Tis the season for legendary rockabilly and Swing revivalist Brian Setzer to take his 19-piece orchestra on its national Christmas tour.
Unlike Santa Claus, Setzer cant hit all of his stops in one night. Instead, the artist behind hits like Rock This Town and Rumble in Brighton takes more than six weeks to play 32 cities on his 13th annual Christmas Rocks! Tour, including three nights at Oklahoma venues.
The Stray Cats guitarist and frontman started his Swing and blues ensemble The Brian Setzer Orchestra in 1990 as a way to experiment with a guitar-led big band. The orchestra has produced a number of Christmas albums over the years, including 2015s Rockin Rudolph.
In addition to performing with his big band, Setzer has spent the last few years promoting and touring his most recent solo studio album Rockabilly Riot!: All Original, released in 2014. On Nov. 4, he released a live DVD version of the album recorded in Osaka, Japan.
Setzer recently spoke with Oklahoma Gazette about the new release and his trio of Oklahoma shows.
Oklahoma Gazette: On your new concert DVD Rockabilly Riot: Osaka Rocka Live in Japan 2016, it was interesting to see how big you are in Japan.
Brian Setzer: Yeah, Ive always done well in Japan and in Europe. It was fun to record that show in particular. Osaka is a town that differs from the other cities in Japan. You feel like you have a whole army behind you there because theyre so loyal. They sing all the songs, which is really something to think about because English isnt their language.
OKG: How did you decide
which city to record in?
BS: We didnt have Rockabilly Riot on DVD. We were headed to Japan when the idea came up. Normally, youd pick New York, Los Angeles or Tokyo one of the big cities. I said, Why dont we choose Osaka? for that reason. Tokyo is kind of like New York. Its a great crowd and its always a good show, but I remember Osaka being kind of like Chicago a very loyal following, very energetic.
OKG: Do you look forward to doing these Christmas shows all across the country every year?
BS: I love doing the Christmas tour. First of all, I get to play with the big band. I mean, how many of those are on the planet where you can actually bring it to a town? Its pretty special to be able to play with that thing. And then, this is year 13 with the Christmas tour. Its Christmas-themed, but I kind of play whatever I want. I do Stray Cats songs; I do songs like Jump Jive an Wail. This year, were going to do a little rockabilly breakdown in the middle. Were going to do just a three- or four-piece with the piano. I like to change it up and do whatever I want in the set.
OKG: Do you think these Christmas shows are something you will continue doing?
BS: I really like to do this, and I think I will until I cant do it anymore. I really enjoy this tour. Its become a staple, you know? The other things I like to do are, of course, the Rockabilly Riot, and maybe the year after next, Im just going to go out with a guitar.
OKG: Does the audience react differently when its just you on stage compared to you with a 19-piece band?
BS: Not really. Its pretty much the same whether Im by myself or with the Rockabilly Riot or the big band; its pretty much the same reaction. Maybe that tells me something: Maybe theyre coming to see me.
OKG: Is it more fun for you to play on stage with all those people in the big band?
BS: Its all a little different. I think I was put here just to hear those different things. When I play with the big band, man, and I hear those horn sections, it brings out the musician in me. I love just pointing to the saxophone and saying, Go; take a solo. I can hear all of this different music its really musical. When Im out there with the Rockabilly Riot, its pretty much all about me. Its flat-out rock n roll. Its a lot more physical. Believe it or not, thats a lot harder set for me. An hour and 40 minutes of the four-piece and, whew, it kicks my ass.
OKG: In December, you perform three nights at three venues across Oklahoma. What comes to your mind when you think of Oklahoma?
BS: When I hit Oklahoma, it breaks away from the rest of the country. Were usually coming in from Nashville, lets say, and Oklahoma has a different feel. Ive spoken about this with other people. When Im in Oklahoma, I feel like Im out West as opposed to a place like Nashville. When I get there, Im like, OK; were out West now and were starting the western part of our tour. It has a distinct feel, and it definitely feels different from the rest of the country.
OKG: There is somewhat of an ongoing debate here about what region the state belongs to south, southwest, midwest.
BS: I never knew that. I definitely think West, and I think Western swing, you know? I get that wide-open feeling.
Print Headline: Homa for the holidays, The Brian Setzer Orchestra returns to the Sooner State for three shows in three cities over three days.