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Blue Coupe, R Bar, NYC: On flame with rock & roll March 17, 2011

Posted by Anton A in American music, Blue Coupe.
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On Thursday I had the chance to see three original founding members of Blue Oyster Cult and Alice Cooper rock the back room of a small bar on the Bowery for $10. How could anyone pass that up? What an outrageously wonderful St. Patrick’s Day treat!

Albert Bouchard, Joe Bouchard and Dennis Dunaway have been playing music together in various permutations for a couple of decades now. (Albert and Joe go back much further, of course, and all three have been friends since the 1972 Alice Cooper/Blue Oyster Cult tour that put both bands on the national map.) Joe performed with the Dennis Dunaway Project, was part of BDS (Joe,& Dennis plus original AC drummer Neal Smith}; Albert and Dennis sat in at various times with Joe’s first post-BOC band, the X Brothers.

For three years in the last decade this loose collective of musicians played a free springtime show in Union Square as part of the annual New York ASPCA Benefit. Last spring the Benefit went in another direction. This year, as Blue Coupe, Joe, Albert and Dennis het up the R Bar something fierce. I hope this marks a new spring tradition. Is it any coincidence that the next day was the warmest day of the year so far?

I arrived at the R Bar just before 9:00, which enabled me to catch the Blue Coupe sound check. The small crowd was treated to truncated versions of BOC classics I Ain’t Got You and Hot Rails To Hell, while the sound guy struggled with repeated power failures to half of the stage. Eventually he got everything working.

Low Society, a Texas blues-rooted outfit fronted by the strong, gritty voice of Mandy Lemons (close your eyes and you may be reminded of Big Mama Thornton or Koko Taylor), steamed up the room with a half-hour opening set.

A fairly efficient equipment change followed; Blue Coupe came on just after 10:00 and launched with the Alice Cooper hit Be My Lover. They played for nearly two hours, mixing up five songs from their excellent new album, Tornado On The Tracks, four classic BOC tunes and six AC songs. It was a blissful ride back and forth through four decades of music. Some of BOC’s best material was written by Joe and Albert; Dennis is a great songwriter as well. It’s no surprise that their new songs mesh seamlessly with the familiar AC and BOC tunes.

I’ve been a BOC fan since August 1972, when I went to an outdoor show in the Bronx on a whim, knowing nothing about them, and came away hugely impressed with how well they played their instruments. Joe and Albert have only gotten better over the years, with Joe returning to his original guitar playing after leaving BOC. From the years they’ve spent playing with Dennis, they’re all on a wavelength where they can take songs in unexpected directions, shifting gears and running off into bridges that come out of nowhere and always lead to interesting places. Imaginative chord progessions and striking tempo changes are their forte; it’s a thrill to see them bring their craft alive.

Lisa Winn, from Bouchard’s Outrageous Canadians (another of Albert’s projects), did a lovely job with her haunting vocals on Waiting For My Ship and rocking choruses on School’s Out.

 

 

There was also a pole dancer who enhanced a few select songs. I had the sense that she came with the venue rather than the band but I’m not entirely sure.

 

 

On Monday, Dennis Dunaway was playing to a glittering crowd at the Waldorf to celebrate the Alice Cooper band’s induction into the R&R Hall Of Fame. Three nights later he’s in a tny bar on the Lower East Side and I have the privilege of standing right by the stage, not six feet away, watching him play with two other master musicians.

These guys have still got the passion for what they’re doing. It shows in the devilishly catchy chords and melody in the Grammy-nominated You (Like Vampires), the intelligent arrangements of the new songs, and the fire they put into every performance. This is the kind of night that leaves me grinning and wanting to run through the streets shouting “I love New York!”

The main set list: Be My Lover, Burnin’ For You, Cities On Flame, Is It My Body?, Angel’s Well, Fallen Angel, Black Juju, Tornado Warning, You (Like Vampires), I’m 18, Waiting For My Ship, School’s Out, Don’t Fear The Reaper, Godzilla

Encore: Under My Wheels.

More photos are available here on my photobucket page.

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