Thursday, June 27, 2019

Stray Cats at Hammersmith Apollo

Having failed to see The Stray Cats live over the best part of four decades I've now seen them twice in little over 12 months - in Las Vegas last year and at the Hammersmith Apollo last night. The place was packed showing that the Long Island trio's fan base has stayed loyal over the years. And the band's neo-rockabilly music has stayed much the same: great if you like it - and most people there most certainly did - but lacking in passion so far as I'm concerned. They look the part, however, with multiple tattoos and rocker style clothing and hair, and still have plenty of energy, and clearly know what their fans expect and like.
This was the 40th anniversary tour and follows various splits and reunions over the years. Brian Setzer remains the lynch pin of the band and he's a fine guitarist. Lee Rocker's double bass playing provides a strong base and 'Slim Jim' Phantom, who continues to live up to his nickname, gives the drums a good hammering.
They began with a new song, 'Cat Fight (Over a Dog Like Me)' from their new album '40', but it was soon back to their roots with 'Runaway Boys', the number that put them on the map 40 years ago. This, for me, was the best song they recorded, bringing back memories of three fresh faced youths trying their best to make rockabilly commercial, and succeeding. Next came a Gene Vincent number 'Double Talkin' Baby', 'Stray Cat Strut' and a tribute to their musical heroes 'Gene and Eddie'. Stuck down the front, trying to get some photos, it was impossible to move because of the crush and a kind attendant had brought glasses of water to some of the audience, who were clearly wilting as they waited for the show to begin.
They were more than happy when it did and the trio continued with 'Mean Pickin' Man, 'I Won't Stand In Your Way' and a good instrumental version of Dick Dale's 'Misirlou'. Lee Rocker took the lead on 'When Nothing's Going Right' and Brian Setzer continued with '(She's) Sexy + 17) and Dorsey Burnette's 'My One Desire'.
I moved to the back to get some air but could see little as the music continued. The middle aged crowd, mostly male, lapped up two of their best known songs 'Fishnet Stockings' and 'Rock This Town' and the encore of a further three songs, including 'Rock It Off' and 'Rumble In Brighton' went down well.
This was my first visit to the Hammersmith Odeon (as was) for several years and it proved a pretty good venue for a sold out concert even if the size of the crowd made viewing difficult and listening tricky too. But I doubt I will bother to go and see their 50th anniversary tour, should either they or I still be around then.


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