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straycats uk2019 flyerThe Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, London, UK
27th June 2019
The Stray Cats, The Living End, The Selector

Back in 1980 I was watching “Top Of The Pops” when a band called THE STRAY CATS, introduced by Tommy Vance, came on and performed ‘Runaway Boy’ I was mesmerised by the beat and by the moody look of the band members. The release was late November and the track stayed in the UK top 10 for four weeks.

I went out a few days before Christmas and bought a copy of the single with some Christmas money, 99p in Woolworth and then played the record to death. The other day I went through my singles collection looking for this record, it had disappeared! I looked everywhere for it, nowhere to be found. I am of course annoyed that the 2nd single I bought had vanished into thin air because I wanted to bring it along to the Eventim Apollo and see if I could get it signed. Alas this was not meant to be but 39 years later I still got to see the band that gave me goose bumps as a 13 year old... /

Music & Performance
THE STRAY CATS were on top form tonight and the second track played was ‘Runaway Boy’ which reacquainted my skin with the aforementioned goose bumps! There was a palpable and anticipatory buzz hanging in the air as the venue filled to capacity or near capacity for their 40th anniversary tour to promote their new album also called ‘40’ which is their first new recordings in over 26 years. To help us all get into a suitable frame of mind we were all warmed up, firstly, by an Australian band called THE LIVING END, a band I’ve not heard of before. On first impressions I get the feel of a PunkaBilly hybrid that reminds me of GREEN DAY crossed with THE STRAY CATS, the track ‘Roll On’ is a case in point along with the track ‘Death Of The American Dream’, an anti-Trump trope in the vein of something GREEN DAY would trot out. So social commentary abounds here wrapped up in a blanket of tunes that are for the most part quite easy on the ear. At this juncture in the nights proceedings there was plenty of space around me to put me bag down and spread my stance but by the time second support band THE SELECTOR took to the stage all that space had been commandeered and my bag ensconced upon my back for the remainder of the night!

THE SELECTOR alas did not do it for me at all! The sound was a muddle from where I was standing and I could not make out the vocals at all. When I was at school the two tone movement was in full flow and bands like THE SELECTOR, THE BEAT, THE SPECIALS and MADNESS were regulars on Top Of The Pops so I remember tracks like ‘3 Minute Hero’ and ‘On My Radio’. But still the sound was bad, only the guitar standing out and dominating the mix. As mentioned previously, the space I enjoyed when THE LIVING END played their set slowly disappeared as the night went on. With THE SELECTOR in full flow a group of Italians came and stood to my left and for the whole set danced and bopped in an oblivion to all around them which initially I tolerated but as the set progressed my patience started to wear thin. Poor sound, shoulder barges and beer splashes for a nice time do not make! And also, if I’m honest, I just wanted THE STRAY CATS up on stage. That’s all I wanted to see! THE SELECTOR and THE LIVING END did their job in warming up the other members of the audience and they did their job well. But just get the STRAY CATS on before I tire physically and of the close proximity to other humans...

…And on they come at around 9pm to rapturous applause and start of their set with ‘Cat Fight (Over A Dog Like Me)’ from the new album, ‘Runaway Boy’ came second, as I said, and then we get a get a mix of the old and the new for the next ninety minutes. Crowd pleasers such as ‘Stray Cat Strut’, ‘Gene And Eddie’ and ‘She’s Sexy And 17’ mingled with ‘Rock it Off’, ‘Three Times A Charm’ and ‘When Nothings Going Right’ from the new album. All of this was held together with glue of genuine enthusiasm, chemistry and outstanding musicianship that was a joy to experience. The trio are all around 60 years old but still had an energy that was infectious. Antics like playing double bass on your back or finding your way around a Gretsch when it’s behind your head, one thought kept creeping into my head during the set was: “Why can’t my neighbour play stuff like this instead of the shit he plays at full volume?”

About 70 minutes into the set I decided to leave the throngs in the middle of the auditorium to their own devices and retreat to the wings to put my bag down and lean against a pillar. From this vantage point I got a better view of the exchange of energy between the crowd and performers. It was an electric interaction, like current flowing around a circuit. Brian Setzer says something to the audience like: “ok, ok do you wanna hear Rock This Town?” The amplitude is increased and the roaring elevated as ‘Rock This Town’ gets into its stride. The goose bumps return to dance down my spine...

“We’re gonna rock this town
Rock it inside out
We’re gonna rock this town
Make’em scream and shout
Let’s rock, rock, rock, man, rock
We’re gonna rock till you pop
We’re gonna rock till you drop
We’re gonna rock this town
Rock it inside out”

The encore consisted of ‘Rock It Off’, ‘Built For Speed’ and ‘Rumble In Brighton’ which I did not hear due to some in the crowd streaming out of the venue and I got caught up in that stream. Oh well, I waited 39 years to see THE STRAY CATS, I hope I get a few more chances to see them and their encores in the future.

01. Cat Fight (Over a Dog Like Me)
02. Runaway Boys
03. Double Talkin’ Baby (Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps cover)
04. Three Time’s a Charm
05. Stray Cat Strut
06. Mean Pickin’ Mama
07. Gene & Eddie
08. Cry Baby
09. I Won’t Stand In Your Way
10. Guitar Improvisation / Misirlou
11. When Nothing’s Going Right (vocals: Lee Rocker)
12. (She’s) Sexy + 17
13. Bring It Back Again (vocals: Lee Rocker)
14. My One Desire (Dorsey Burnette cover)
15. Blast Off
16. Lust n Love
17. Fishnet Stockings
18. Rock This Town
19. Rock It Off
20. Built for Speed
21. Rumble in Brighton

Music: 9
Performance: 10
Sound: 8
Light: 9
Total: 9 / 10

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