Brian Setzer Orchestra

Count Basie, Red Bank, NJ

Brian Setzer Orchestra
Count Basie Theatre
Red Bank, NJ - November 21, 2016
Author - Dennis Morgillo  

My Mama used to say “It ain’t Christmas until someone cries!”, but I say “It ain’t Christmas until I see the Brian Setzer Orchestra, Christmas Rocks! Tour.” This is the 13th Annual tour and I have seen 10 of them. Not only does it not get old, but it gets better every year. The tour lasts from November through New Years Eve and hits 33 cities.  

I have been a Brian Setzer fan since the release of ‘Built for Speed’ in 1982, and one of my fondest memories was seeing ‘The Stray Cats’ on July 4th, 1984 at the Valley Stream Movie Theater on Long Island.  Pound for Pound, Brian is the greatest guitar player on the planet. A virtuoso in all styles of music, he can play jazz, swing, rockabilly, blues, country and rock n roll. 

The 19 piece Orchestra piled into the Count Basie on this chilly November night and tore the roof off of the place. They played Christmas songs, Stray Cats songs, BSO songs and much more. I love the way Brian mixes his guitar playing with the big band, and on ‘Angels We Have Heard on High’, the girls and Brian harmonized like a gospel choir. It was truly amazing. The big band spin on classics like ‘Stray Cat Strut’, ‘Rock This Town’, ‘Sexy+17’, ‘Gene and Eddie’ and ‘Fishnet Stockings’, adds a whole new dimension to the songs.  

The first breath taking moment for me, was during ‘Sleep Walk’, the 1959 classic by Santo & Johnny. Brian paid homage to the original version, but also added his own electrifying guitar work. The beautiful, haunting song, with it’s eerie, yet moving effects, had me teary eyed. 

In a surprising turn of events, The Orchestra covered ‘Let There Be Rock’ by AC/DC! 
Big Band meets AC/DC! That was a first for me, it was big, it was loud, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!   

The crowd was in a frenzy, and Brian made a U-Turn. It was just Brian and his guitar performing ‘The Christmas Song’. The Nat King Cole classic, and my favorite song of the season. Brian performed it beautifully, with rich jazz tone, full bodied jazz chords, and tasty jazz licks. I was mesmerized and could have listened to it all night. I wish Brian would come to my house on Christmas Day and play that song all day!

The show is really like many different concerts rolled up, or a multiple act play, and the next act was Rockabilly time! They dismissed the orchestra, and brought the ‘Slim Jim’ drum kit to center stage. This was time for upright Bass legend, Johnny ‘Spazz’ Hatton to shine. They rocked out to ‘Mystery Train’, ‘Put Your Cat Clothes On’ and ‘Fishnet Stockings’. The crescendo came with Hatton standing on his Bass, while Brian was standing on the drums. What an Act!

They closed the show with ‘Rock This Town’ but the crowd was not having it. The encore included ‘Jingle Bells’, and the uplifting ‘Nutcracker Suite’. It would have made Tchaikovsky proud. 

Deck the Halls, break out the eggnog, serve up the razzleberry dressing! Setzer is coming to town!

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