LIVE: Lee Rocker @ Club Helsinki, 2/10/18
Review and photographs by Ed Conway
For one last stop for his most recent tour, Stray Cats bass player Lee Rocker, brought his own band to Club Helsinki in Hudson. Growing up on Long Island, Rocker partnered with a couple of friends, Slim Jim Phantom and Brian Setzer to form a band that helped bring rockabilly back onto mainstream radio with hits like “Stray Cat Strut” and “Rock This Town.” And of course, both songs were quite prominent on this particular evening, as the band opened with the former, and let out all the stops on the latter with lead guitarist Buzz Campbell and keyboardist Joey Guevara (who also played acoustic guitar and harmonica) trading hot solos back and forth for what seemed like the finale.
Luckily, they had a few more songs up their collective sleeves.
While many of the songs were culled from the Stray Cats catalog, as “Runaway Boys,” “Built for Speed” and “Fishnet Stockings” followed the opening song, Rocker didn’t limit the evening’s repertoire to his former band. He also paid tribute to Elvis and Scotty Moore with a medley of “That’s Alright, Mama” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and to Carl Perkins with “Honey Don’t.” He also stepped away from the rockabilly genre for the Beatles’ “I’ll Cry Instead,” The Bands’ “Ophelia” and Steve Goodman’s “City of New Orleans,” that last one with Campbell on banjo. At one point, Rocker left the beat-keeping solely to drummer Larry Mitchell as he set down his bass and picked up the acoustic guitar for his own “Memphis Freeze.”
The entire evening flowed from one great song to another with Guevara, Campbell and Rocker showing off their skills. Rocker’s impeccable timing and demonstration of quad slaps as well as Guevara’s keyboard pyrotechnics (especially his boogie piano for “Bullet Proof”) brought loud applause from the audience. The highlight of the evening for me, however, was Campbell evoking Brian Setzer’s version of Santo & Johnny’s “Sleepwalk.”
The entire 90-minute set flew by. It was obvious that it was the final stop on the tour as Rocker kept signaling to do one more song, as if he didn’t want to leave the stage. While every seat in the venue was taken and several people got up to dance, the crowd was very quiet throughout the evening, even causing Rocker to threaten to wait until someone fired back an answer to his question before he continued to play, but looking around, the audience was listening to everything going on up front in rapt attention.
PS: Coming up in April, Rocker will be reuniting with Setzer and Phantom for a one-off Stray Cats reunion in Las Vegas.
LEE ROCKER SET LIST
Stray Cat Strut
Built for Speed
That’s Alright Mama/Blue Moon of Kentucky
City of New Orleans
I’ll Cry Instead
She’s Sexy & 17
I Won’t Stand in Your Way
Rumble in Brighton
Rock This Town
Good Rockin’ Tonight
Miracle in Memphis