Brian Setzer had been at the forefront of the modern rockabilly movement since the early `80s with The Tomcats, which became Stray Cats. He then scored big in the swing revival of the mid to late `90s with The Brian Setzer Orchestra. But for the past decade or so, the singer-guitarist and his backing band have been putting their spin on Christmas music and bringing it to the masses.
The 18-piece Brian Setzer Orchestra is bringing its 12th annual “Christmas Rocks!” tour to the Majestic Theatre on Saturday, Dec. 12. The show begins at 8 p.m. The BSO is also touring in support of its latest album, “Rockin’ Rudolph,” which was released in October. The 31-date tour began in Minneapolis in mid-November.
Last year’s “Christmas Rocks! tour featured selections from Setzer’s most recent solo studio album, “Rockabilly Riot!: All Original,” and hits from his days with Stray Cats. It’s clear that Setzer loves blending classic holiday season tunes with swing/big band sounds. Fans and critics loved BSO’s “Boogie Woogie Christmas” album in 2002, and “Dig That Crazy Christmas” three years later.
But why did it take the band so long to record a new album, much less one with a holiday theme?
“They are classic songs, and you wonder after doing a few records, ‘How many songs are left?’ Then you think, ‘Wow! I have never done ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,’ or ‘Here Comes Santa Claus,’ which is a song everybody knows,” Setzer says in a press release.
This time around, the Brian Setzer Orchestra takes on several popular Christmas songs and gives them a swinging/up-tempo beat with “Rockabilly Rudolph,” “Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”
“First of all, these songs are great songs. It doesn’t matter if they are holiday songs or when they were written, they are just great songs.” Setzer says in the press release. “The trick is to make them sound hip, and some of them are eternally hip—you know? You don’t have to do too much.”
“Take a song like ‘Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer,’ which everybody knows. On the Christmas tour, I started playing that in a rockabilly fashion—which would be in a minor key—with a rockabilly beat and I just started singing.”
The new Christmas album contains instrumental takes, such as “Swingin’ Joy” and “Carol of the Bells.” The tempo of the instrumentals is more even-keeled compared to the versions with vocals. But there’s also the infectious “Yabba-Dabba Yuletide” – original and extended versions – where BSO weaves its own swingin’ lyrics into the rhythm of “The Flintstones” theme song.
“I started singing, ‘Merry, Merry Christmas and a happy holiday to you’ in a Flintstones-themed melody. Everyone knows the Flintstones theme, which by the way is a great jazz piece on its own,” Setzer says.
“I just wrote some Christmas lyrics for that. That’s how it came about, in the middle of the summer, while being jet-lagged in Paris.”
You can still purchase tickets for Saturday's show HERE.
Purchase the new album HERE.