2009.02.23 - FasterLouder
Date: 23rd February 2009
Author: Mike Brown
Archived from: http://fasterlouder.junkee.com/...
Stray Cats, The Living End @ Forum Theatre, Melbourne (19/02/09)
Joining the line that stretched down Hosier Lane in Melbourne’s CBD, it was interesting to see the crowd that had rocked up for a night of rockabilly. It clearly skewed older than most shows in town, with many customised workshirts and ‘Australiasian tour’ t-shirts being pulled out of the cupboard for this special night. It has been seventeen long years since rockabilly legends Stray Cats performed in Melbourne, and the crowd inside had rocked up early to take in every moment, taking photos of the stage curtain and getting in a sneaky cigarette when security wasn’t looking. It was a good night already – the atmosphere in the crowd was one of tense excitement and you just knew that this was going to be more than your regular show at The Forum.
Brian Setzer popped on stage in a black t-shirt and jeans to introduce the evening’s special guest/warm-up act, Melbourne lads The Living End. Chances are that more than a fair few saw Chris Cheney and Scott Owen when they performed as Stray Cats cover band Runaway Boys but the fans standing up the front were happy enough to get down to some original stuff. You could just tell the gig meant a lot to Cheney, as he sweated emotion whilst sliding his hand down his Gretsch White Falcon. Midway through, Cheney thanked Stray Cats for educating him in high school more than the Victorian school system ever could, explaining that he would draw pictures of black cats on every binder book whilst thinking about guitars (girls came second). Just like the fans in attendance, the set list skewed older from opening track Second Solution right through to closer West End Riot, but those hoping to be taken back to 1998 couldn’t be spared from newest singles White Noise and Raise The Alarm. Despite the varied set list and passion from Cheney, it was a great opening performance and not much more.
The Forum was rumbling when the lights when down, and when an American voice boomed over the P.A. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, the greatest band in the world! Stray Cats!’ most music fans wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. Many of the finely dressed young men and women pushed their way to the front while the older ones stood in the church-style pews up the back, singing along each word for Rumble In Brighton. Anyone could have guessed Stray Cats would be playing a greatest-hits set, but when 95% of your songs are full-fledged hits who’s complaining? From Cry Baby to Stray Cat Strut to Sexy and 17, the crowd was never sitting on their hands waiting for the next tune.
The performance couldn’t be faulted, either. Frontman Brian Setzer looked dapper in a full grey suit, and where as Chris Cheney sweated pools on stage whilst playing his guitar, Setzer made many the same sounds and more whilst looking extremely comfortable (although a tad stiff at time). Standing stage right and wearing a olive green puffy shirt and toy police badge, Slim Jim Phantom stands whilst pressing on the pedal of his snare drum and hitting on a hi-hat. Meanwhile stage left Lee Rocker is looking more like a rockabilly version of Eugene Levy due to his black thick-rimmed glasses. The band interact with each other and the crowd – Setzer tells the crowd that Phantom is staying in room 324 of the Hilton, while the crowd cheers when Setzer opens up a package thrown at the stage, revealing a Victorian Hot Rod Expo” t-shirt.
The band closes their set with three hits in a row, Summertime Blues, Fishnet Stockings, and Rock This Town and exit, stage left. The crowd won’t have any of it and the majority of them are stomping their feet on the hardwood floor, hoping the band will see the vibrations in their drinks backstage and play another song. Following costume changes, the band rejoin amid cheers and play Baby Blue Eyes and Please Don’t Touch. The crowd eat it up but many refuse to move, yelling for one more song to a band that has already left stage. When a fresh looking Setzer hits the stage with his band mates a second time, he brings out a special guest – none other than Chris Cheney from The Living End. Cheney plays with his amp and discusses what parts he will play with Setzer, and while he has a look of ‘HOLY SHIT I’M LIVING OUT MY DREAM’ on his face during the three tracks he contributes quite well. 18 Miles To Memphis has Setzer howling and telling us about states not limited to “Californ-e”. A cover of Bobby Fuller’s I Fought The Law goes down well, and that Mystery Train comes around the bend to finish things off.
Exiting the venue, a young man is selling bootleg t-shirts for twenty dollars as much of the crowd reaches into their pockets for cigarettes, if not already having them hang out of their lips. The performance was one of the Stray Cats fairwell tour, so it’s a shame to say that this mystery train won’t be coming around the bend any time soon. Here’s hoping that Setzer, Phantom and Rocker have a re-think because based on an adoring crowd combined with a spellbinding performance; Stray Cats are putting together shows in their dying years that many bands couldn’t do in their peak.