Blue Oyster Cult, Burton Cummings, Grand Funk RR at The LA County Fair

Had a chance to take in a very cool concert last night at the LA County Fair (more on that later) featuring Blue Oyster Cult, Burton Cummings (of the Guess Who), and Grand Funk Railroad.

Opening the show, original members Eric Bloom and Buck Dharma (Donald Roeser) dove into ME-262, a straight-up rocker and the only tune not well-known by the near-capacity crowd. After that, they played four of their best known songs, Burnin’ For You, Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll, Godzilla, and their closer, Don’t Fear the Reaper. Short and sweet, they played cleanly and with some passion. This writer could easily have sat through another hour of their stuff, as I have always been a fan, but the night was young. The audience gave them lots of love and applause and off they went into the beautiful Saturday night.

Following BOC was the Canadian, Burton Cummings, better known as the lead singer of the Guess Who, backed by a very competent five-piece ensemble. The very likable Cummings surprised us with the lasting quality of his voice and hit nearly all of the high notes in tune after hit tune.

Center stage behind an electric piano, he opened with No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature, then Hand Me Down World, followed by a cool speech about his band’s time on the Midnight Special, giving high praise and tribute in Clap for the Wolfman.

By then the audience was really behind him. His attitude was sincerely grateful for all the success he and the Guess Who had enjoyed over the years and thanked the audience many times for the same.

Aside from a couple of old-time rock-and-roll tunes that were either covers or relative unknowns, he and his band played through a list of greatest hits, Laughing, These Eyes, No Time, American Woman, She’s Come Undone, and then closed out the show on a high playing Share The Land where the audience happily chimed in with the chorus.

Personally I was impressed by the overall class of the man, his humility, and his talent. He had the support of two fine guitarists, bassist, percussionist and drummer and each player had his moment(s) to shine during the 75-minute set. The crowd enthusiastically gave the 70-year-old from Winnipeg a standing ovation as the band left the stage.

Last on the bill was the latest incarnation of Grand Funk Railroad. I have to admit that I have followed this band from the early days, when the three-man outfit of Mark Farner, Mel Schacher, and Don Brewer could really rock and hang with ANYONE. If you want to check out the real GFR, pick up a copy of the 1971 Live Album. Alas this version just didn’t do it for me. If any of you saw their 1971 Forum concert, you *know* of what I speak.

Though drummer Don Brewer still can pound the skins with anyone in his age bracket (and probably anyone else as well), and still has a fine singing voice, the once-heartstopping thunder of Schacher’s bass playing was relatively absent, relegated to playing their pop tune hits from their commercial success days. The audience was appreciative but I was disappointed.

Furthermore, the front man Max Carl just didn’t have the magic, sincerity or attitude of the fiery Mark Farner. He came across as a commercialized, too-clean showman who didn’t even let his hair down.

The band played through a set of their greatest hits, including Locomotion, Rock and Roll Soul, Footstompin’ Music, I’m Your Captain, and closed out the night with We’re An American Band. The highlight of the evening was an a capella version of Some Kind of Wonderful, sung by an up-front Brewer.

As for the LA County Fair…first of all, it is huge…hard to cover it all in a single day. Second, there were a ton of animals to enjoy and not just your farm animals, but reptiles, exotic birds, insects and more. Third, **everything** was very pricey. Bottled water was $4 for example and we had to search for drinking fountains to fill our own bottles…it was nearly 100 degrees all day, so water was the name of the game. Lastly there were side acts and lectures we enjoyed (acrobats, cooking, etc.) as well. All in all, a pleasant experience, but be advised…eat BEFORE you get there (or bring lots of cash to burn) and bring a refillable water bottle.

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