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Brian Setzer Orchestra Brings Christmas to the Ryman

by Rich and Laura Lynch

The Brian Setzer Orchestra arrived at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee on December 6, 2015 with a bag full of rocking good cheer. Christmas Rocks now in its 12th year has become a much anticipated holiday tradition for fans and venues. Brian Setzer with his band the Stray Cats came into prominence in 1979 for their innovative brand of rockabilly with a dash of punk. In the 1990's he formed the Brian Setzer Orchestra (BSO) to combine that style with swing eventually evolving into the Annual Christmas Rocks! Tours which runs this year from November 14 - December 29 in various cities.

Brian Setzer's big band is a huge holiday hit in Nashville.

The Ryman stage was full of gear along with Christmas cheer as the BSO started with "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree". Their rousing version was packed with horns topped off with a soaring guitar solo from Brian playing one of his many signature Gretsch guitars that were showcased throughout the Christmas concert. A spirited "This Cat's On A Hot Tin Roof" paired with the still cool "Stray Cat Strut" kept the pace moving along all enhanced with colorful lights that were coordinated to the music.

"Thank you," greeted Brian who observed that his Gretsch was more of a St. Patty's green but no matter as they moved into "Boogie Woogie Santa Clause" that featured horn solos along with a peppy piano part. The two Vixens joined Setzer at the front of the stage for a sassy "(She's) Sexy + 17". Brian worked the whole stage making sure to play to different parts of the room and encouraged folks to clap along. "Here Comes Santa Clause" traveled at a rapid pace, countered by a majestic "Angles We Have Heard On High" that allowed The Vixens to soar on their vocals.

Brian Setzer went from rockabilly legend to renowned big band leader.

"Let's Shake" and "Jump, Jive an' Wail" were packed with energized band solos living up to their lively song titles. "Jingle Bell Rock" highlighted a smaller group configuration that led to animated antics such as standing on instruments. Brian mentioned some new stuff including their latest record Rockin' Rudolph. He also pointed out that this line-up had a piano player - a first for the BSO. Local boy Kevin McKendree got to strut his stuff on Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire" flowing into a saucy "Fishnet Stockings". The big band returned to present "Rockabilly Rudolph" and a rousing version of the popular "Rock This Town".

After a quick coat change Setzer was back for the encore. "Yabba Dabba Yuletide" from Rockin Rudolph was a creative Christmas carol crafted out of the Flintstones' TV theme song. Next the BSO aptly handled the challenging now swinging "Nutcracker Suite" followed by an animated "Jungle Bells" to close the concert on a jubilant note.

Brian Setzer with one of his many colorful Gretsch guitars in Music City.

Opening for Brian Setzer at the Ryman and for the 2015 tour is Low Volts who is actually just one man armed with a gritty slide guitar paired with a kick drum stacked with tambourines. He generally performs dirty blues, rock and soul although on this occasion mixing in a number of holiday songs starting with "Blue Christmas". He crafted a rhythm as he played and sang the well-known Elvis classic. He jokingly asked the drummer (himself) if he was ready for the edgy "Trouble Don't Come Alone". Next he jested that the Ryman was haunted by bats - beware he cautioned as he went into a bluesy tale of bats that included a biting guitar solo. Low Volts put his own spin on the "Little Drummer Boy" by emphasizing the guitar more than the drum and he finished up his set with some heavy slide guitar progressions.

The Brian Setzer Orchestra presented a festive and fun performance at The Mother Church of Country. Throughout the show the talented BSO made good use of colorful costumes and lighting. The Ryman Auditorium along with Brian are in the height of their holiday seasons. The venue is featuring multiple nights of the popular Amy Grant & Vince Gill Christmas Concert along with Opry shows and more coming soon.

The opening act Low Volts was in reality a one man band.

Related Links: For more information on the BRIAN SETZER ORCHESTRA and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- Brian Setzer | Low Volts | Ryman Auditorium


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