By Matt Mattei - [email protected]

Brian Setzer Orchestra swings into Wilkes-Barre with Christmas Rocks! Tour

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Brian Setzer performing with the Brian Setzer Orchestra.
Submitted photo

The festive surroundings were indicative of a Christmas show, with bow-adorned trees, garland and stockings decorating the stage, but despite the holiday tunes that were performed, yuletide music was delivered with style that made the Kirby Center feel like a sock hop during The Brian Setzer Orchestra’s 12th Annual Christmas Rocks! Tour.

The 19-piece band filled the Wilkes-Barre theater Wednesday night, donning their Christmas best, horn sections in green leisure suits, backup singers in red velvet dresses and a contrasting front man whose suit was grey with a tinge of red in the pocket square. The freight train of sound delivered rockabilly and swing versions of classic Christmas tunes as well as Setzer’s originals and better known covers, and the crowd made merry all through the night.

The big band led off the evening with “Rockin Around the Christmas Tree,” which sounded a bit like the 1958 Brenda Lee version until Setzer first let one of his outstanding saxophone players take the lead and then ripped a contemporary rockabilly solo for the ages, reminding the house of exactly what he does best.

The Gretsch wielding, fast-fingered guitar guru, really let loose on the follow up, “This Cat’s On a Hot Tin Roof.” He worked whole scales into speedy phrases and held them back again with soulful bends.

Setzer gave many members of the orchestra solo opportunities as they deftly poured through Christmas arrangements like “Boogie Woogie Santa” and “Rockabilly Rudolph,” which made Rudolph swing so hard the sleigh went down.

The ensemble even took time to play some of Setzer’s most notable rockabilly and swing hits like “Stray Cat Strut” and “Jump Jive An’ Wail.”

The classical highlight of the show was a swingin’ version of “The Nutcracker Suite.”

Check back for a full review …

By Matt Mattei

[email protected]

Brian Setzer performing with the Brian Setzer Orchestra. Setzer performing with the Brian Setzer Orchestra. Submitted photo

Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or [email protected]