Over the past few years I have gotten away from Christmas music during the Holiday Season. It's over saturation of the market way in advance has kind of turned me off, as well as the fact that everyone puts out a Christmas album these days, even those who don't believe in what Christmas is all about. That said, I've always enjoyed the rock & roll Christmas songs most notably Ronnie Spector & Brian Setzer.
Last night the Brian Setzer Orchestra's 9th Christmas Extravaganza rocked the Westbury Music Fair on Long Island. The local Long Island boy, from Massapequa, comes home almost every year to put on his special concert. It was an exciting night since it also was the opening night of a U.S tour that takes BSO right to Christmas over the next month.
Setzer first received fame as leader of the Stray Cats in the early eighties capturing a revival of rockabilly music. The Stray Cats were popular on Long Island & in Manhattan at places like CBGS & Max's Kansas City. When they heard of a rockabilly revival in England they packed up & went to London.
Soon they hit it big there, even attracting members of the Stones & Led Zeppelin to their shows. (Setzer later played as a guest in Robert Plant's Honey Dripper's project, even appearing on Saturday Night Live with him in 1984.) The Stray Cats album; Built For Speed made it to number two on the Billboard charts & stayed there for six months, spawning two top ten singles.
In the 1990's Setzer revitalized his career, as a new Swing movement was taking place, fronting the Brian Setzer Orchestra. He has had successful albums & tours since with the project. Years later, they are the last survivors of that Swing movement.
Setzer has taken it a step further, adding Christmas music into his mix of musical styles & taking it on the road. The result is a fantastic, a unique style that combines everything; rockabilly, swing, rock & roll, punk, big band, & Holiday music all fronted by a wailing guitar.
The band is led by Brian Setzer who is an incredible, well respected guitarist in his own right. He plays a classic variety of fifties & sixties guitars making a sound all his own. He also is an excellent singer whose voice is perfect for the styles of music he has perfected. The Theater in the round at Westbury, could hardly hold the entire ensemble of musicians on its tiny stage.
Setzer is backed by a full orchestra (12 piece horn section) a drummer, stand up bassist & two female singers (referred to as the vixens) one of which is his current wife.
The set list features Brian Setzer Orchestra songs, Christmas songs that make even the Scroogiest people feel good & of course Stray Cats classics.
I was a Stray Cat fan back in 1982, with our MC leather Jackets & long hair, chasing girls on the streets of the Bronx, the Stray Cat Strut was (still is) one of my favorites of all time. That tune alone was worth the price of admission.
It cleverly broke into the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, during the middle part, which took a bit away from it for me, but was still great as it faded back to Stray Cat Strut. Other highlights were Sexy & Seventeen, Fishnet Stockings & of course Rock This Town.
During the last segment of the show, Setzer, his drummer Tony Pia & stand up bass player Johnny Hatton, performed as a trio, ala Stray Cats.
They were fantastic during this portion of the night, maybe the best part of a really great show. The ladies came out as well joing the trio showing off their vocal talents too.
They rocked the house, especially during Rock This Town which had everybody up singing & dancing along. The full orchestra joined after the second verse in a grand finale.
The night had an appearance by the Grinch & of course Santa Claus who threw out Candy Canes to the crowd, fun stuff.
I'd also like to make note of the fantastic opening act Totsy, who are described as "burlesque pop with a forties throw back sound".
The Los Angeles based band were a real pleasant surprise. Lead by singer Beth Curry, who used to be a backup singer in the Brain Setzer Orchestra & guitarist Brett Boyett.
The eight piece band were very impressive & nice to look at too, with two lovely backing singers in their brunette bob wigs, corsets & fishnet stockings.
Songs included their single Dope on a Rope, Red Balloon & Santa Likes Naughty Girls Too.
Brian Setzer Orchestra Set List:
Dig That Crazy Santa Claus
49 Mercury Blues
This Cat's On A Hot Tin Roof
Boogie Woogie Santa Claus
Sexy & Seventeen
Stray Cat Strut
Your a Mean One Mr. Grinch
Drive Like Lightning Crash Like Thunder
Flight of the Bumble Bee
Gloria in Excelsis Deo
Jump Jive & Wail
Run Run Rudolph
Jingle Bell Rock
Rock This Town
Getting In The Mood