As they always do, the Ohio State Fair outdid themselves again when they booked the rock acts for this years concert series. Seventies rock legends Foghat, Blue Oyster Cult, and Bachman & Turner of BTO fame all hit the stage at the Celeste Center last night; and that was just one night's worth of rock icons. They've also booked the Beach Boys with America and Heart with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts for separate events this year too.
This night was all about great seventies era hard rock built on crunchy guitars and thundering bass and drums. Fittingly, the first band to kick this show off was Foghat. They're someone that I hadn't seen before but was very intrigued about being on this bill. A lot of times, especially with established acts, there is some animosity to being the opening band. The band didn't show any ill feelings towards that, however, and just came out and kicked everybody's ass instead. Their performance set the tone for the night and made it known that the other two bands would have to bring their A game.
Foghat started the night with Home In My Hand before diving into the hard hitting Driving Wheel. After that came a sweet version of Stone Blue that featured a screaming guitar solo and highlighted the group's slide guitar influence.
Band introductions came next and founder Roger Earl took the moment to pound out a thundering drum solo. The rest of the band is made up of solid musicians as well. Craig MacGregor has been the bassist on and off since 1976. Charlie Huhn is on guitar and lead vocals. His voice was spot on, and you may remember him as the replacement for Derek St. Holmes in the Ted Nugent band in the late seventies and for work with Humble Pie. He's been singing for Foghat since 2000. Lastly, on the lead guitar is Bryan Bassett. This guy is a well traveled musician, probably most recognizable for his time with Wild Cherry and their hit song Play That Funky Music. He's also played with southern rock legends Molly Hatchet before returning to Foghat in 1999.
The band closed their set with their three biggest hits: Fool For The City; I Just Want To Make Love To You; and the legendary Slow Ride with an extended jam session. Foghat were by far the most pleasant surprise of the night for me. Their sound was flawless and they put on a headliner worthy performance.
Foghat Set List
1. Home In My Hand
2. Driving Wheel
3. Stone Blue
*Drum solo/band introductions*
4. Fool For The City
5. I Just Want To Make Love To You
6. Slow Ride
A short while later it was time for the Blue Oyster Cult experience. They were the only band on the bill that I had seen prior to last night's gig. In 2007 I saw them open for Lynyrd Skynyrd in Cuyahoga Falls. They were good then so I was excited for the chance to see them again. They didn't disappoint!
Being the nerd that I am, I was stoked when the stage went dark and the theme song to Game of Thrones started coming through the speakers. The New York band kicked off their set with The Red and The Black. From there they jumped into The Golden Age of Leather, an old song that especially now serves as an ode to years past.
They followed their smash hit Burnin' For You with the introduction of their current carnation of the band, which included their drummer Andy's first ever gig with the band being last night. I have no idea who he is or where their actual drummer, Jules Radino, was. They only introduced him as Andy and he did just fine, holding down the rhythm section for the entirety of the set. Long time guitarists/vocalists Buch Dharma and Eric Bloom were on point all evening. Relative newcomer to the band (2004) Richie Castellano also played the guitar and had the most inspiring performance of the evening, but I will get to that in a minute. Kasim Sulton rounds out the band on bass and later in the set they would highlight his previous stops before BOC which include Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Todd Rundgren, and Meat Loaf.
Blue Oyster Cult is kind of an enigma in the world of rock. They are a rock band that were at their peak in the 70's and 80's. That is about all that they have in common with other bands from their era. There are elements of prog rock, metal, and psychedelic rock; which makes them hard to pigeonhole to one genre of rock music. BOC truly has a sound that is all their own. They showcased this with the next song in their set; Harvest Moon. The next song, Then Came The Last Days of May, was easily a highlight of the night. The song featured back to back blistering solos from Castellano and Dharma, the first of which can only be described as inspiring. Seriously, click that link and at least watch from the three minute mark forward. Damn!
BOC closed out their set with two more huge songs. First was Godzilla, which also included a medley of I Love Rock N Roll (Joan Jett), Bang on the Drum All Day (Todd Rundgren), and Paradise By The Dashboard Light (Meat Loaf) to highlight bass player Sulton's career stops. After a bass solo the band brought it back together with Godzilla and finished the track. In very fitting fashion, after a Buck Dharma led guitar jam, Blue Oyster Cult closed their set with the iconic Don't Fear the Reaper.
Blue Oyster Cult Set List
1. The Red and The Black
2. The Golden Age of Leather
3. Burnin' For You
4. Harvest Moon
5. Then Came the Last Days of May
6. Godzilla/I Love Rock N Roll/Bang on the Drum All Day/Paradise By The Dashboard Light/bass solo/Godzilla
7. Don't Fear the Reaper
The headlining act for the evening, Bachman and Turner from BTO, took the stage shortly after and seamlessly transitioned through their catalog of guitar and bass driven rock. Roll on Down the Highway was an appropriate song to open with, as it got the crowd up and off their feet.
Obviously Randy Bachman and Fred Turner highlight the group, but they had a solid backing band as well. This group fits the definition of jam band. I don't mean jam in the Grateful Dead sense, but as in guys in a garage somewhere that are putting riffs together and making rock and roll magic happen.
Rock Is My Life, And This is My Song and Not Fragile followed. From there the BTO pipeline of hits just kept coming. Hey You; Looking Out For #1; and Four Wheel Drive made their obligatory appearance in a set made up of BTO classics.
Those songs all came across great, don't get me wrong, but from here the band really kicked it up a notch. Stayed Awake All Night was the first in this group and featured Bachman going absolutely nuts and riffing with a drum stick in place of a guitar pick. I mean, why not? They covered The Guess Who's American Woman, Bachman was a former member of that Canadian band as well.
Blue Collar, which featured the duo putting on a guitar and bass clinic, and You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet finished out the B&T set. After a deafening ovation, the group returned to the stage for a two song encore featuring my favorite BTO song Let It Ride and their biggest hit Takin' Care of Business. Rock fans are obviously lucky that these two have rejoined forces and are touring again, but based on Turner's nonstop smile for the hour and a half that they were out there; I'd say he feels pretty lucky to be doing what he does for a living too.
Bachman and Turner Set List
1. Roll Down the Highway
2. Rock is My Life, And This is My Song
3. Not Fragile
4. Hey You
5. Looking Out For #1
6. Four Wheel Drive
7. Stayed Awake All Night
8. American Woman (The Guess Who cover)
9. Blue Collar
10. You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet
11. Let It Ride
12. Takin' Care of Business