In 1986, I went to Denver, Colorado’s Rainbow Music Hall (now a Walgreens) to see Brian Setzer’s The Knife Feels Like Justice tour (that’s right. I’m that old). He revitalized Rockabilly with his band The Stray Cats when a song called Pac-Man Fever dominated the radio. Setzer inspired me to learn guitar (I can still play a bad version of The Stay Cat Strut). Twenty-five years ago, he rejuvenated another genre when he formed the Brian Setzer Orchestra. It was a welcome change from the early 1990’s Grunge music. Instead of listening to a moody guy in flannel, Setzer brought back upbeat Swing music inspiring people to dance. It also made Zoot Suits fashionable again, but I guess that can be forgiven.
|The Brian Setzer Orchestra|
The Brian Setzer Orchestra has been performing a Christmas show for the past thirteen years. The Christmas Rocks tour stopped in Denver for the first time since 2007 (I was at that show as well). The nineteen-piece band played a combination of holiday standards, Stray Cat hits, cleverly reworked covers songs, and their own catalog.
The Paramount Theatre removed the seats toward the front on the stage for the fans to get closer and dance. The big band came out dressed in black suits with bright green shirts complete with matching scarfs. Setzer still rocking his blonde pompadour was center stage wearing a leopard skin printed shirt matching his backing singers’ short skirts.
Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree started the night off making the slightly older than me crowd get into the holiday spirit. The BSO followed that up with Hoodo Voodoo Doll letting the audience know that they were there to rock … and spread Christmas cheer. The combination of Setzer’s guitar playing and powerful horns were amazing. The background singers’ choreographed moves and retro-voices fit the music perfectly.
The Stray Cat Strut, Rock This Town, and Fishnet Stocking were all transformed into Big Band numbers satisfying the Stray Cats fans. One of the most mind blowing numbers of the night was AC/DC‘s Let There Be Rock. Hearing a trumpet player doing Angus Young guitar riffs was awe-inspiring.
|Johnny “Spazz” Hatton and Brian Setzer
All photos taken by the Rock and Roll Princess
In the middle of the set, most of the members of the orchestra left the stage to let Setzer play a rockabilly set. It wasn’t the expected Stray Cats catalog. They performed Elvis Presley covers. Mystery Train highlighted Brian Setzer’s swagger. At one point, Setzer stood on top of the drums and instructed bass player Johnny “Spazz” Hatton to climb on his instrument (get your minds out of the gutter).
Displaying a big piece of sheet music to introduce Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, Setzer thanked composer Patrick Williams who was in the audience. Williams and Setzer have been arranging the music for BSO since the beginning.
The night ended with Santa Claus tossing candy canes into the audience to Jingle Bells. The lyrics were changed from a “sled” into a “57 Chevrolet.” Brian Setzer stated, “There are good nights and great nights on this tour. I think this is a great one.” Everyone smiling as they left the Christmas Rocks show agrees.
|Beat Root Revival|
Beat Root Revival opened the show. The blues folk duo mainly played crowd pleasing covers of Fleetwood Mac’s Thunder Only Happens When It’s Raining, Chuck Berry’s Roll Over Beethoven, and KT Turnstall’s Black House and the a Cherry Tree. Andrea Magee who is from Ireland meet London singer Ben Jones after appearing on X-Factor. Their original song Forever was inspired about a missing block of cheese from a sandwich made by her aging father (sadly, no dairy products were mentioned in the song’s lyrics). They finished with the Beatles‘ Come Together having the crowd singing along to a song about Toe Jam Football (I still don’t know what that John Lennon lyric means).
See you at the next show. I will be the one dreaming of dashing through the snow in a 57 Chevrolet.