The sad, creepy, weird and beautiful music of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
If this was universally the case, Friday nights at the Boardwalk would be downright sadistic. But Blue Öyster Cult takes seriously the kind of gig that numerous lesser acts would treat as some kind of where-are-they-now closing vignette from an early-period Behind the Music. The dreamy main riff and strange ersatz reggae of "Burnin' for You" fused together with the sound of waves and ride-machinery and the permeating scent of weed smoke mysteriously radiating from the old hippies and biker couples getting down on the beach. It turned something that for all intents and purposes should be sad and creepy into something weird and beautiful.
But the obverse, and perhaps more exciting face of the summer concert series arcade token is the Eddie Money experience. If Blue Öyster Cult rises above its pigeonholing as a goofy retro spectacle, Mr. Money gleefully embraces it with a show that can only be described as a resplendent, lurid train-wreck. Eddie Money is no resurrected has-been. Quite the contrary: he is finally capable of carrying his earlier work to its full potential — sung by a "supercharged city kid with rock 'n' roll in his soul" (as per Journey's Steve Perry on an episode of Midnight Special).
Staples like "Two Tickets to Paradise" and "Take Me Home Tonight" are admittedly catchy, but ultimately banal. But in the senior Money's filthy clutches they drip with sleaze. He gingerly struts around the stage while crooning his myriad hits in a scratchy approximation of his original singing voice. He interrupts nearly every song to demand that we "shake it with the money-maker," and to illustrate what this might look like, he opens and spreads his black suit jacket and gyrates toward the crowd. His set isn't so much about music as it is about performing the paunchy, slightly unhinged middle-aged '80s rocker, a staple of the free concert circuit, and a persona that Money seems to have perfected. The Eddie Money of that Midnight Special clip is dead; in his place is someone infinitely more interesting.
Classy to the end, the Money-man closes his set with a "don't let your girlfriends drive" joke, as the 200-plus in attendance file out of the Boardwalk. Be sure to leave the beach as clean as you found it!
SANTA CRUZ BOARDWALK BANDS ON THE BEACH!
Fridays, 6:30 and 8:30 p.m.; through Sept. 3; free
(Fri/13, Spin Doctors; Aug. 20, Papa Doo Run Run; Aug. 27, Starship starring Mickey Thomas; Sept. 3, The Tubes featuring Fee Waybill)
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
400 Beach, Santa Cruz