It’s was definitely a swingin', rockin', and shoutin' of a good time as the sensational, iconic and legendary band the Stray Cats prowled their way to the Greek Theatre on Wednesday night. It’s been a long 40 years since they dropped their first album, In no way, shape or form are the Stray Cats showing any signs of slowing down. The Stray Cats released 40, their first new album in 26 years on the heels of three singles they've recently issued from the album: “Cat Fight (Over a Dog Like Me),” “Rock It Off” and “Cry Danger.”
Eagles of Death Metal preceded The Stray Cats with their driving, grooving brand of catchy tunes. Josh Homme resumed his role as second drummer for most of the set, adding power to the band’s sound, while jumping up front to play guitar briefly. Leadman Jesse Hughes admitted to being nervous because “ My mother and the Stray Cats are here!” Nevertheless, he led the band through powerhouse selections including “Just 19,” “Now I’m A Fool,” and appropriately, “Wanna be in LA.”
Personally, I’ve never attended a Stray Cats concert but am, nonetheless, a huge fan of theirs. I have been listening to their music for years and the 40th tour coincided with the years I’ve been on earth, so this concert hits dearly to me. The original trio of guitarist Brian Setzer, upright bassist Lee Rocker and drummer Slim Jim Phantom didn’t waste any time strutting on stage performing exactly as scheduled as fans roared through the venue holding cell phones up to the sky. “Are you ready for some Rock & Roll music?” Setzer said. And of course, his fans yelled "YES!". “Well, let’s get to it” Setzer answered.
Brian Setzer's superiority as a guitar player shimmers particularly strong in high-tempo rock songs like "Cat Fight (Over a Dog Like Me)" and "When Nothing's Going Right." Lee Rocker's upright bass-playing style persistence crafts, through its chords, that excellent sound that bridges between Brian’s Setzer and Slim Jim Phantom, as shown on an extraordinary level of superb musicianship in a tune like "Three Times a Charm." Slim Jim Phantom's drumming style is as strong and as extremely interesting as you can expect from a rhythm master like him, with its soaring peak of magnificence on the closing tune of the album, "That’s Messed Up."
Not only did the Stray Cats play music from their new album, they also played many of their old songs as well. Albums like 1981’s Stray Cats And 1982’s Built for Speed were really big hits amongst the audience. Folks got off their chairs and began to swing dance to songs like "Stray Cat Strut’" and "Rock This Town."
Since their last album Original Cool came out 26 years ago, the Stray Cats have continued to maintain and prove they are better instrumentalists than any of the rockabilly bands out there. Absolutely no one does the rockabilly hits like the Stray Cats, and this 40 album proves it.
The 40 album regains the exuberance of the original Stray Cat’s debut album. 40 feels fresh with all the best aspects of what makes them remarkable. This album is more killer than filler, which in comparison with most of the overproduced music being passed off as Rock & Roll today, is exhilarating. Not many bands can come out with something worth listening to after 40 even 50 years. These three cool cats are definitely legends in their own right.