JAM Magazine Concert Reviews

June 9, 2015
Surf Ballroom and Museum
Clear Lake, IA USA
Review by Jeff Mozey
Photos by Jeff Mozey

Brian Seltzer

Brian Setzer Rocks The Historic Surf Ballroom & Museum

In 97 degree weather, the line of Brian Setzer fans waiting to get into the historic Surf Ballroom & Museum in Clear Lake, Iowa wrapped around the building.

Dressed in 50's inspired clothing, it was evident that these fans were here for the show. Many agreed that it was the perfect venue to see Brian Setzer's Rockabilly Riot perform.

The present ballroom has been standing since 1948 and is also the last place Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. Richardson "The Big-Bopper" performed before their ill-fated plane ride in February 1959. After the performance in Iowa, the plane destined for Moorhead, Minnesota crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all three musicians and the pilot Roger Peterson.

The combination of the 50's décor along with the memorabilia of this thriving musical time period made the venue a perfect fit for Brain Setzer. Setzer's rockabilly sound is heavily influenced by 50's music, culture, and fashion. It was almost as if the venue was made for him.

Brian took the stage with style, sporting an orange leather jacket and matching Gretsch guitar. He opened the show with "Rumble in Brighton" to the cheer of the crowd, but the cheers were nothing compared to when he and the band knocked out "Stray Cat Strut." Following "Stray Cat Strut," Brain took off his Jacket and seemed to gain a charge of energy. He strutted the stage, often holding his guitar straight up into the air. It was easy to tell from his facial expressions that he was having as much fun as his audience.

As he switched guitars to a sparkled green Gretsch, Brian bellowed with pride, "How could you not sound good with a guitar like this?" It sure sounded good as he played "Drive Like Lightning" and even some memorable covers tunes such as "Folsom Prison Blues," "Blue Moon of Kentucky", and "Great Balls Of Fire." He finished out his set and he and the band left the stage.

To the roar of the crowd, Brain returned alone to play a guitar medley and was soon joined by the rest of the band. They performed one last song, it was the hit "Rock This Town" originally written by Brian and made a hit by his band The Stray Cats in 1982. This song is listed as one of the top 500 songs that have shaped rock and roll. What an ideal song, by a great artist in the perfect venue. As put by George Thorogood, "It doesn't get any more rock and roll than Brian Setzer..." sums up the night pretty accurately.