Congrats Stray Cats on your triumphant return!
It has been 10 years since the Stray Cats rocked the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa, however Thursday night it felt like the trio hadn’t skipped a beat.
Fans were ready to jump, jive and wail along with Brian Setzer, Lee Rocker and Slim Jim Phantom, who just recently reunited to play three stops in 2018 including the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend back in April, the Naperville Ribfest in Illinois in July and added two nights at Pacific Amphitheatre.
The audience members in Costa Mesa made it clear that they wanted the Stray Cats. Numerous guests turned out in their rockabilly garb, sporting cuffed jeans, flat caps, rolled up T-shirt sleeves, slicked back or pompadour hairstyles, dresses straight out of the ’50s or wearing other vintage Stray Cats-branded swag
As the lights went down and a curtain was removed over the band’s signature light-up sign and large cat logo, the trio emerged and got right with it, kicking the show off with “Runaway Boys.” Like a well-oiled machine, the band blasted through it with ease. By the end of the song, Setzer, who killed it on guitar, raised his arm and let out a “Yeah!” like he knew they had nailed it.
Though it had been a decade since these childhood friends from Long Island, NY had shared a stage, there’s an instant chemistry. They play so well off of each other, each musician a master at his craft. Setzer has such control when he’s wailing away on his guitar and his vocals are still so sharp whether he’s belting it out during songs like “Gene & Eddie” or crooning along with “I Won’t Stand in Your Way.”
Slim Jim, who plays while standing, makes drumming just look so casual and he must have one heck of a chiropractor to keep his posture in check. Rocker is not only a phenomenal upright bassist, but a great singer as his vocals shine during “Bring It Back Again” and a cover of “My Baby Left Me,” a song written by blues singer Arthur Crudup and later famously covered by Elvis Presley.
Fans clapped, danced and sang along to every word of favorites such as “Stray Cat Strut,” “(She’s) Sexy + 17,” “Built for Speed” and “Rock This Town.” There were even a few famous faces rocking along in the audience including No Doubt drummer Adrian Young and Green Day anchor Tré Cool.
“How’s it sounding you guys, all right?’,” Setzer asked the crowd. “I’ll admit, I’m a little rusty.”
He certainly didn’t sound it as the group launched into “Lust ‘n’ Love” and the punk rock song “Blast Off.” They cut loose during “Fishnet Stockings” and before heading into the encore, hit the audience with its biggest hit, “Rock This Town.”
If there was a moment where the band – which celebrates its 40th anniversary next year – showed even a bit of its age, it was here. Back in the day, Rocker would stand up on his upright bass, slapping away and Slim Jim would just destroy his drum kit. It’s now a little more tame. Slim Jim did manage to get up on his drums and pounded away and Rocker made an attempt at his signature stand-on bass move, but slid off at first try. He smiled and laughed at himself a bit, but kept right on it and eventually got up there. None of this, by the way, affected the sound one bit.
The band members excited for the encore and returned to the stage, having switched out their collared bowling shirts for simple black shirts.
“I guess we shouldn’t have waited so long, huh?’,” Setzer asked before hitting the crowd with the rousing “Rumble in Brighton.” The band ended the evening with a cover of Eddie Cochran’s “Somethin’ Else.”