Brian Setzer at Strathmore Hall

Brian Setzer at Strathmore Hall

After avoiding Strathmore Hall for years (a taxpayer protest), this is the third event we’ve been to at Strathmore in two months.

Brian Setzer was there with his big band for a concert billed as a Christmas Extravaganza.  While there were a number of Christmas tunes done up in that Rock & Roll/Big Band/Rockabilly style he’s been doing for a while, there were also a number of his recognizable hits including a few numbers done with the Stray Cats trio of Brian, Bass, and small drum kit.  And, the stage and costumes were all Christmas themed, including a snow machine for the grand finale.

This was our first time seeing Brian live, and we were real close to the stage for an easy view of his playing.  While the style he plays in is somewhat narrow from an electric guitar standpoint, you’d be hard pressed to find a better player as he effortlessly cruises between vintage rock and roll, rockabilly, surf, and swing styles.  He does this with a beautiful vintage guitar rig and a long cable, moving (sometimes running, sometimes almost duckwalking) all across the front of the stage and making great connection to the audience.

The martini glass backdrop, Vegas style lounge jackets, emphasis on swing music, create a very high energy performance that we enjoyed from end to end.  We really enjoyed the hits like Rock This Town and Sexy and Seventeen, and the swing arrangements of the Christmas songs were a lot more fun and a lot less annoying than the endless repetition that drives you insane by the actual holiday (although it is early in the season).  The swing arrangement of the Nutcarcker Suite was fun and creative, and his tribute to Danny Gatton was a great connection to a local player which we enjoyed.

The crowd was a funny mix which we are seeing for this venue, most likely due to the crowd being a mix of fans and theater patrons who are there on a subscription package and not necessarily familiar with the music.  Vocals were a little muddy and hard to hear, which we’re now seeing as typical for this venue, unfortunately.

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