As Constellation Brands Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center (CMAC) kicked off their 2015 Summer Concert Series, they couldn’t have picked a better choice to lead off with; Brian Setzer and George Thorogood & The Destroyers. Nothing like a rocking good time to set the bar high for the summer concert series.
Always a fan of both artists, I prepared myself for the evening with an umbrella to dodge the raindrops and my dancing shoes to splash in the puddles. Other than my camera equipment and trusty journalist notepad…I was all set. Despite the early downpour, the weather had no damper on the evening as attendees just took cover and rocked the night away.
First up was newcomer Davy Knowles. Known as a blues, rock, and Celtic rock musician, his acoustic set was fantastic. Knowles hails from the Isle of Man (England), and his charming style and manner warmed up the evening and helped chase away the rain as the night began. Although only six years into his professional career, his resume is chock full of gigs he’s played, with a list of legends he’s opened for that would make any musician green with envy. There is no doubt in my mind that in no time flat this young man is destined for bigger things.
Up next was Mr. Brian Setzer, and here is where the party began. There is no way every person in the venue wasn’t tapping their toes to the beats Setzer and his band were setting down. Brian Setzer lead off of course with lead vocal and lead guitar, but with Mark Winchester on bass, Kevin McKendree on keyboards and guitar, and Noah Levy on drums, this group of musicians played like they were just four musicians jamming out together and having a good time playing some great music. The fact that we were there watching…was just icing on their cake.
Their love of music is contagious and there is nothing that makes me smile more than seeing couples all over the venue taking to wherever they could find enough room to cut a rug while Setzer and his band played their famous rockabilly, swing, revival jumping, bluesy tunes. From hit to hit, they never let up, and the energy kept flowing. Heck my arms hurt just watching how fast Noah Levy played those drums. Piece of advice here, don’t arm wrestle that dude, he will stomp you. For the energy these guys put into their playing, the audience gave it back to them two-fold. As song after song played, more and more of the audience rose to their feet, and by the end of the evening, there was a crowd down at the edge of the stage getting photos and selfies with this amazing quartet as they played. This defnitiely was one hell of a set, and definitely a check of that bucketlist for me. May favorite tune, besides the obvious Stray Cat Strut, Great Balls of Fire, and Rock This Town, had to be a tie between his cover of Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Bues and his encore of Sleep Walk. This may have been my frist time, but definitely won’t be the last time I see Mr. Brian Setzer and his amazing group of accompanying musicians.
As the stage was cleared, I couldn’t image anyone being able to follow that act and hold their own; until George Thorogood took to the stage. Although I have listened to this rocker since high school, this was the first opportunity to see him live. WOW is all I can say. He is a photographers dream performer. In addition to being one of the most talented musicians/guitar players around, he is the most animated performer. As he performed, he danced, he hit poses, he made animated faces. Hell, he entertained and then some. I read somewhere that he started out in the business to be a comedian. I can absolutely see how with a change of circumstances, he would still be on that very stage, just delivering one liners instead of some of rock and roll’s all time favorite tunes.
Together with high school friend and original band member, Jeff Simon on drums/percussion, George and Jeff are joined on stage by Billy Blough on bass, Jim Suhler on rhythm guitar, and Buddy Leach on saxophone/piano where together they ramp up the audience and have laid down some of rock and rolls greatest hits over a forty-year career. When asked about his career, the man quoted Stan Musial. Stan was asked “What was the greatest day of your career?” He replied, “Every day when I walk onto the field is the greatest day”. George feels the same “Every night when I walk on that stage is the highlight of my career. I hit that first chord, the band kicks in, and we hear the audience respond. That’s the rush. Over 40 years into this, and every night that’s still the only moment that matters.” Okay, as if I didn’t love this man already, quoting one of this lifetime Cardinals fan’s favorite Cardinal players just sealed the deal. George Thorogood, you are definitely BBBBBaddd to the Bone! You truly set that bar high for the rest of the 2015 Summer Concert Series to follow. Well played…well played.
Brian Setzer Set List
Rumble in Brighton (Stray Cats)
Stray Cat Strut (Stray Cats)
Nothing is a Sure Thing
’49 Mercury Blues
Great Balls of Fire (Jerry Lee Lewis cover)
Drive Like Lightning (Crash Like Thunder)
Slow Down/Folsom Prison Blues
Blue Moon of Kentucky (Bill Monroe & The Bluegrass Boys cover)
Runaway Boys (Stray Cats)
Fishnet Stockings (Stray Cats)
Sleep Walk (Santo & Johnny cover)
Rock This Town (Stray Cats with Train Kept A Rollin tease)
Seven Nights to Rock (Moon Mullican cover)
George Thorogood & The Destroyers Set List
Who Do You Love (Bo Diddley cover)
Help Me (Sonny Boy Williamson cover)
Night time (The Strangeloves cover)
I Drink Alone
House Rent Blues/One Bourbon One Scotch One Beer (John Lee Hooker cover)
Cocaine Blues (Clarence Ashley cover)
Ge a Haircut
Move It on Over (Hank Williams cover)
Tail Dragger (Howlin Wolf cover)
Bad to the Bone