• Tue. Apr 16th, 2024

Brian Setzer’s Rockabilly Riot invades the Pearl at the Palms!

ByTaylor T Carlson

Mar 3, 2024

Brian Setzer played the Pearl at the Palms Hotel and Casino on Saturday, March 2, 2024, with opening act Yates McKendree.

For over four decades, Brian Setzer has been keeping old school rock and roll sounds alive with his own brand of rockabilly. Best known as the frontman of the Stray Cats with whom he scored many classic hits in the 80s, he also portrayed Eddie Cochran in the film LA BAMBA, and even reinvented himself in the 1990s with the Brian Setzer Orchestra, combining his signature style with swing and big band elements. In these past several decades, Mr. Setzer has kept himself very busy, and I do mean that in the best of ways. Despite being a big fan of Setzer, he’s an artist I’d never seen live until this gig, so this was a long overdue item to check off my rock and roll bucket list.

The Pearl at the Palms is a fantastic live venue, packing in a great many people for every show while at the same time being small enough to maintain an intimate environment. It’s a locale I’ve visited many times over the years, most recently in October for Cheap Trick. It definitely sounded like the ideal environment in which to see Mr. Setzer bring his brand of music to the masses.

To my surprise, Setzer actually had an opening act for this show, which I wasn’t aware of prior to attending the gig. His support act was Yates McKendree, whom I was not familiar with prior to this evening. McKendree’s band, like Setzer’s, is a trio, with his band featuring a drummer and an organist, with the latter being his father. Despite my lack of familiarity, I quickly became a fan of the group just a few songs in. The band’s unique bluesy sound was largely enhanced by the decision to utilize a Hammond organ to hold down the low end instead of the traditional bass guitar player; this really helped the group to stand out from many of their contemporaries. Despite relatively limited set time, Mr. McKendree and company served up some great songs. I’m definitely curious to see where this young man’s career goes – there were many fantastic moments throughout the set and eager to see what he does next!

Brian Setzer, of course, was the evening’s headliner. For this gig, Setzer was joined by drummer John Laurios and bassist Chris D’Rozario. I wasn’t familiar with either of these two musicians, but as I quickly discovered early in the set, Setzer has a knack for picking excellent bandmates. D’Rozario played a standing bass rather than the more conventional bass guitar, and certainly was a master of his instrument. Did I mention there were times where he was literally standing on his standing bass? (There’s no way to say that which doesn’t sound unintentionally amusing). Laurios was a superb drummer and backing vocalist, decked out with an Elvis-esque hairstyle that certainly made him stand out. These guys were fantastic and gave Setzer just the band he needed to bring his music to life on stage.

And what of Setzer himself? Now in his 60s and of course wielding his legendary Gretsch guitar, he’s still the rockabilly hero he’s always been, having never really gone away over the years. And I’m pleased to say that he’s one of the musicians of the past who has aged well and still brings an energetic presence to the live stage. Wearing an Eddie Cochran shirt throughout the evening, the man proudly wears his influences on his sleeve, proving himself to be a master of his craft. Whether he was playing with his trio or going solo, which he did for several songs in the middle of the set, he never let up and satisfied this crowd from start to finish.

The setlist was a nice combination of originals and covers, as well as songs from several phases of Setzer’s career. Kicking the show off with “Rock Boys Rock” from his latest effort, THE DEVIL ALWAYS COLLECTS, it was clear that this would be a nice mix of present and past hits alike. Several cover songs paid homage to his rock and roll heroes of the past, including Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, and Ricky Nelson. We even got Setzer’s versions of “Georgia On My Mind” and the classic instrumental “Sleepwalk,” the latter of which he enthusiastically dedicated to the late Jeff Beck. The classic Stray Cats era was represented with hits like “Stray Cat Strut” and “Rock This Town,” as well as some slightly deeper cuts from that era as well. The set even included a cover of “Train Kept A-Rollin’,” a blues standard that’s been covered by rock bands ranging from the Yardbirds and Aerosmith to even Motorhead! It was an excellent set, though it would’ve been nice to hear “Sexy and 17” as well as “Summertime Blues;” the latter is a surprising omission giving Setzer’s obvious love of Eddie Cochran, not to mention being the song he performed in LA BAMBA while portraying Cochran. But these are minor criticisms of an excellent show that was one of my favorite live rock gigs in 2024 so far!

It’s unlikely Brian Setzer will stop rocking anytime soon, and that’s perfectly fine with this fan! His rockabilly sounds are as strong as ever, not to mention his enthusiasm for entertaining an audience. Also entertaining was the opening set from Yates McKendree, who I hope goes on to a promising rock and roll career in his own right. If you have the opportunity to catch Setzer’s Rockabilly Riot tour, don’t pass it up!

By Taylor T Carlson

Taylor T Carlson Assistant Editor/Senior Staff Writer Taylor T. Carlson was born August 17, 1984, and has called the Vegas Valley home his entire life. A die-hard fan of classic rock and metal music, Taylor has been writing album and concert reviews since he was 16 years old, and continues to do so, having done well over 1,000 reviews. He is also a fan of video gaming and cinema, and has reviewed a number of games and films as well, old and new alike. His thorough and honest (some would say brutally honest) reviewing style has won him the respect of hundreds of music fans and musicians alike, both local and abroad, and the ire of just as many others. Despite being one of the youngest attendees at classic hard rock/metal shows around Vegas, he is also one of the most knowledgeable, having gained the unofficial nickname of “The Eddie Trunk of Las Vegas.” In addition to reviews, Taylor has written and self-published three books on classic hard rock bands, and is a regular participant in rock and roll trivia contests. Taylor also holds a masters degree in special education from the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV), and has appeared on the hit History Channel television series Pawn Stars. His dream is to be able to one day make a living from writing music books and reviews.

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