Photo and Story by Scott Smith
When Brian Setzer hits the stage, his guitar tone is as tasty as the finest butter, and his dexterous fingers scurry across his Gretsch guitar’s fret-board in an amazing, tornado-esque display.
The Stray Cats co-founder led the Brian Setzer Orchestra during part of their ninth annual “Christmas Extravaganza Tour” on Dec. 13 at The Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Catoosa, Okla., near Tulsa, and the up-tempo, happy-go-lucky set list was a win-win situation for the capacity crowd.
The perpetually grinning Setzer first emerged from stage right before he and his horn-based band launched into “Dig That Crazy Santa.” A chirpy take of “Sleigh Ride” also kept the all-ages crowd cheering, as did ” ’49 Mercury Blues,” “Cat’s On a Hot Tin Roof,” “Boogie Woogie Santa” and “Jingle Bell Rock.”
Stray Cats fans were treated to wonderful blasts from the past via the playful, swaggering “Stray Cat Strut” and “(She’s) Sexy & 17,” and Setzer was joined only by standup bassist Johnny Hatton and southpaw drummer Daniel Glass for “Rock This Town.” Glass stood for part of the show while playing a four-piece drum set, a la the style of Stray Cats drummer Slim Jim Phantom. Glass even spent a couple minutes tapping his sticks onto the strings of Hatton’s bass, providing a unique, percussive duet that gathered numerous gasps from the audience.
Setzer’s guitars, including one with a leopard-print paint job and a few classic gibson guitars, are in immaculate condition. The Joint’s roaming, colored spotlights glistened off Setzer’s axes as Setzer boogied his happy self across every square foot of the stage.
Totsy, a co-ed band that mixes pop with burlesque-style visuals, opened the show with a solid, unique set that was humorous in PG-13 fashion, but it was Setzer who ruled the evening. Smiling from underneath rock music’s greatest pompadour countless times throughout his set, Setzer showed not only that he might possess the friendliest face in music, but that he remains one of the most gifted, appreciative guitar players in town.