Rockabilly rebels The Stray Cats strutted their pompadours Friday to Revolution Bar & Music Hall to rock their hometown fans on Long Island with an intimate show kicking off their 40th anniversary tour — their first in a decade.
Classics, new tunes off 40, their first album in 26 years, and redemption echoed through the invite-only show — tickets were only given to Sirius XM subscribers— since the trio from Massapequa was rejected when they auditioned in 1977 to play at the same Amityville venue, which was then known as Past Times Pub.
“People thought we were nuts,” Brian Setzer, the band’s Grammy-winning singer and guitarist, told the audience of about 300 between songs while recalling the failed tryout. “It’s OK, because here we are now!”
Setzer, whose revival work extends to not only rockabilly, but also swing, with his eponymous 19-member Brian Setzer Orchestra, is considered one of the world’s greatest living guitarists. But for this show, he was back where it all started, on a small local bar’s stage alongside stand-up bassist Lee Rocker and drummer Slim Jim Phantom.
The trio dutifully weaved together the new and the old from their catalog. They opened the set with “Cat Fight” off their new album before launching into “Runaway Boys” and “Double Talkin Baby” off their 1981 self-titled debut, then went back to the latest effort for “3x a Charm,” which they followed up with one of their most popular hits, “Stray Cat Strut” also off their debut.
The Cats then gave a nod to their ‘50s muses and covered Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” and gave a shout out to “the king of surf guitar” before playing Dick Dale’s “Misirlou.”
Spicing things up was Lee Rocker taking lead vocals on one of the new ditties, “When Nothing Goes Right.” Setzer took a moment to tell the failed audition story between “(She’s) Sexy and 17” and “Fishnet Stockings” before jokingly asking, “Did we pass the audition?”
They closed out the set with none other than “Rock This Town,” after which Setzer quipped, “Old Massapequa don’t look that bad.” An audience member yelled “welcome home!”
For the encore, Phantom and Rocker came out in Massapequa High School t-shirts, while Setzer wore a 9/11 Museum shirt with the NYPD logo. They closed the night with “Rock It Off,” “Built For Speed,” and “Rumble In Brighton.”
For those who missed it, the Cats play Pier 17 in Manhattan on Aug. 6 and Setzer is squeezing in a local solo show at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Aug. 10 before the band takes their act on the road across the country through the fall.
It looks like they passed that second audition after all.