A Christmas tour that’s become a tradition

To some, it’s the most wonderful Christmas concert of the year. With renowned guitarist Brian Setzer and his 18-piece orchestra playing favorite tunes of the season there’s a lot more than jingle belling going on. This show's got a big band sound and rockabilly style. The result: hearts won’t merely be glowing; they just might be on fire. Now in it’s thirteenth year, the “Christmas Rocks!” Tour is here, bringing lots of good cheer, for sure. A quintessential musician, Setzer has the talent and showmanship to put a smile on anyone’s face.

No doubt, there won’t be a Scrooge in the house.

Why an orchestra?

Its been more than two decades since Setzer first had his radical brainstorm: why not start a big band with guitar? Sound preposterous? Dave Kaplan didn’t think so. In 1992, the founder of Surfdog Records was so enthralled by Setzer’s vision that Kaplan offered to manage the band. Twenty-four years later, Setzer is still leading his orchestra and Kaplan is still managing it.

Although his band’s big sound dominates his Christmas show, sometimes Setzer surprises with unique intimacy when he sings “The Christmas Song” solo, accompanying himself on guitar. Then in the next instant, it’s time for a rockabilly moment, complete with everything loud, colorful, and technologically savvy.

What the fans say and do

It’s near impossible to sit still while watching a Setzer Christmas concert. The music is so invigorating that toe tapping often times morphs into full-on foot stomping.

Like many other Setzer fans, Angeleno Leo Espinal’s exuberance translates into a smooth sway. Attending the Christmas tour has become a tradition for Espinal and his family.

This year they saw the show at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Espinal says, when he was growing up, his family instilled in him the joy of Christmas, and now he hopes to do the same for his teenage son.

“I love rock ’n’ roll, and I love Christmas,” said Espinal when interviewed at the Microsoft Theater.

“To me, this (concert) is the beginning of Christmas!”

A little more about Brian Setzer

An acclaimed guitarist, songwriter and vocalist, Setzer, 57, is a three-time Grammy-Award winner and has sold more than 13 million records worldwide. Yet, like so many other successful musicians, early in his career, Setzer experienced leaner times.

There was a lot of pavement pounding before Setzer’s Stray Cats finally found a bit of success. However, within a few years, the band had dispersed. Then, Setzer ventured out as a solo artist, armed with his childhood passion for rockabilly and jazz (that same passion that inspired him to form the Brian Setzer Orchestra). These days, Setzer ponders future possibilities.

He’s seriously considering a solo tour in 2017, in which he'll focus on songs he enjoyed growing up in Long Island, New York.

Rollicking live at a venue near you

If watching the Brian Setzer Orchestra on television on your local PBS station is as close as you’ve ever come to this band, do yourself a favor and switch to the live version. Following a sold-out show at the 7,100-seat Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, the tour is set to visit several other California cities, as well as Reno (Nevada), Seattle (Washington) and Portland (Oregon). Witnessing Setzer and other music greats, including Daniel Glass (drums), Johnny Hatton (bass), Janick Lafreniere (piano), and Tim Messina (tenor sax), to name a few, is a treat.

There’s no denying that these musicians love what they do, and they generously share that love with audiences.

Christmastime is here and will soon be gone, but the Brian Setzer Orchestra just may serve to carry on the spirit, leaving behind indelible memories of this wondrous season. If you can’t make it to a live show this year, tune in to MTV Live and/or MTV Classic to enjoy Setzer’s “Christmas Extravaganza." Check your local listings for date and time.