The Stray Cats at the Pacific Amphitheater on July 22, 2008
Better Than: any other rockabilly band on the planet.
Download: “Stray Cat Strut” from the Stray Cats Myspace page [http://www.myspace.com/straycats]
Grease and Greasers were in abundance at the OC fair as the mighty Stray Cats played their only American date this year at the Pacific Amphitheatre. Brian Setzer, Slim Jim Phantom and Lee Rocker thoroughly rocked the town of Costa Mesa with their timeless tunes.
Hot Rod Lincoln from San Diego quickly let you know that you were at a rockabilly concert with their twangy upstart old-fashioned tunes. Buzz Campbell (Vocals/Guitars) had his shiny white Gretsch guitar revved up and ready to go as they played a crowd pleasing set.
Joe Ely shifted the mood to a more country honky tonk vibe with his whiskey soaked tunes. Joe wins over the audience with his energetic performance that reminded me of Johnny Cash. I was even more impressed when I learned he used to hang out with the Clash in the late seventies.
“Rumble In Brixton” roared like a '67 Chevy as the Stray Cats came out of their corner with their claws swinging. Brian Setzer (Vocals/Guitars) had his custom namesake orange Gretsch guitar singing like a stool pigeon. The Stray Cats are not a one man show as Lee Rocker is a world class upright bass player along with the dexterous drumming of Slim Jim Phantom.
“Runaway Boys” was a rollicking good time as I noticed that the backing vocals from Slim Jim and Lee gave the song some extra punch. “(She's) Sexy and 17” was prefaced by Brian stating that they used to be on MTV when they showed videos which garnered a number of laughs. A good majority of the hits were covered as they flawlessly played “Gene and Eddie”, “Crybaby”, “Double Talkin' Baby” and “Fishnet Stockings”
Psychobilly is apparently a term Brian doesn't use as he introduced “Blast Off” as a true rockabilly tune. “Rock This Town” had the whole amphitheatre on their feet as everyone in attendance was singing along. Although the song was plagued with some technical difficulties, “I Fought The Law” was close to stealing the show as Mike Ness from Social Distortion came out to lend the Stray Cats a helping hand. “Summertime Blues” was a fitting way to end their set as the Stray Cats received a standing ovation. Costa Mesa had officially been rocked by the Stray Cats.
Personal Bias: My guitar tablature book of Brian Setzer tunes is collecting dust because it is close to impossible to replicate the speed of Brian's fleet fingers.
Random Detail: Brian's leopard skin painted Gretsch guitar got the biggest reaction of the night.
By The Way: It saddens me to report that the Brian Setzer Orchestra Christmas Extravaganza is not going to happen this year.