The Stray Cats were born of the punk era, but with their obvious skills, it was evident from their love of pure rock & roll that rockabilly would be their driving force. Guitarist/vocalist Brian Setzer, Lee “Rocker” Drucker on standup bass and Jim “Slim Jim Phanton” McDonald took their revivalist style to England from their native Long Island and slowly re-set the world on fire. Thirty-plus years after their initial launch and success, this 2-DVD set reminds you what a great combo the Cats were.
Live at Rockpalast brings together footage from two German shows, the first from Cologne in 1981 and the second at the Loreley in 1983. The look and sound of both performances are terrific – it’s a great statement of a band’s beginning and then explosion on the international stage in a short, two-year span.
The 1981 show is a band flushed with the drive and excitement to buck against everything happening at the time while the 1983 show shows the band during the frenzy of their now-international success. These are energetic, high-powered performances and bring back endless good memories – for me – especially with classic originals like “Rumble In Brighton” (my personal favorite), “Runaway Boys” and “Stray Cat Strut” plus ballsy numbers like “Storm The Embassy” and “Ubangi Stomp” (both from their debut album, not released in the U.S.). The Cats showed that fast and furious could be executed with a (hate the word) retro feel and still get the passion across.
The Stray Cats were definitely of their time; they appeared at the right moment – when anything and everything literally went – and their style and sound was a welcome change (to a degree) from the synth-pop and fluff that permeated that early “MTV era”. Certainly, their records still sound great and these live shows capture a moment that shouldn’t be forgotten.
Live At Rockpalast 1983/Loreley Open Air + 1981 Cologne is available now