Into Music Reviews: Stray Cats – Manchester Apollo

Act: Stray Cats
Venue: Manchester Apollo
Date: 25 June 2019

It’s not like I’ve been counting the days but it’s been 10 years, 9 months and 14 days since the last time I should have seen the Stray Cats play live in the flesh. Unfortunately for me and a couple of thousand other Glasgow gig goers back in 2008, drummer Slim Jim Phantom happened to break his wrist at the end of the band’s Brixton Academy show 2 days earlier, resulting in the Glasgow gig being cancelled.

Now, as that tour was billed of the farewell type, I haven’t held out much hope since of seeing The Stray Cats in action, but when news filtered through in early 2018 that not only had they reformed but were planning a new album and tour, to say I was delighted would be putting it mildly. A minor disappointment however was that no Glasgow gig was scheduled for the UK run and therefore Manchester became the next best option.

The venue itself was similar to many dotted up and down the UK, sloping back to front and providing excellent viewing irrespective of where you were standing (downstairs) or sitting (upstairs).

Cat Fight from new album 40 kicked things off and the band immediately and effortlessly picked up the rockabilly rhythm they are so well known for. Next up, Runaway Boys, their debut single which hit the top 10 back in 1980, still sounding fresh and vibrant, this Manchester joint already rockin’ to the sound of the hepcat trio.

Against a backdrop of the Stray Cats logo, Phantom to the left of the stage on drums, Brian Setzer on guitar and vocals in the centre and Lee Rocker on double bass to the right, they showcased an impressive set, mixing in new album tracks, old favourites and some covers too. The Stray Cats give faith to the roots of rockabilly though at the same point, adding in their own unique mix, Phantom’s stripped back drumming, Rocker’s charismatic bass slapping and Setzer picking sublime chords on an array of Gretsch guitars throughout the gig, great stuff.

Rocker took vocal duties on When Nothing’s Going Right and Bring It Back Again before a rousing finale of Rock This Town had the crowd jiving and swinging in the aisles and singing along to every single word.

Fortunately, the band came back for a 3 song encore, Rock It Off, Built For Speed and Rumble In Brighton bringing the night to a successful close, with Setzer saying it wouldn’t take them as long to return. Here’s hoping Glasgow will be on their radar next time.

John Welsh
@welshjb

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