As a light snow started to fall on Minneapolis, the holiday spirit started to breath once again and to welcome it back to town was the one and only Brian Setzer of the “Stray Cats”. Setzer while being known for bringing back rockabilly is also a Grammy nominated and award winning performer with his big band Christmas show “The Brian Setzer Orchestra Christmas Rocks!”.
I walked into the State Theater on Friday, November 16th I was expecting a full on holiday show, but what I got was something far more than that. To open the show the 1950’s rockabilly infused “Lara Hope and The Ark Tones” took the stage. The band won the crowd over immediately with their upbeat, and cheeky songs such as “Love You to Life” that had the opening line of “I love you more than I did yesterday, because yesterday you kind of pissed me off” and their closer “Whiskey Pick”. While performing every member had a huge smile on their face and were genuinely having a blast with the audience.
When the clock hit 8:55 the Orchestra took to the stage and Brain Setzer walked out with his signature Gretsch hollow body guitar. The band went straight into the 1954 Christmas hit “Dig That Crazy Santa Claus” the song had the audience standing and dancing immediately. Then they went into a rockabilly version of the iconic Christmas song “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”. The big band sound was infectious. With solos for every player and stand up bass dance moves that would make any classically trained musician faint was electrifying.
The fourth song of the night was the first “Stray Cats” song he would play. Setzer walked up to the microphone and yelled “Stray Cat Strut!” then the bass walked down and Setzer hit the lead riff with force. The audience the jiving and singing every word the band. Throughout the set Setzer would pay his respects to Roy Clark, a pioneer guitar finger picker, cover “Hey Bulldog” by The Beatles, make Christmas songs rock and of course play his own hits.
The Orchestra closed the main set with Setzer’s most famous creation “Rock This Town” once the opening notes of that hit the crowd jumped up and rushed the stage. The dancing and singing spread like wild fire, even the balcony was getting in on the action. For the encore Setzer and his Christmas Orchestra covered four parts from “The Nutcracker” ballet. They ended the night with one of the most recognizable Christmas songs ever “Jingle Bells”. As I stood three feet from the stage in the isle (as well as dozens of other fans), a huge grin came over my face as we all watched a man in a Santa suit run out on the stage and toss candy canes into the audience. It was the perfect was to end a this Holiday show.
If anyone says it is to early for the Holidays, just tell them to go see, The Brian Setzer Orchestra, they will not be disappointed and will be put right into the Christmas spirit.