So for an extra night, Hammersmith is about to become a hop jumping jive shack as those Stray Cats get to strut their stuff once more over London Town. tonight they are joined by Australias finest wielders of that Setzer Gretsch The Living End and one of the UK’s finest exponents of Ska the Selecter. An odd line up considering The Living End saunter onto the cavernous Hammersmith stage first and waste no time in cranking out the big guns as ‘Roll On’ is fired off followed by ‘Second Solution’. I was lucky enough to see The Living End play a warm-up show many moons ago in my home town to about fifty people and tonight it seems that the London crowd are slowly filling up the large void that is the stalls and I’m sure those who are in early doors would agree that those choosing the overpriced London G&T’s to the Rock and Roll display currently on display need to have a word with themselves.
With a reasonably new album in tow The Living End mix the set up with old and new whilst bookending their brief set with a few classics that this audience would or should love. By the time they hit ‘West End Riot’ and finished with ‘Prisoner Of Society’ they were just loosening up and getting into their stride. I do love the living End and in frontman Chris, they have one fine guitar picker and someone who can mix up punk, rock-a-billy and some hard-rockin’ riff with ease and turn them all into some fine tunes deserves a much wider audience. The perfect opener for any band especially one of the stature of the Stray Cats.
Next up The Selecter who have crafted the tightest band currently knocking out some top Ska anywhere. Having seen the band several times I know how good they are and at Festivals with the limited time, they get it that you have to play certain tunes or else. Tonight sandwiched between The Living End and the Stray Cats seemed a little odd maybe they should have opened but that’s just my opinion maybe wanting Living End to play to a bigger audience but ‘Three Minute Hero’ is as good as the genre of UK Ska gets and the band sounds fantastic with a superb live mix noticeably better than what Living End had. To be fair they began really well but it did tail off with ‘Danger’ and then ‘Train To Skasville’ and the instrumental ‘James Bond Theme’ stretching it. It wasn’t all lost as plenty of rockabillys decided that they could moon stomp when ‘On My Radio’ was fired up. Which only left ‘Too Much Pressure’/ ‘Pressure Drop’ and then they were gone no doubt leaving with several new fans who were impressed with what they’d just seen and heard.
Right Scream for me Hammersmith its time for those throwback Rock and Rolling exponents of 50’s rock and roll the Stray Cats who strut onto the stage looking like the best-dressed gang in town waste no time and kick off a monster set with the lead track off their brand new album. ‘Cat Fight (Over A Dog Like Me)’ wastes no time as its kicked down the link by ‘Runaway Boys’ and as they say in Memphis the joint was a jumpin’ for sure.
Gene Vincents ‘Double Talkin’ Baby’ is aired as the trio pays homage to one of their heroes. We also get ‘Stray Cat Strut’ early and the boys in the band are sounding superb. It’s been quite a considerable time since I first saw the band live and the years haven’t diminished their look nor their sound and their belief that unwavering belief in what they do is a joy to see. Lets not over look the fact that Setzers guitar playing is out of this world and his sense of style when playing is as good as its ever been. Sure they might not leap about the stage quite like they did forty years ago (who does?) but the energy is there for all to see and their unwavering belief in what they play is still there. Never throughout the set do you get the impression that they are going through the motions and they are still in love with Rock and Roll.
We get the super cool ‘Gene & Eddie’ followed by ‘Cry Baby’ and of course Setzer is going to show us he can still find his way around his guitar as a man possessed. Don’t forget Stray Cats is all about the unit and not just a vehicle for one guy as Lee Rocker takes the mic and sings ‘When Nothings Going Right’ as he drags that big assed salamander stick around the Hammersmith stage. ‘(She’s) Sexy And 17’ gives Lee some respite before he’s back on lead vocals for the excellent ‘Bring It Back Again’. The set list is everything a fan would want and some and sometimes it’s easy to forget how many great tunes the band has and it’s not just about the three or four that hit the charts hard in the 80’s as ‘Blast Off’, ‘Fishnet Stockings’ will back me up.
‘Rock This Town’ brings the curtain down on the main set as the band retreat from the stage to howls from a really appreciative audience who’ve spent the last seventy-five minutes being entertained by one of the greats. After a quick change of shirts, the band are practically sprinting to get back on stage to wrap up a wonderful and entertaining night ‘Rock It Off’, ‘Built For Speed’ are rattled out as slim jim Phantom is still patrolling his kit like a jack in a box standing on his bass drum to look out over the audience saluting back as ‘Rumble In Brighton’ brings proceedings to an end. I have no idea if this is the last time we’ll get to see this most awesome of rock and roll bands and if it is then they signed off on a real high and kicked The world famous Odeons back side a final time. Setzer- Rocker- Phantom. The Stray Cats strut out of the building in fine style having done what they do best ‘Rock This Town’.n.
- lay VideAuthor: Dom Daley
Buy Stray Cats ’40’: Here
Buy The Living End: Here
Buy Selecter: Here
Photos courtesy of Johnny Hayward