HARD ROCK ROCKSINO, NORTHFIELD, OH 11-20-2015 – November always marks the beginning of the holiday concert tours. This is the 12th Annual Christmas Rocks! Tour for these guys, coinciding with the release of Rockin’ Rudolph, their first studio album in 10 years. This is a tight rocking holiday version of the orchestra that started some 25 years ago, with great musicians and an equally great leader/guitar slinger always up for the task.
Brian was accompanied by an 18 piece ensemble including wife Julie and Leslie Spencer on background vocals. The Christmas material was mixed in with the rockers throughout the set list during the approximately 1 1/2 hour show. Some of the songs the capacity crowd was treated to were Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, Stray Cat Strut, Sexy & 17, This Cat’s on a Hot Tin Roof, Boogie Woogie Santa Claus and Rock This Town,. Here Comes Santa Claus introduced his great melodic version of Sleep Walk followed by the big band classic Jump, Jive and Wail. The guys then went minus the horn section for a few including Jingle Bell Rock, Fishnet Stockings, and Great Balls of Fire.
The upright bassman John Hatton played it upside down, strutted the stage dragging his bass like a heavy guitar, and even joined the ladies for an a capella interlude in the Gloria chorus of Angels We Have Heard on High.
The encore featured Yaba-Daba Yuletide, which was an interesting variation on the Flintstones theme song, and an elaborate big band version of the famous Nutcracker Suite (which Brian explained was a new arrangement). He mentioned that it’s been too long since he’s played Cleveland, and closed the show by saying “Thank you for such a warm reception”. And he also smilingly exclaimed before he went out of sight, “We’re a hit!”
If you like rock, rockabilly, big band, or just plain like great Christmas season entertainment, there isn’t anything better. The entire show and players are spot on, and it’s obvious they’re having fun. The packed venue had people jumping, jiving, singing along (and some acting out), throughout the performance. If you didn’t see enough of Brian’s axes during the show, the Gretsch guy Ronnie Mancuso had a display of Brian’s signature guitars in the lobby for viewing. Note: Just for added effect, the show was accented by snow falling in the venue and Santa throwing out candy to the audience. The show was opened by a one man act, slide blues player Low Volts. What more could you ask for? Ho, Ho, and Ho!
By R.M. Engelman