The Stray Cats has none of the musical imagination, depth or evocative power of lots of other rock bands, but it is as visually exciting and energetic as any other. It tore the house down at the Warner Theatre last night, playing its streamlined brand of rockabilly nouveau that eschews the roots in favor of the sheer energy and flair of this compulsive style.
Led by Brian Setzer's impressive, jazz-influenced guitar work and the infectious dynamics of a cracking snare drum and a pulsing acoustic bass, the band had the crowd on its feet all night. On party songs like "Built for Speed" and "Rev It Up and Go," the Stray Cats was at its best, hitting an irresistible dance groove. However, when Setzer tried a blues song or a '50s ballad, his vocal limitations and the band's lack of emotional substance marred the surface of its otherwise flashy veneer.
Opening was Tom Dickie and the Desires, a hard-pop quintet that offered a set of taut, modern-rock romances. The urgency of Dickie's vocals and the crisp kinetic feel of his music were reminiscent of both Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson. But Dickie was hardly as creative, and his set wore thin as Dickie's relentlessly aggressive approach grew as tiring as his band's derivative music.