The Strays Cats at Pacific Amphitheatre

Photo Credit: Suzie Kaplan

The Strays Cats, Pacific Amphitheatre, August 16, 2018

One of the last appearances by the American rockabilly band, Stray Cats, was July 22, 2008, at the Pacific Amphitheatre. A decade later the Stray Cats return to the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa California for a two-show reunion, Thursday, and Friday, August 16 – 17, 2018.

There were talks earlier in the year that the Stray Cats were getting back together, all three original members. Brian Setzer vocalist/guitarist, Lee Rocker stand up bass, Slim Jim Phantom, drums. Making their first appearance in a decade, headlining a sold-out show at the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend in April. Costa Mesa was next in line.

As I arrived at the venue, the parking lot was filling up, and the line for the Tickets/Will Call was 10 rows wide. My obligation for the first night of this show was a little different; I felt like something was missing, it was, I was not lugging my camera equipment to photograph the show. I was only reviewing this was a first, actually seeing a whole show. I had a blast.

Opening the show was the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. Already into their set by the time I got to my seat, my first time seeing them I really enjoyed them. Steve Perry – Vocalist/Songwriter/ Guitarist, Dan Schmid – Bassist, Dana Heitman – Trumpet, Zak Johnson – Guitar/Banjo, Willie Matheis – Tenor Sax, Joe Freuen – Trombone, Paul Owen – Drums, and Andy Page – Alto Sax. You need to have your dancing shoes and a swing partner, perfect tempo for that.

Photo Credit: Suzie Kaplan

The amphitheatre was filling up; the Cats are packing them in, for the first night Thursday, August 16th. Watching the stage being turned over, it’s all too familiar, only three setups. To the left Lee Rocker, center Brian Setzer and to the right Slim Jim Phantom drums with no drum stool.

Lights dim, the Stray Cat logo is lite up across the back of the stage, the fans on their feet cheering as Setzer, Rocker and Phantom enter the scene. Opening with Runaway Boys from their debut self-titled album Stray Cats (1981), followed by To Hip, Gotta Go from the album Rant n’ Rave with the Stray Cats (1983). Rounding out the first three songs, Stray Cat Strut from the self-titled album, from the volume of the cheers, I wasn’t the only one excited to hear this song. Which charted #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, in 1980.

The Stray Cats formed out of Massapequa, New York in 1979, have released ten albums to date, last year celebrating their 35th anniversary of the release Built for Speed. The Stray Cats, Setzer, Lee, and Phantom have reunited on a few occasions over the last few years.

Eighteen songs that kept the fans on their feet, dancing in place, which included six songs off the self-titled album Stray Cats (1981), also were Rant n’ Rave with the Stray Cats (1983), Blast Off (1989), Rumble in Brixton (2004), Choo Choo Hot Fish (1992). Setzer taking a moment to say Hello, and ask how they sounded? The fans cheered, How do we sound, I’m a bit rusty? If there was a roof, the cheers would have raised the roof. They sounded phenomenal!! Lee Rocker kicks some serious tail on the stand-up bass, holding it and even laying on it while he plays. Slim Jim Phantom stands the whole time while playing the drums, jumping over it, standing on the set, he is fantastic!! Setzer, Rocker, and Phantom shined, like no time, has passed. Their show brought back great memories.

The Stray Cats Strut through Orange County on a two-show reunion. Hope we will see more of those Cats again soon.

Till next time!!

(Review by Tammy Greene – Photos by Suzie Kaplan)

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