The band’s singer/guitarist knows the question is coming. He seems relaxed and understanding when dealing with it for the umpteenth thousandth time.

But Eric Bloom, 72, one of two original members of the metal-oriented classic rock band Blue Öyster Cult, feels no urgent need to spoil the surprise — one about where the group’s 1976 huge hit, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” will land in the ensemble’s set list for its Sept. 2 concert in Columbus. The rockers will headline the free 31st annual Our Hospice of South Central Indiana concert at Mill Race Park that day.

“We definitely will play it in the show,” he said of the tune about death, speaking by phone last week amid a current tour. “But people will have to stick around.”

Blue Öyster Cult has done just that — stuck around for 45 years — in a tough business that normally challenges acts to stick around for 45 weeks. The group has been performing since well before the Vietnam War ended and only months after a youthful Donald Trump became president of his father’s real estate business.

Story continues below gallery

“We’re glad to still be working regularly,” he said, while tossing in the ensemble’s current theme of On Tour Forever. “You never really know what’s going to happen (in music).

“Look at other performers such as the Rat Pack, or even people such as B.B. King. They kept working even when they were much older because people still wanted to see them.”

Blue Öyster Cult, which has sold 24 million records worldwide, and other veteran bands boast something of an advantage on the concert circuit of today, as Bloom sees it. You might say fans are hungry for ax tracks.

“We do guitar-driven music, which is also what bands like Deep Purple or REO Speedwagon or Steppenwolf do,” Bloom said. “Today’s pop music doesn’t have much of that. So, if people really like that kind of music, we have found that they will seek it out.

“Or, if they hear it on the radio, younger listeners will decide, ‘Hey — maybe I’ll go back and listen to more of their stuff.’”

Which has won the band new fans on a regular basis, as evidenced by younger concert attendees, Bloom said. Those new listeners, along with those from down through the years, generally care little that the group has continued to record since its mid-1970s heyday. They want to hear classic songs such as “Burnin’ For You” and “Godzilla.”

Though the group will record a new album by spring, Bloom totally gets it. Besides, devotees on their Facebook page jokingly still regularly demand that they play cuts from their self-titled first disc. North Carolina-based fan Chuck Padgett recently posted that “It’s a law.”

“I’m a fan of other bands,” Bloom said. “If I go to see The Who, I don’t really want to hear their new album, even though I might be slightly curious. I mostly want to hear the classic stuff.”

Beyond live shows, the group boasts an impressively broad impact on culture. Their lyrics or music have been included in movies such as “The Stand,” throughout the J.K. Rowling novel “Carer of Evil” (an Eric Bloom is among the characters) and in video games such as “Prey” and “Ripper,” among plenty of other media.

“It’s nice, nice stuff,” Bloom said.

However, perhaps the group’s greatest turn in the spotlight in recent years surfaced via a Will Ferrell-penned sketch on TV’s “Saturday Night Live” on April 8, 2000. The spoof featured Ferrell as an overzealous percussionist playing rhythmic cowbell on “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper.”

Bloom laughed over the scene that features actor Christopher Walken as record producer Bruce Dickinson repeatedly demanding “more cowbell” in the tune. He enjoyed the humor, but lightheartedly pointed out a few mistakes, including the fact that the producer highlighted in the piece had nothing to do with that hit. Plus, the scene mixes up Bloom and Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser.

“But it’s all good publicity,” Bloom said. “And the ‘more cowbell’ term has literally become a part of the national language.”

And, as the band continues to tour and plans for next year’s new disc, there seems to be, truly, no apparent reason to fear the reaper at all.

Concert overview

Who: Opening nine-member band The Woomblies Rock Orchestra from Indianapolis. Headlining act is classic rock band Blue Öyster Cult, whose heyday was in the 1970s with several hit songs.

When: Event begins at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 2 with remarks from Our Hospice of South Central Indiana. The Woomblies Rock Orchestra plays from 7 to 8 p.m. Blue Öyster Cult takes the stage at 8:30 p.m.

Where: The amphitheater area of Mill Race Park on Fifth Street. Concertgoers must bring blankets or lawn chairs for their seating.

Inclement weather: There is no rain location. Our Hospice carries rain insurance in case the event must be canceled.

Why: To raise money and awareness for the local, nonprofit Our Hospice of South Central Indiana, treating a variety of seriously ill patients.

Admission: Free.

In addition: A variety of children’s activities such as face painting.

Food and drink: Coolers and picnic baskets can be brought into the park, but vendors also will provide drinks such as lemon shake-ups and food such as pizza, pulled pork, ice cream and popcorn.

Information: ourhospice.org.

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.