, I read on Jefferson Starship’s website that Airplane’s original lead singer Grace Slick invited Richardson to sing in her place when Airplane received their Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammys this year. An excellent clip of Somebody to Love from that performance is here. Jefferson Starship’s current members also include Donny Baldwin (drums, percussion, backing vocals), Chris Smith (keyboards, synthesizers, bass) and Jude Gold (lead guitar).

Blue Öyster Cult’s 14-song set list mostly focused on the band’s first six studio albums released between 1972 and 1979. Lead guitarist Buck Dharma (Donald Roeser), the only remaining founding member, also played an extended guitar solo.

The set’s best moments were Cities on Flame with Rock & Roll, Don’t Fear the Reaper, Godzilla and Burnin’ for You, which together with Harvest Moon was the only song from the band’s post 1970s song catalogue. While the song list included three tunes from Tyranny and Mutation, my favorite from that album, 7 Screaming Diz-Busters, was “missing.” They also did not play Dr. Music, my favorite from the Mirrors album and instead chose The Vigil. But overall, it was a great set that was probably also shorter than usual, given Blue Öyster Cult shared the stage with another act.

Blue Öyster Cult was established in 1967. In addition to Dharma, the band’s current line-up includes Eric Bloom (lead vocals and rhythm guitar), who has been with Blue Öyster Cult since 1969 and on all of their albums; Richie Castellano (keyboards, rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Jules Radino (drums, percussion) and Kasim Sulton (bass, backing vocals).

Here is a nice clip of Don’t Fear the Reaper from a Blue Öyster Cult concert in London earlier this year.