|The Stray Cats Farewell Tour Down Under
By Dave Gartland
6pm and the queue outside the Thebarton Theatre, in Adelaide South Australia was rapidly starting to grow. The clothes, the quiffs, the turn ups, the pointed two tone shoes, and the smiles on the faces of those clutching their chance in a lifetime tickets meant only one thing, they were here to watch the greatest rockabilly band of all time "The Stray Cats".
Formed in 1979 The Stray Cats took the world by storm with their raucous rockabilly sound and jumping live shows. The rockabilly revival was born, with the British fans ensuring the cats were in the Uk charts, enjoying success in the top end of the hit parade in the late 70s and early 80s. Brian Setzer, the lead guitarist and vocalist, has featured in numerous music magazines, been front cover material and has been a global icon in the guitar world. Also endorsed by the 1950s authentic guitar manufacturers Gretsch. The Brian Setzer Orchestra can also be heard and seen in the movies The Mask and Stuart Little.
Lee Rocker pounding on double bass, which has a paint job any hot rodder would die for. Arguably the best rockabilly slap bass player in the world. Finally Slim Jim Phantom, where does this cat get his energy from. From the early days he never intended to be sat at the back of the band on a drum kit, but took on board the style of Dickie Harrell (Gene Vincents drummer), to be up front with all the action. If he ain`t jumping high off the top of his bass drum, he is down in the crowd, or running across stage, even with Brian celebrating his 50th birthday these guys have still got the energy they started out with 30 years ago.
7pm and the huge antique doors of the Thebarton theatre slowly open, the security are checking the bags of people as they walk in. The tickets are being torn on entry, so now they only have half a souvenir. Half the crowd head for the bar the other half to the merchandise booth. The last chance to get an authentic Stray Cats tee shirt or poster.
8pm The show is opened by Adelaide's very own, and winner of best Australian rockabilly band, 3 years in a row, The Satellites. With the distinctive 50s voice of talented Belinda Hartman vocalist and rhythm guitarist, Steve Mitchell also lead vocalist and crazy man on the slap bass, on the skins is Jad Green, and also giving 200%, on lead guitar Darren Hunt. The Satellites had just 40mins, to get the crowd going, which was effortless from the first song "Have Mercy" to their own 100 mile an hour bopper and title of just one of their sought after albums "Jump" these guys did Adelaide proud. Watched closely by the Stray cats back stage, and also congratulated by Brian Setzer himself, on a mighty fine performance.
A short break, and the event is in total darkness, the place erupts at the site of the famous stray cats logo, being unveiled at the top of the stage. 9pm, and the roof is lifted as the intro to "Rumble in Brighton" blasts out through the tower of speakers. The crowd go wild as the stage lights go on, and the Stray Cats Banner is in full illumination for all to see. The Boys were back to rock this town.
A great Start to the show, Brian greets the crowd, and says "its been 18 years" This being the second tour date in their busy schedule , touring around Australia prior to flying off to New Zealand.
Brian proudly raises Lee Rockers hand after playing "Stray Cat Strut" ,originally released in 1981 from their debut album called , "Stray Cats ". Reaching #3 in the US charts and #11 in the UK top 40.
The hands shoot up as Brian makes a joke and starts the bidding at $1.00 for his leopard design Gretsch guitar, and then throws it to one of the roadies to take it off stage. Then pretends to throw another into the crowd...
After their second encore, the crowd still screaming for them to stay, the Runaway Boys took their final bow, and it was plain to see the heartfelt emotion in their faces, Jim unable to look at the crowd at one point, they proudly thanked the promoters, and the city of Adelaide as well as everyone for supporting them over the last 30 years. Although not the end of the guys in their own talented rights, this was the end of an era for The Stray Cats, and it was an honour to be a part of that historical night down under at the farewell tour in South Australia.
11pm, its all over, The Stray Cats Logo embedded into the rockin folks minds forever.
Words and photography, "The Rockabilly Photographer" Dave Gartland.
Used with permission, 2008