Delivers a Rockin' Christmas in Englewood
A Feature Article by Rich and Laura Lynch

Christmas arrived early at the bergenPAC in Englewood, New Jersey when the Brian Setzer Orchestra (BSO) arrived on December 3, 2014 to present the Christmas Rocks Extravaganza. This annual show now in its eleventh year kicked off in mid-November and is running through the end of this year so there is still plenty of time to check out this celebratory concert.

Brian Setzer Orchestra Delivers a Rockin' Christmas in Englewood
Brian Setzer on stage at the bergenPAC in New Jersey.

Many first heard of Brian Setzer in 1979 when he was the frontman/guitarist for the Stray Cats. The band's sound was heavily influenced by 1950's Sun Record artists with a slice of 1970's punk. The Stray Cats had numerous hit singles such as "Stray Cat Strut", "Rock This Town" and more with this unique blend of musical styles.

In the 1990's, Brian formed the Brian Setzer Orchestra. BSO is a big band with lots of horns presenting blues, swing and Christmas music. Christmas Rocks Extravaganza showcased reinvented holiday classics along with gems from the Stray Cats' catalogue.

The festive stage was symmetrically set-up with the drum kit between two horn sections. There were Christmas trees and poinsettias among the musical gear. Everyone in this eighteen piece band was dressed in holiday attire although Brian was sporting a dark jacket paired with a vest and slacks, later revealing a shirt of skulls - very rock and roll.

As he strolled out, Mr. Setzer was enthusiastically greeted by the sold-out crowd at the bergenPAC. Brian was armed with one of an array of signature Gretsch guitars that he played throughout the night. Lighting was also used to full effect at this Extravaganza elevating an already polished holiday production. "Sleigh Ride" was lavish loaded with horns giving the song a big band feel with Brian adding a short yet soaring guitar solo to the mix. "This Cat's on a Hot Tin Roof" was hopping complementing the sassy "Stray Cat Strut". Brian shared that the guitar that he wrote that classic on is now in the Smithsonian.

Brian Setzer Orchestra Delivers a Rockin' Christmas in Englewood
The Brian Setzer Orchestra is a cool rockin' big band!

For "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus" Setzer played a green Gretsch giving the tune a good groove for the horns to play and swinging in time to. A saxophonist, trombonist and a trumpet player stepped up for stellar solos. Throughout the night, Brian showcased many of the seasoned members in the band. Two female singers aka the Vixens took center stage with Brian to present another Stray Cat cover the swinging "(She's) Sexy + 17" with the lighting again adding to the overall colorful presentation. The BSO's version of "Joy to the World" was up-beat in its big band configuration that flowed into a dreamy "Sleepwalk".

"Angels We Have Heard on High" was glorious with a number of the horn players switching to clarinets and flutes for this church classic that also rocked magically thus melding two different styles of music. Of course, "Let's Shake" shook the house with fans clapping along to this spirited tune as more band members played solos. The energy remained high for the jazzy "Jump, Jive an' Wail". The drummer, stand-up bassist and the Vixens presented a warm winsome version of "Jingle Bell Rock". Setzer was in the right vocal range to pay tribute to Johnny Cash with "Ring of Fire" featuring mariachi horns. Next, Brian was fronting a trio to unwrap an animated series of old school rockers including the feisty "Fishnet Stockings". The horn section returned for a rousing "Rock This Town".

"Thank you very much, Merry Christmas to you, I love playing this," shared Brian as the BSO presented a rockabilly version of "The Nutcracker Suite" as part of their encore. "Getting in the Mood (For Christmas)' rocked as did the joyful closer "Jingle Bells".

Brian Setzer Orchestra Delivers a Rockin' Christmas in Englewood
The Record Company from Los Angeles, CA opened the show.

Opening for the BSO was a three piece band called The Record Company. They are a blues root-rock outfit based out of California. Their music nodded to the greats of the past in a present context. They played an engaging energetic set. The Record Company (Marc Cazorla - drums, Alex Stiff - bass & Chris Vos - guitars) was able to connect to the crowd, so much so that they got the audience to assist with call back & forth vocals on a number of tunes. Their rhythms were strong as were various guitars leads that were sometime punctuated with a harmonica. All three sang although Chris was the de facto lead vocalist and band leader.

The Record Company had spunk very much in the old school rock tradition. They were well received by the bergenPAC crowd. thoroughly enjoyed their part of the show and we anticipate hearing more about this talented trio in the future. The Record Company did a stand up job of warming the audience up for the animated and agile Brian Setzer Orchestra. The BSO blended the best of the Stray Cats with Christmas classics that even the Grinch would have enjoyed.

The bergenPAC in the heart of Englewood's thriving downtown continually hosts an array of events such as the Christmas Rocks Extravaganza, upcoming shows at the bergenPAC include The Nutcracker, Jim Jefferies, The Hit Men, Neil Sedaka, LeAnn Rimes, Chee Yun, Canadian Brass, A Little Christmas, Robert Randolph & The Family Band, and A Christmas Carol.

Brian Setzer Orchestra Delivers a Rockin' Christmas in Englewood
Gretsch Guitars had a nice display of their wares set up in the lobby.

Related Links: For more information on the BRIAN SETZER ORCHESTRA and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- Brian Setzer | The Record Company | Gretsch Guitars |

(Originally Published on December 05, 2014)




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