Rockabilly legend Brian Setzer has a simple question about his holiday shows at the Celebrity Theatre: “Do you think anybody can bring down the house like we can?”
The answer is pretty much no. Setzer fills the Celebrity, which features a stage in the round that revolves, with palpable energy that, in turn, bounces off the fans.
“I’m not saying that other shows don’t rock at the Celebrity,” he says. “But we’re made for that place. The Celebrity is perfect for us.
“Let’s face it, when the audience is up there egging you on, you put a little more into it.”
Setzer is bringing his 13th annual Brian Setzer Orchestra “Christmas Rock! Tour, presented by SiriusXM,” to 32 cities this holiday season, including the Celebrity on Thursday, December 15. The show, which will be in the round, will include new songs and favorites from his catalog.
“The new ones are fun because, well, they’re new,” Setzer says with a laugh. “I like the ones, too, where there are some good solos going on. I love to hear my band play. Songs like ‘Boogie Woogie Santa Claus,’ I can’t drop it from my set. I want to hear the alto sax solo. You don’t get to hear people go solo on an alto sax these days.”
Fans who can’t make the show can check out the new concert Blu-ray/CD “Rockabilly Riot: Osaka Rocka!—Live in Japan,” which was filmed on February 18 at Namba Hatch in Osaka, Japan. The release includes songs from his 2014 studio album, “Rockabilly Riot! All Original,” classic Stray Cats songs, Brian Setzer Orchestra tunes and songs from his solo albums. He said there’s a key to filming and taping a show.
“The way to do it is to present you’re not making that CD,” he says. “You pretend there are no cameras, no recording equipment. If you think about it too much, you get self-conscious. ‘I want to nail this guitar solo because they’re recording it.’ Thinking like that never work.”
Next year, Setzer has a few things planned. He wants to return to Europe to play for about a month. But his big tour will come in 2018, when he heads out alone, with just a guitar and banjo.
“I listen to people when they tell me things—sometimes,” he says with a laugh. “Fans have said, ‘I love it when you’re by yourself.’ There are so many songs I don’t play that I’ve written. I have to do that.”
Back to the Christmas show, there’s an unexpected benefit from gigging around the United States each holiday season. He gets to see his daughters, who live in Nashville, and family who is spread out throughout the United States.
“With the big band, I haven’t been home in 13 years,” he says. “My Christmas is really on the road. I really get to see more of my family being on the road.
“My girls are in Nashville My family is on the East Coast—from Maryland to New York. Everyone comes to see me play. That’s the way I get to see my family the most.”
Fans will be pleased to see that Setzer has new bandstands, outfits and lights. He calls it theatrical.
“We make it a show,” he says.
Brian Setzer Orchestra w/Beat Root Revival, Celebrity Theatre, 440 N. 32nd Street, Phoenix, 602.267.1600, celebritytheatre.com, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, December 15, $62 and $90.