Confirming one of the year's more unlikely pop comebacks, Brian Setzer utterly dazzled a packed Greek Theatre, performing with a lustful abandon that asserts the singer-guitarist's rightful place at the forefront of the retro music craze sweeping the country, the second such ascension of his career.

Confirming one of the year’s more unlikely pop comebacks, Brian Setzer utterly dazzled a packed Greek Theatre, performing with a lustful abandon that asserts the singer-guitarist’s rightful place at the forefront of the retro music craze sweeping the country, the second such ascension of his career.

A ’50s-style roots-rock guitarist fronting a pre-World War II-influenced big band is rather unusual, but the tattooed former leader of the Stray Cats pulls it off partially because of the extra-boisterous orchestra that supports him. Setzer’s voice is in excellent shape and his guitar skills sharply honed, all of which made for an unexpectedly triumphant evening.

The exciting 90-minute concert was a mix of period pieces like a lush version of Santo and Johnny’s instrumental classic “Sleepwalk” and the Skyliners’ 1959 hit “Since I Don’t Have You” (which Setzer nailed vocally), new originals and a couple of refurbished Stray Cats numbers, all fueled by Setzer’s unmistakable rockabilly style.

More contemporary references were also in effect: No Doubt vocalist Gwen Stefani, whose house is walking distance to the Greek, came out in a bright floral dress to playfully duet with Setzer on “You’re the Boss,” the Elvis-Ann-Margret gem found on Setzer’s current top 30 album, “Dirty Boogie” (Interscope Records); an update of the Clash’s “Brand New Cadillac” was one of the evening’s many other musical highlights.

Brian Setzer Orchestra

Greek Theatre; 6,129 seats; $42.50 top

Production

Presented by Nederlander. Reviewed Aug. 8, 1998.

Cast

Band: Brain Setzer, Bob Bennett, Charlie Biggs, Bernie Dresel, Ray Herrmann, Robbie Hioki, George McMullen, Tim Misica, Will Murillo, Kevin Norton, Scot Ray, Don Roberts, Rick Rossi, Mike Viatkovich, Mark Winchester, Jim Young-strom.
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