ITEM PHOTO: OWEN O’ROURKE
Rockabilly rebel Brian Setzer, center, with Kevin McKendree on piano and Noah Levy on drums, performs at Lynn Auditorium Wednesday night.
By BILL BROTHERTON
LYNN – Brian Setzer rocked this town, rocked it inside out and made a deliriously happy Lynn Auditorium audience scream and shout Wednesday night.
On the longest day of the year, Setzer performed the shortest show of the year. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. It just seemed that way; Setzer and his crack Rockabilly Riot trio were on stage for a high-octane 90 minutes, and the night zipped by faster than a ’55 Thunderbird Roadster.
Setzer, of course, is the former Stray Cats frontman who has done his best to keep alive rockabilly, that uniquely American music form that blends the best of western swing, rhythm & blues and boogie woogie and led to rock ‘n’ roll rebellion in the 1950s and even modern-day Social Distortion-style punk.
This is joyful, hip-shaking music. You can’t help but smile and shake your tailfeathers listening to this stuff. And work up a mighty thirst. The routine: drink beer, dance like a maniac, work up a sweat, drink beer, dance like a madman, sweat it out. Repeat.
At the center of it all is Setzer, elegantly dressed in a pinstriped black suit and sporting a mile-high retro hairstyle that features tubs of pomade, I’m sure. A little dab simply won’t do ya. By concert’s end, Setzer’s perspiration-drenched ’do resembled Donald Trump’s if he got caught in a wind tunnel.
Setzer, an underrated guitarist and singer, was on fire. He wowed the rowdy crowd with stellar playing on a variety of Gretsch guitars, including his trademark maple-stained model and a guacamole-and-lime green beauty. He shined all night, especially on “’49 Mercury Blues” and an instrumental version of Bill Monroe’s classic “Blue Moon of Kentucky.”
His simpatico bandmates (bassist Mark Winchester, drummer Noah Levy, Jerry Lee-like piano man Kevin McKendree) are first-rate musicians. Winchester is a wonder to watch, spinning and dancing with his ginormous Lebron James-sized double bass, which he slapped and plucked with fervor.
Versions of Stray Cats favorites “Rumble in Brighton,” “Stray Cat Strut,” “Fishnet Stockings” and “Rock This Town” rocked with abandon, as did a fast-and-furious “Drive Like Lightning (Crash Like Thunder)” and “Slow Down,” which segued into Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” Setzer paid tribute to his idols, Gene “Be Bop a Lula” Vincent and Eddie “Summertime Blues” Cochran, with a terrific run-through of “Gene and Eddie.”
I love jiving to Setzer’s 11-piece BSO Orchestra, but this quartet setup distills the music to its most basic, euphoric state. Fans can’t help but jump, jive and hail Setzer as the world’s foremost rockabilly rebel. He was in top form Wednesday night.
Bill Brotherton is the Item’s Features editor. Tell him what you think at email@example.com