Sunday, October 18, 2009

DVD: Blue Cheer Rocks Europe

Label: Rainman Records

Released: June 26, 2009

There's a handful of bands out there whose influence has been felt far and wide decades after they made their mark, yet they never enjoyed significant commercial success. The Velvet Underground comes to mind. So does Nick Drake. There are others, but in heavy rock circles, one of these bands rises above all others - Blue Cheer. Unlike most members of this exclusive club though, Cheer continued to do their thing for over 40 years, even releasing a fine album recently, 2007's What Doesn't Kill You.

Blue Cheer Rocks Europe finds Dickie Peterson, Paul Whaley and "Duck" MacDonald (the "new guy" with only a little more than two decades of service) standing tall as they bring the sound they pioneered, and others have copied, to the stage. Ripping through material, new and old, they have both the energy of a hungry band and the tightness of a well-oiled machine. Peterson's voice is raw and passionate. MacDonald's riffs are heavy and grooving. Whaley's beats are driving end energetic. Although the video is a bit too sterile to fully capture it, it's easy to imagine the big dose of crazy that still permeates their show and it brings up the question of whether Blue Cheer might actually be better today than in their acknowledged prime. One thing is undeniable though: They still give the bands they influenced (some of whose members weren't even born when Cheer made rock heavy) something to shoot for. Just check out "Parchman Farm." I don't know if they could have done any better in 1967, when they first recorded it.

Sadly, this may be Blue Cheer's last document. Bassist, vocalist and founder of all that is heavy, Dickie Peterson, passed away on October 12, 2009. He once said, "We're more interested in the gig tomorrow night than being in the hall of fame." I suspect that making the music and seeing it blossom in other bands over the last 40 some years was the greatest reward for him. Rest in Peace, Dickie. Thanks for all the crazy tunes.

Rating: 9/10



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