Rockabilly Rudolph in Reno with Brian Setzer Orchestra

Nick McCabe/ Tahoe Onstage
Brian Setzer rocked Reno on Christmas Eve.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Nick McCabe
Well, that was cool! The Brian Setzer Orchestra arrived for a Christmas Eve eve appearance at The Grand Sierra Resort and there is absolutely no way not to be in the holiday spirit after sitting through this show. The 19-piece orchestra kicked it off with the trio of “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree,” “Hoodoo Voodoo Doll,” and Setzer’s classic “Stray Cat Strut,”  and the energy never subsided. What a gas. Nick McCabeThis is the 13th annual Christmas Rocks tour for the Brian Setzer Orchestra. The show was a feast of classic holiday music in rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly style, Stray Cats tunes and some other hipped-up servings. The setting included a life-size Frosty the Snowman in full top hat and holiday regalia on one corner of the stage, Santa ringing a bell on the other, four towering Christmas trees and numerous poinsettias and holiday gifts all over the place. Setzer shared stories of the band’s beginnings. He noted that, 24 years ago, nobody gave the orchestra a chance. Setzer told critics all he needed was a little luck, and he got it with his 1998 hit cover of Louis Prima’s “Jump Jive an’ Wail” on his BSO release “The Dirty Boogie.” During another interlude, a man near me kept yelling “Switchblade,” as if it were request time. After about of his four shouts, a young girl’s voice rang out “Jingle Bells.” Little did she know, “Jingle Bells” was to be the show closer. In his career, Brian Setzer has revived both rockabilly and big band swing. He truly found his niche with his annual Christmas show. Organizing, rehearsing and taking a 19-piece band on the road is no easy task. To my ears, the show sounded great. Vocals were right on, horn harmonies were clean … but there was that one moment in “Angels We Have On High.” After a climb up through three or four modulations, somebody’s guitar solo started  in the wrong key. I’m not naming names, but it looks a lot like Brian Setzer. It happens, but as a true professional should, he barreled ahead undaunted. Late in the show, Setzer delivered a solo performance of “The Christmas Song” (Chestnuts Roasting…) after which his bassist and drummer came frontstage and, in Stray Cats trio style, played “Put Your Cat Clothes On,” “Fishnet Stockings” and “Rockabilly Rudolph.” The highlights were many, but a couple of them deserve recognition: “Jump, Jive an’ Wail,” which got everybody going, and “Rock This Town,” which did the same. The first song in the encore was a magnificently scored, jazzed-up rendition of “The Nutcracker Suite.” Setzer  conducted portions of the composition. The show ended with the orchestra’s own rocked up, hipped up version of “Jingle Bells” — complete with Santa Claus running around the stage, dancing and tossing goodies to the crowd. It was not a silent night, but rather a wholly enjoyable night.

-Nick McCabe

  • Brian Setzer Orchestra Dec. 23, 2016, Grand Sierra Resort — Set list Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree Hoodoo Voodoo Doll Stray Cat Strut Boogie Woogie Santa Claus Gene and Eddie Here Comes Santa Claus Sleep Walk Angels We Have Heard On High (In Excelsis Deo) The Dirty Boogie Jump, Jive an’ Wail Let There Be Rock The Christmas Song Mystery Train Put Your Cat Clothes On Fishnet Stockings Rockabilly Rudolph Rock This Town ENCORE Nutcracker Suite Jingle Bells — Brian SetxerBrian Setzer Orchestra

ABOUT Nick McCabe

Nick McCabe
Nick McCabe is a musician, photographer and writer from Reno. He is the editor of the music website Front Row Photo. He plays in a seven-piece band, Apothic.

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