Many thanks to my friend Chuck for the phone call about the extra ticket to this concert! What a night, holy cow! This really did come at a perfect time; with all that has happened lately the Christmas spirit was eluding me. This got me back on track in a hurry. Folks, if you have never seen the Brian Setzer Orchestra in concert, you are missing out. This was even better, the annual Christmas show from this band!
I can remember when I first started listening to the Stray Cats back in 1982. What a great band, and part of the original MTV explosion. I had one opportunity to see them play live, at the Arizona State Fair during their tour supporting Rant and Rave With the Stray Cats.
The Brian Setzer Orchestra is an amazing band. Take the rockabily roots and phenomenal guitar slinging of Brian Setzer, add in a full big band orchestra that knows how to rock, and you have one heck of a formula for some stellar music. Plain and simple, there were 15 phenomenal musicians on stage and two fabulous backing vocalists. Brian Setzer did well with the cast of horn players and woodwinds musicians he has assembled, and the rhythm section he has supporting him rival Lee Rocker and Slim Jim Phantom from the Stray Cats days extremely well.
Is Brian Setzer really 50 years old? I had to look that up before writing this, because I was absolutely blown away by how good his voice still sounds, how much energy he still possesses on stage, and most important, how exceptional of a guitarist he still is. Unbelievable are the riffs this guy can play, and he makes it look so easy. What an impressive artist!
The set was the perfect mix of holiday themes and Setzer’s classic mix of rockabilly and big band. Holiday rock and roll tunes such as “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Run Run Rudolph”, normally not favorites of mine, were given spectacular treatment by Setzer and Co. The selection of swing tunes they performed that did not fall into the holiday category kept the energy level at a peak. It is too bad there was not room for couples to get up and swing, I am sure it would have happened!
Three Stray Cats classics were performed this evening. She’s Sexy and 17 from Rant and Rave was brought out first, complete with Setzer’s two female backing vocalists joining him at the front of the stage. Stray Cat Strut from their 1982 U.S. breakout album Built for Speed was the second Stray Cats track played, complete with Brian Setzer’s sarcastic, but very true, commentary on the song being played on MTV “when they actually played music videos.” How pathetically true! Rock this Town was performed in classic Stray Cats style, as a trio, until the end of the song the full orchestra joined in to bring the song to a rousing conclusion.
A definite highlight of the evening was Setzer accompanying his four trombone players, the California Trombones, on a delightful rendition of Walk Don’t Run. The song could have brought a smile to a corpse, it was that entertaining!
Last, what a spectacular encore we were treated to, with the Brian Setzer Orchestra leading off this part of the set with an incredible rendition of the holiday classic, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. Unbelievable, the crowd went nuts, and I was completely blown away by the talent the full orchestra had to exhibit to pull off such a difficult piece. Jump, Jive and Wail from the band’s 1998 breakthrough album The Dirty Boogie closed the evening in an exuberant manner.
It feels like the holidays are finally here! Yea! Kudos to the Brian Setzer Orchestra for an outstanding performance, and thanks again to my friend Chuck for giving me the opportunity to experience this holiday extravaganza for myself. If anyone reads this that was there could tell me the name of that great opening band, I would highly appreciate it.