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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Blue Oyster Cult Shells Out More of the Same Hard Rock

Times Staff Writer

When old, exhausted arena rockers like Aerosmith and Cheap Trick crept into their crypts for the big sleep early in this decade, somebody apparently neglected to drive stakes through their hearts to make sure they would never wake up again.

Now along comes Blue Oyster Cult, another ‘70s rock monster that has fallen on hard times through most of the ‘80s. BOC’s new album, “Imaginos,” is a fairly good facsimile of the band’s mid-'70s approach--ominous-but-catchy heavy rock full of gothic flourishes and mystical themes. But considering how quickly “Imaginos” has fallen from the charts, Blue Oyster Cult’s prospects for renewed dominance appear to be imaginary.

At the Celebrity Theatre in Anaheim on Thursday, BOC treated a small but extremely loyal crowd to a solid, if not incendiary, assortment of songs drawn almost exclusively from the band’s flush period. Aside from two new numbers from “Imaginos,” the songs hearkened back to the 10-year hot streak that ended after BOC’s 1981 album, “Fire of Unknown Origin.”

The 100-minute show gave some indication why Blue Oyster Cult is not a likely candidate to follow the lead of Aerosmith and Cheap Trick (Kansas is trying too, God help us) and regain the mass appeal it had in the ‘70s.

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Eric Bloom and Donald (Buck Dharma) Roeser, the band’s two lead singers, have serviceable but not particularly powerful voices, and neither is a commanding presence. The third original member, Allen Lanier, played mostly a supporting role as keyboardist and guitarist. The two younger members, drummer Ron Riddle and bassist Jon Rogers, were strong players who added some visual exuberance.

BOC slanted the show a bit too heavily toward the hard-pounding numbers, although most of them were melodic enough to avoid monotony. The best, most dynamically varied songs were a couple of atmospheric oldies: “Astronomy” (which the band has re-recorded on its new album) and “Then Came the Last Days of May.”

BOC’s show followed a conventional structure, starting with an obvious opening rabble rouser, “R. U. Ready 2 Rock,” and ending with adequately rendered greatest hits: “Burnin’ for You,” “Godzilla” and "(Don’t Fear) the Reaper.”

In all, Blue Oyster Cult offered a much more durable and enjoyable array of hard-rock songs than such current chart-dominators as Def Leppard, Bon Jovi and Motley Crue will be able to fall back on after their own salad days have wilted. With bloodless ‘80s rockers like these, it’s no wonder that ‘70s vampires don’t stay dead.

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