Brian Setzer: Brian Setzer’s Rockabilly Riot! Osaka Rocka! — Live in Japan 2016


Videos by American Songwriter

Brian Setzer
Brian Setzer’s Rockabilly Riot! Osaka Rocka! — Live in Japan 2016
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Even if you’re not a rockabilly fan, you have to give Stray Cats founder Brian Setzer credit for keeping the music alive with both his 19 piece, horn blasted ensemble and the stripped down three piece featured on this show. He’s virtually the only act in the sadly under-appreciated genre that can consistently fill larger auditoriums as he displays here, packing the Japanese rockabilly hardcores into the 600 or so capacity Namba Hatch venue in Osaka for this sizzler of a concert recorded Feb.18, 2016.

Japan’s love of American roots music is well known; Setzer even recorded 2001’s big band DVD there. So it’s little surprise he returns for this 20 song DVD/CD (the audio only has 17 tracks) that finds the country’s rockabilly faithful — many, at least according to the crowd shots on the DVD, seemingly not born when the Stray Cats were a working band — in full flower. Perhaps not surprisingly, the set list features five tunes from 2014’s Rockabilly Riot! studio set, recorded with the same musicians here. But Setzer is nothing if not a crowd pleaser so he’s happy to pull out Cats favorites such as “Rumble in Brighton,” “Runaway Boys,” “Gene & Eddie,” “Rock This Town,” “Fishnet Stockings” and of course “Stray Cat Strut,” a song he wrote in his late teens and has played hundreds if not thousands of times since. 

Regardless of how old these tunes are, this ensemble acts as if they were playing them for the first time, ripping through the changes with the energy of guys half their age (Setzer’s in his late 50s). The DVD lets guitar enthusiasts check out the frontman’s collection of vintage hollow body Gretsch models and, better still, watch his fingers as he tears through the 90 minute set. Setzer has generally been an underrated guitar slinger, but anyone who has seen him dig into the classic “Sleepwalk” solo as he does here, shifting from sweet jazz licks to reverbed Chuck Berry ones, will appreciate just how talented he is.

While much of this material doesn’t sound noticeably different than the studio versions, the live setting pumps extra sweat into the proceedings. Also, some selections are extended, in particular a roaring “Rock this Town” that, at over seven minutes, clocks in at over twice its original time. Ditto for “Fishnet Stockings” where Setzer swing solos for 90 seconds of the intro until the band eventually kicks in on a six-and-a-half minute take that leaves the two-and-a-half minute studio one in the dust.

Those who already own 2012’s similarly titled Rockabilly Riot! Live from the Planet CD, will find the set lists similar. But this package including the DVD is a terrific addition that — with its surround sound and professional, high resolution video — is reason enough to recommend this over the earlier audio only performance.

Brian Setzer certainly isn’t the only artist keeping the authentic rockabilly sound alive for another generation, but he arguably does it better than anyone else. He has, over the decades, written his share of classics that stack up admirably to those he loved from the 50s and early 60s. All of which makes this a terrific addition for either established fans or those new to his exciting and propulsive stage show, one that few others have the talent or ability to create.

Calling all Brian Setzer fans! Mark your calendars for the Brian Setzer Tour 2024. Get ready to dance and sing along to your favorite hits. Book your tickets now!

Video Premiere: Jonny Fritz, “Stadium Inn”