Review and photos by Fred Kuhlman
Promoter: Danny Zelisko Presents
Venue: Celebrity Theatre
Date: Fri, December 15, 2017
Its Friday night just prior to Christmas and everyone at the Celebrity Theatre was really for a rocking great Christmas party. This was Brian’s 14th annual Christmas tour with his 18-piece orchestra. This was my second time to see this show (reviewed last years show) and it was even better then I remembered. Brian has pulled together an outstanding collection of great musicians. The orchestra is in the style of the old big bands and has 5 sax players, 4 trombone players and 4 trumpet players. To complete the ensemble Brian has Leslie Spencer and Julie Reiten as backup singers, Daniel Glass on drums, Janick Lafreniere on piano and acoustic guitar and Johnny Hatton on slap bass.
The show is a combination of Christmas classics with a Big Band/Swing flavor and Brian’s classic Stray Cats rockabilly music. The show started with Brian singing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” with the full orchestra. Then Brian picked up his signature Gretsch guitar and they played “Pennsylvania 6-5000”. The Celebrity Theatre removed the front 3 rows of seats and allowed the audience to come to the front next to the stage. I saw a lot of people in the front swing dancing to a number of the songs. Brian did his signature strut during “Stray Cat Strut” much to the audience’s delight.
Part way through the show, the orchestra left the stage and Brian played and sang “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” as a solo. Then he was joined by band mates, Daniel, Janick and Johnny to play a number of rockabilly style songs including “Rockabilly Boogie”. Later the full orchestra returned and they finished the main set with “Rock This Town”. As an encore, Brian and the orchestra came back and played a special rock/swing version of “Nutcracker Suite”. They ended the show with an updated version of “Jingle Bells” which the crowd sang along with.
Brian has pulled together an amazing group of musicians for his orchestra. During the show, a number of the band members were allowed to strut their stuff by performing mini solos. It was a sold-out show and the crowd loved it. If you like Big Band/Swing music then you will really love this show. I remember seeing the Stray Cats back in the 80s and enjoyed their show then and I can say that Brian and his band still can play a fantastic rockabilly show. I normally don’t like Christmas music (I worked at Sears for 5 years and they ran the same Christmas tape every day), but I really enjoyed this show. The mixture of Big Band/Swing and Rockabilly styles really enhances the songs and makes them fun. I have heard that the original Stray Cats will be getting back together for a few shows and I hope they come back to Phoenix because that show should really be amazing.
Photo © Fred Kuhlman 2017
The Brian Setzer Orchestra Setlist:
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree
Hoodoo Voodoo Doll
Stray Cat Strut
Boogie Woogie Santa Claus
Gene & Eddie
Angels We Have Heard On High
The Dirty Boogie
Jump, Jive an’ Wail
Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)
Runnin’ Down a Dream
The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)
I Got a Rocket in My Pocket
Rock This Town
The Texas Gentlemen
The show started with a 5-piece band, The Texas Gentlemen. The band is made up of a group of session musicians that have been playing for other people over the last few years. Beau Bedford (guitar, keyboards, vocals) pulled together the current group to tour in support of their new album, TX Jelly. Beau is joined by fellow musicians, Nik Lee (guitar), Daniel Creamer (keyboards, vocals), Matt McDonald (bass) and Ryan Ake (drums). They play a Southern/Texas sytle of rock.
Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2017