We have seen Brian Setzer on his own and with The Stray Cats but never with his Orchestra and never with his Christmas show.
Being in Los Angeles at Christmas gave us the opportunity to experience the "Christmas Rocks! Tour".

Security was tight at the Theatre, with bags searches creating lengthy queues.

Once inside, there was a section of the lobby with Brian Setzer's guitars. The public could try these and have their photos taken, but the queue for that was really long so we had to pass on that one.

The minute Brian Setzer walked on the stage, the crowd were on their feet cheering and the majority remained standing for the whole show.

The show was really fantastic, and works with the Big Band. Full on energy, high octane performance great sound, and a really up for it audience - all ingredients that produced a fabulous show. No wonder these Christmas shows sell out.

Brian Setzer sure knows how to rock and bring everyone along with him. The set was a mixture of Christmas songs, covers and Stray Cats numbers and the encore with the Nut Cracker Suite was something else which the crowd went wild about.

The Set List
Dig That Crazy Santa Claus
Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
Gettin' in the Mood (For Christmas)
Stray Cat Strut
Boogie Woogie Santa Claus
Gene and Eddie
Angels We Have Heard on High
Runaway Boys
Jump, Jive an' Wail
Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)
The Dirty Boogie
Hey Bulldog
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Tribute to Roy Clark
Rockabilly Boogie
Ring of Fire
Fishnet Stockings
Rock This Town

Nutcracker Suite
Jingle Bells

BRIAN WILSON - Christmas Show


Friday 21st December 2019

In November 1964, The Beach Boys released their Christmas Album. In November 2018, 54 years later, Brian Wilson took it on the road and the tour reached Orange County on 21st December.

This was a new show for us, having experienced a greatest hits around Pet Sounds Live for the last few years and we were looking forward to it.

The stage was decorated all Christmassy and the venue was pretty full. with a few odd empty seats. We had first row seats on the first tier balcony....... high enough to not have heads in the way and also not too far back from the stage.

There was no messing about as Brian and his band took to the stage and started immediately with Side 1, Track 1.

Brian was middle centre, behind a white Baby Grand, and seemed to be on form tonight, contributing to the vocals.

The main vocals seemed to come from new addition to the band, and son-in-law Rob Bonfiglio who delivered superb falsetto and lead vocals across the whole show. He did not dominate the stage, but there was something electric about him that drew your eye to him, be it his voice, his little shimmys, the way he played the sleigh bells or just his obvious enthusiasm for being up there. That enthusiasm had also rippled through the rest of the band, who had a good mood and vibe about them, and were much more energised and together versus some of the shows we had caught over the last couple of years where delivering Pet Sounds (again) had seemed to have signs of the band just going through the motions to deliver a show.

Al Jardine's voice has remained strong and he is a a formidable force in the band, adding so much harmony to the overall sound.

After the last track of side 2, we got some more Christmas songs, taken from Brian Wilson's own solo Christmas album and other Beach Boys recordings, before the finale was built up with some of the hits.
Blondie Chaplin got his spot with a superb version of Chuck Berry's "Run Rudolph Run". He was on fire tonight and had spotted a blonde lady in one of the boxes to the side of the auditorium and he spent the rest of the show flirting with her!!

During "Good Vibrations", The Beeb made his contribution to the show from his seat - the "hum de dums" that were added to the Brian Wilson solo SMiLE version. Afterwards we got a message from Probyn saying "That was YOU lot on Good Vibes!! Next time I am calling security". Well, actually it was only The Beeb doing them, but it was funny to know that it had been heard on the stage!!! The guys sitting next to us recognised The Beeb's version,

There was no encore as such  as the band did not leave the stage, but once Fun Fun Fun finished, the band introductions were done, and then we were treated to a superb vocal from Rob Bonfliglio on "White Christmas" before the band gathered around Brian at the piano and sent us on our way with "Auld Lang Syne".
Other Christmas highlights of the show were a jazzy style "Frosty The Snowman", a reggae style "Blue Christmas" with Blondie on lead vocal, and "Winter Symphony".

Some more photos of the band, and then a couple of videos at the end you can check out.

Paul Von Mertens

Al Jardine
Blondie Chaplin

Probyn Gregory

Gary Griffin & Darian Sahanaja

Jim Lespesa

Probyn Gregory

Rob Bonfliglio

Gary Griffin

Darian Sahanaja

Mike D'Amico

End of Fun, Fun, Fun

White Christmas

Auld Lang Syne

The Set List

1. Little Saint Nick
2. The Man With All the Toys
3. Santa's Beard
4. Merry Christmas, Baby
5. Christmas Day
6. Frosty the Snowman
7. We Three Kings of Orient Are
8. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
9. I'll Be Home for Christmas (If Only in My Dreams)
10. Blue Christmas
11. Christmasey
12. On Christmas Day
13. Winter Symphony
14. Christmas Time Is Here Again
15. Holy Night
16. Run Rudolph Run
17. Wouldn't It Be Nice
18. Sloop John B
19. God Only Knows
20. Darlin'
21. Sail On, Sailor
22. Good Vibrations
23. Help Me, Rhonda
24. Barbara Ann
25. Surfin' U.S.A.
26. Fun, Fun, Fun
27. White Christmas
28. Auld Lang Syne


The Cavern Pub and Cavern Club
Mathew Street, Liverpool

The annual International Pop Overthrow Festival spans 8 days and features around 150 bands. This festival goes a long way to keep music live and give some great bands the chance to showcase their music to an audience who may never hear about them otherwise.
The artists range from a solo singer/songwriter with an acoustic guitar to a full on rock band and loads in between! During the festival we try to see as many artists as possible, some are good, some are not so good, and some are wee nuggets. This blog is our own personal review and where an act may not our cup of tea, they are still worth checking out as they may be yours. 

Bands seen today:
A View of Earth From The Moon, WHY NOT NOW, David Luke, Twister, The Aim, Jose Estragos Band, Edgar Road, The trip Takers, Watchtower, Jack Bartlett, Last Fakers

(we apologise for the quality of the photos - the red lighting in the cavern Pub make decent pics impossible!!)

A View Of Earth From the Moon
The 16th Liverpool IPO kicked off, as always in the Cavern Pub and it started off well.

Jon Fickes, aka A View Of Earth From The Moon had come all the way from Seattle to delight us.

Usually he would have a band, but today he was flying solo, just him, an acoustic guitar and a box full of harmonicas. More often than not, we find that a solo guy trying to so songs usually done with a band fall a bit short, but not in Jon's case. He proved the point that good songs will stand out no matter how stripped down they are.

We suppose you could liken him to Dylan, but his voice is 1000 times stronger and more tuneful. He was everything good about a guy with a guitar on his own. He was also very gracious to the audience, who really did seem to appreciate the 30 minutes. We have to like this guy - any American who says he is looking forward to drinking his weight in Stella in a bit of a bad ass!

Next up was a local band from Liverpool whose name shouts at you because it is all in upper case!! - WHY NOT NOW. Despite some decent backing vocals from the bassist and the other guitarist, the main lead vocals really dominated and whilst he had a strong and distinctive voice, it did get a bit samey after three or four songs. Their set was rocking enough, but the over-powering lead vocal really distracted from what should have been an actual band sound. We think some of the problem may have been down to him. More of that later though.
David Luke
We had not intended to catch David Luke as our IPO research had revealed him as a covers' artist who uses backing tracks. However, he had a full band behind him today which took
around 25 minutes to set up! Way too long for an IPO set.

Once they got going we were impressed, and surprised to hear original material. The songs were toe tappers and they ended strongly on a song called "Country Girl" which was a bit of a nod to Keith Urban's style. We actually enjoyed their set, although introducing each and every single song with the hoary old "And it goes like this" had some of our company in giggles!

Next up was Twister. We have seen this heavy rock band last year and in the pub they do more of an acoustic set before wheeling in their Marshall Stacks for their Back Stage slot later on! So, the pub it was then!!!

They look like a heavy rock band - tousled hair, black t shirts and jeans. Both the guitarists are good singers and with the acoustic set, can be heard no problem.

They did Pink Floyd's "The Wall" and really made it their own. We'd like to have seen the electric set, but experience taught us it's not worth the bother as it would have only been good songs made intolerable by painful, unnecessary volume.

We caught the last 20 minutes of the set from The Aim. A bunch of upbeat Cockney lads and a gal. Their sound was mod rock/ska/soul and drew in quite a large gathering in the Back Stage. The lead singer had a lot of character, and their whole set was very energetic. We liked them. You just know they would rock any pub gig they play in.
The Aim
Jose Estragos Band
Spain always delivers at the IPO, and The Jose Estragos Band have appeared just about every year.

It is not often we actually get to see them so we made a point of seeing their Back Stage slot today.

They stay true to their roots with the majority of their set is sung in Spanish, but today the audience were appreciative of covers of "That Thing You Do" and also The Ramones' "California Sun". This is the sound the Cavern was built for!

Edgar Road from Elgin rocked the front stage. The drummer was very good, pounding the tom drum a lot. Their sound was rock infused with a bit of symphonic keyboard without being Prog Rock! The keyboard player really did enjoy herself and her vocals added a lot to the overall sound.
Edgar Road

The Trip Takers
Scicilian band The Trip Takers were one we had really wanted to catch as they have a Mod/Psych with a hint of Beatle sound.

Tonight was not good for them. The sound engineer really struggled to get any balance (again) and everything was muddy. It was obvious the band were not happy and things were not gelling.

Also, maybe their English is not too good as they did not engage with the audience at all....... apparently they had vinyls for sale, but as they did not tell anyone, I guess they did not sell any!

We saw Watchtower in 2015 when they announced at the end of their set that they were calling it a day and splitting up, with the gig that night being their last. We had really liked them so were really pleased to find they have reformed and were on this years' bill.
Even though they were a three piece (as opposed to a four piece in 2015), we were not disappointed. They have personality, and the bass player got a wiggle on from the start, hopping around or shimmying. They had a great beat and the lead singer gave a few interludes from time to time of surf like guitar complete with whammy bar, on his Gretsch. They were fun and finished up on a cover of Led Zep's "Rock and Roll" with the Bass player taking the lead vocal, doing a fine impersonation of Robert Plant. Brilliant set.

Jack Bartlett
All the way from Devon, Jack Bartlett, in a smart Mod style suit and a slightly gravelly voice opened his set by going straight into a cover of The Jam's "That's Entertainment"before he introduced himself.

His set of eleven songs had 7 covers in it. The four songs of original material were actually extremely good, in particular stand out songs were "I Can't Help Myself" and "10,000 Dreams" where you can hear his mod and 60's influence shine through. His original material is usually done with a 5 piece band but the fact that the songs sounded great with just Jack  and an acoustic guitar is testament to the quality of the songs - they really stood out.

We wish he had ditched some of the covers and had the confidence to do more of his own songs.

We stayed for the last band, Last Fakers. This was another band with sound issues, but not really the fault of the sound engineer this time. They just would not turn down, and the drummer beat seven shades of s@@! out of the drums which along with the bass, just drowned out the vocals and the harmonica player. Every time the sound engineer adjusted their volumes, they just turned it all back up. Seriously, there was absolutely no point in the harmonica player being there at all. It was as if none of the band knew what a sound balance was meant to achieve. Each and every one of them seemed to just want to be the loudest. We left sharpish!