Concert Review: Stray Cats – 40th Anniversary Tour – Eventim Apollo, London [27 June 2019]

Well I’ve been eagerly awaiting this gig for a while now given I last saw the boys on 22 Dec 1981 in Nottingham (roughly 37 and a half years ago).

In truth the gig doesn’t require too much analysis, simple rockabilly to just enjoy and bop to!

Eddie Cochrane’s ‘C’mon everybody’ brings original 1980’s rockabilly revival members Brian Setzer, Lee Rocker and “Slim’ Jim Phantom onto the stage to rapturous applause from a sell-out Hammersmith Odeon (Apollo or whatever it wants to call itself these days depending on who is sponsoring the venue).

The Stray Cats are here, to celebrate their 40th anniversary tour and their first new LP in 26 years not surprisingly entitled ‘40’.  Tonight, there are plenty of new tracks mixed with a history lesson of nostalgic songs culled from their sparkling career and classic covers in a 1½ hour set that never lets up.

They launched into the new LP immediately with ‘Cat Fight (Over A Dog Like Me)’ a very Chuck Berry’ish song in typical Stray Cats style and an instant classic – Brian can’t understand why two women are coming to blows over him (I guess that it’s kind of autobiographical as I’m sure that’s actually happened to him!).  Then straight into the classic “Runway Boys’ from their debut LP.  These two songs set the tone for the whole evening perfectly and everyone is singing along in unison!

It’s been a while since I saw so many turned up blue jeans, flat top haircuts (occasional quiff) and tattoos plus the ladies with typical 50’s vintage updo/bandanna hairstyles.  It all made for the occasion, a celebration of a music genre that isn’t in vogue in these times.  The band themselves are dressed in cowboy style attire.  Slim Jim and Brian wearing bandanna neck scarfs and jackets whilst Lee has a white blazer.  It’s hot tonight so obviously the tops come off to reveal C&W style shirts for Lee and Jim, Brian sporting a Stray Cats t-shirt plus tattoos galore.

The stage set is minimal – Slim Jim has a bass and snare drum, a high hat and a couple of symbols for his standy-uppy drumming style.  Brian gets through a number of Gretch guitars plugged into the Fender amp/speaker behind him and Lee has a couple of double basses.  There are a couple of trash cans either side of the stage and two huge back drop banners interspersed between songs and a glorious Stray Cats neon flashing logo.  In fairness they need little else, your attention is always centre stage watching the boys strut their stuff.  All are around the 60 mark, so still relatively young and full of energy, they have aged remarkably well – a bit like the music they played tonight.

Resplendent with tattoos and quiffs its evident that their passion and drive is still glowing brightly and without doubt they are a more polished and slicker outfit from that I saw all those many years ago.  Brian has certainly got much better on guitar, Lee Rocker more confident on the double bass and to be frank Slim Jim is about the same – it’s hard to really improve on a minimal drum kit and steady beat.

Brian does a lovely solo then the band launch into Dick Dale’s ‘Misirlou’ with much gusto.   Later Brian solos on top of Jim’s bass drum whilst Lee strides his double bass – a great sight to behold.

It’s a slick show.  Brian is obviously the main man but Lee takes centre stage and lead vocals for ‘When Nothing’s Going Right (Go Left)’ – best of the new songs in my opinion – and ‘Bring It Back Again’.  We also have the classics ‘She’s Sexy + 17’, ‘Fishnet Stockings’ and ‘Blast Off’.  ‘Rock This Town’, their biggest hit, brings the house down and it’s clear the band were having as much fun as the audience – all in all a rip-roaring evening.

Setlist (click on link to watch the videos on YouTube in 4k)

  1. Cat Fight (Over a Dog Like Me) – (40, 2019)
  2. Runaway Boys – (Stray Cats, 1981)
  3. Double Talkin’ Baby (Gene Vincent cover) – (Stray Cats, 1981)
  4. Three Time’s a Charm – (40, 2019)
  5. Stray Cat Strut – (Stray Cats, 1981)
  6. Mean Pickin’ Mama – (40, 2019)
  7. Gene & Eddie – (Blast Off, 1989)
  8. Cry Baby – (Choo Choo Hot Fish, 1992)
  9. I Won’t Stand In Your Way – (Rant n’ Rave with the Stray Cats, 1983)
  10. Guitar solo / Misirlou (Dick Dale cover)
  11. When Nothing’s Going Right – (40, 2019)
  12. (She’s) Sexy + 17 – (Rant n’ Rave with the Stray Cats, 1983)
  13. Bring It Back Again – (Blast Off, 1989)
  14. My One Desire (Dorsey Burnette cover) – (Stray Cats, 1981)
  15. Blast Off – (Blast Off, 1989)
  16. Lust ‘n’ Love – (Choo Choo Hot Fish, 1992)
  17. Fishnet Stockings – (Stray Cats, 1981)
  18. Rock This Town – (Stray Cats, 1981)

Encore:

  1. Rock It Off – (40, 2019)
  2. Built for Speed – (Built For Speed, 1982)
  3. Rumble in Brighton – (Stray Cats, 1981)

A three-song encore starts with “Rock It Off’ by which time a gentle mini mosh pit has started at the front and finishes with the classic ‘Rumble In Brighton’.  Eddie Cochrane plays them off stage to the strains of “Ain’t no cure for the Summertime Blues”.

Tonight, ladies and gentlemen the Stray Cats were on the prowl once again and just purrfect 😊.

The Support

Worthy of mention were Australia’s ‘The Living End’ who were a Stray Cats equivalent albeit with rockabilly/hard rock overtones.  They set up the show perfectly and seemed to have quite a few fans in the audience.  Note to me – must check them out. 

Not worthy of a mention were the other support band The Selector – peddling their 80’s poor imitation of Ska.  Alas 45 mins I’ll never get back.  On the plus side the guitarists looked like Mungo Jerry’s front man Ray Dorset and Johnny Vegas while the sax player was Jackson Galaxy.

Marko – 30 June 2019

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