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.