The Brian Setzer Orchestra / Brian Setzer

Christmas Extravaganza

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AllMusic Review by

With two Christmas albums under his '50s pompadour, Brian Setzer took his big-band show on the road and captured the results for the second DVD recorded live with his Orchestra. It's a rousing, scintillating two-and-a-half-hour affair with Setzer running through his jazzy Christmas repertoire and adding a few rocking Stray Cats and BSO nuggets. Recorded at one show (without apparent overdubs) at the Universal Amphitheatre in L.A. on December 18, 2004, Setzer and his 16 pieces (mostly horns with standup bass, drums, and two comely female backing singers, all dressed in their Christmas finest leopard-skin jackets with red shirts) whip up an evening's worth of retro holiday cheer. The ensemble is tighter than the dresses on the backup vocalists and plays with such obvious enthusiasm it's impossible not to get caught up in the excitement. Setzer pulls some variations out of his bag, such as combining "Stray Cat Strut" with "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" and letting the trombones solo exclusively on the Ventures' "Pipeline." For about 20 minutes in the middle of the show, he breaks the set down to a rockabilly trio to perform such tracks as "Run Rudolph Run," "Gene and Eddie," and a raging "Fishnet Stockings." The colorful lights, professional camera work, unobtrusive editing, and Surround Sound perfectly capture the event, and really make you feel like you have a front-row seat to the best Christmas show in town. Setzer plays some typically stinging guitar throughout and the band, along with the audience, feeds back similar energy. An 11-minute bonus segment finds Setzer and his pianist arranging "My Favorite Things" for the band, first as a duo and then in the studio with the orchestra. Interestingly, although the track appears on 2005's Dig That Crazy Christmas, it does not turn up in the live performance on the DVD. Regardless, even Scrooge would find something to smile about in this exuberant show that captures Setzer and his band on a great night, which just happens to be around Christmas. In other words, this is a blast and perfect for existing fans or those new to the Setzer experience, regardless of which month of the year you watch it.

Track Listing

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blue highlight denotes track pick