Sunday’s sold-out show brought serious rock fun to the amphitheather, led by Grammy-winning guitarist Brian Setzer and his band, with Grand Rapids’ own wild duo opening. (Review, photos)
The sun set over swing dancers and rockabilly revelers Sunday night amid twangy guitar riffs and upbeat grooves, courtesy of Brian Setzer’s “Rockabilly Riot!”
The three-time Grammy Award-winning guitarist and former Stray Cats frontman belted it out for a sold-out crowd at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in true style, performing fan favorites such as “Rock This Town” and “Stray Cat Strut.”
Setzer, who this month is celebrating the 35th anniversary of Stray Cats’ debut release, “Built For Speed,” danced and jeered about the stage tirelessly, flaunting his rockabilly guitar mastery at every turn.
As a perfect match for Setzer’s rockabilly sensibility, Grand Rapids’ Jesse Ray & The Carolina Catfish opened the show.
The crowd was riled up from the get-go by the duo’s stripped-down and hard-hitting performance. It’s always a rush to see a performance by Jesse Ray, but this Meijer Gardens crowd was so receptive and appreciative, it seemed to elevate the band’s energy to another level.
A high-flying jump from the bass drum by singer-guitarist Jesse Ray ended the set, which provoked a standing ovation from the crowd. Another round of applause and cheers followed when the band joined the crowd in the amphitheater before Setzer’s performance.
‘A TIME-WARP TO ANOTHER ERA’
There’s no denying Jesse Ray & The Carolina Catfish set the bar high.
But the crowd only cheered louder when Setzer and his band took the stage with a cover of Carl Perkins’ classic, “Put Your Cat Clothes On.” It was like a time-warp to another era, with couples jumping out of their lawn chairs to swing dance in the aisles.
The Sunday evening set featured a mix hits by Stray Cats, Setzer’s solo band, The Brian Setzer Orchestra and even covers such as Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” But the orchestra has been left behind on Setzer’s Rockabilly Riot tour in favor of a three-piece rhythm section. But maybe a horn section and string ensemble weren’t entirely necessary; this well-dressed band made some serious noise.
The group’s blues and rockabilly progressions moved with aggressive drumming, punchy melodies played on a leopard-print piano and walking–at-times slapping–bass lines, which further propelled Setzer’s guitar work.
The vibe couldn’t be stopped. With top-notch musicianship and a joyful whimsy, Setzer’s Grand Rapids performance was good old-fashioned fun.
PHOTO GALLERY: Brian Setzer, Jesse Ray & The Carolina Catfish @ Meijer Gardens
Photos by Anthony Norkus